Ultimate Swim Workouts for Triathletes

open water swimming

Swimming is a crucial component of triathlon training, and having a well-rounded swim workout routine can make a significant difference in your performance.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced athlete, incorporating these exercises into your training regimen will help you improve your technique, build endurance, and enhance your overall swimming ability.


This is an essential part of the training. The goal here is to warm up your muscles and prepare your body for the intense training session. Start with a few minutes of light swimming, focusing on gradually increasing your heart rate. Incorporate dynamic stretches for your shoulders, arms, and legs to prevent injuries and improve flexibility.

I like to start with an easy 400 yards with fins. Sometimes, I use paddles to ensure my stroke is smooth for the main set.

Main Set

Technique Focus

To start your swim workout, spend some time focusing on technique drills that improve your form and efficiency in the water. Some commonly recommended drills include:

  • Single-Arm Drill: Swim freestyle, focusing on one arm at a time while keeping the other arm extended in front of you. I like to use a kickboard and fins for this one.


  • Catch-Up Drill: Swim freestyle, bringing each arm forward one at a time, touching your opposite hand before taking the next stroke.


  • Kickboard Drill: Use a kickboard to isolate your legs and work on building leg strength and kicking technique. You can use fins here too.

Endurance Building:

Once you have warmed up and worked on your technique, it’s time to focus on building endurance. This part of the workout should simulate race conditions and help you improve your stamina. Consider incorporating the following sets:

  • Pyramid Set: Swim 100 yards at an easy pace, followed by 200 yards at a moderate pace, then 300 yards at a faster pace. Repeat the sequence, gradually increasing and decreasing the distance.


  • Interval Sets: Alternate between fast-paced intervals and recovery periods. For example, swim 6×50 yards at a fast pace, followed by a 30-second rest. Repeat for multiple sets.

Open Water Simulation

Triathlons often take place in open water, which can be quite different from swimming in a pool. To prepare for this, include open water simulation exercises in your swim workout routine. These exercises help you adapt to various conditions and develop the necessary skills for open water swimming.

Consider the following drills:

  • Sighting Practice: Incorporate regular sighting practice to improve your ability to navigate and maintain direction while swimming without a clear lane.


  • Group Swim: If possible, swim with other triathletes to simulate the crowded conditions often experienced during open water races. This will help you get used to swimming in close proximity to others.

Cool Down

After completing the main workout, it is important to cool down and allow your body to recover. Swim a few laps at an easy pace, focusing on relaxed breathing and stretching out your muscles. Use this time to reflect on your swim session and set goals for future training sessions.

A well-designed swim workout routine is essential for triathletes looking to improve their performance in the water. By incorporating technique drills, endurance-building sets, and open water simulations into your training, you can enhance your swimming abilities and become a stronger, more efficient triathlete.

Remember to listen to your body, gradually increase distances and intensities, and always prioritize safety and proper form. With consistent practice and dedication, you’ll be well on your way to conquering the swim leg of your next triathlon.