One Leg & Ninja Kick

Love a good kick workout that’s a bit unconventional and gets ’em working hard! Had many swimmers wondering if they’d be able to walk the next day after this one…

*For one-legged kick, swimmers bend one knee so that their foot is out of the water, and they must kick with the other leg. The trick to this one is to kick with the whole leg and keep hips on the surface.

2 rounds, with a kickboard & snorkel (head between arms), freestyle kick:

2×100 One Leg Kick (R/L x25) @ 2:45

2×100 Ninja kick (strong kick, keep feet underwater… Fast, but silent!) @ 2:00

2×100 FAST kick @ 2:00 (goal= >:15 rest)
Alright, on the top!


Any Way You Can Pull It

Target Group: 11& Older, B Times & Faster

For a quality active recovery practice, set them up with some scull and catch drills before beginning!

20×100 @ moderate interval (average swim 100 interval + :10 is my rule of thumb) with snorkels:

1-4 descend with R paddle only

5-8 descend with L paddle only

9-12 descend with both paddles

13-16 smooth fist pull (no paddles)

17-20 descend SWIM with snorkel & no paddles

Alright, on the top!

100’s on 2:01

This is one of my favorite drop out test sets and it does require some mental engagement. It’s one that I did growing up (and cannot claim authorship– thank you, Jeff LeBeau!) and always found challenging, but when I was done I was left inspired by those who made it further than me and by myself because I had set a goal and achieved it. There was a relatively immediate gratification from putting in work and reaping the success unlike a lot of training. There is a lot of room for creativity, but ultimately the success (or failure) of the set is up to the swimmer. 

The Guidelines:

  • There is no limit to how many 100’s a swimmer will do. They continue until failure. Generally swimmers will do around 20-30×100’s, but this depends on the “start” time (more on this later).
  • The swimmer must always make it in by “the top”. If going 5-10 seconds apart, the next swimmer in the lane’s “top” will be the 10, etc. (Ex. Swimmer #2 is going 10 back, they must always make it in by the 10. Swimmer #3 is going 10 behind them so they must always make it in by the 20, etc.)
  • If a swimmer touches the wall before or on their “top”, they have made it and must continue. If they touch the wall at :01-:02, they must sprint the next one to attempt to get back on it. If they touch the wall at :03+, they are out.
  • The goal should be that their last and fastest 100 made is 5-7 seconds slower than their best 100 time. Of course this is not always the case, but on average this is where kids end up dropping out.

With those in mind…The Set:

  • Pick a start interval. My top level age group swimmers start at 1:20 and I graduate it from there. B-interval starts at 1:30, C-interval on 1:40, etc. This interval is based on “the top”. So if your swimmers’ first interval is 1:30, they will begin the set on :30 (and have to make it in by the top).
  • Because the interval is 2:01, the next 100 they will leave on the :31 and make it in by the top. On number three, they will leave on the :32 (and still have to make it in by the top). This continues until the swimmer is “out” when they miss it by more than 3 seconds.


  • Have a set the swimmers do until everyone is out. When there are about 4-5 swimmers left in the set, I sometimes have everyone get out and cheer for those left still in the set. The “out” set I have found to be the simplest and easiest to monitor is having them kick the 100’s on 2:01, but instead of being in by the top, they have to be in by the time everyone leaves (so their true interval is 2:01). Based on the swimmer’s ability, I’ll have them put on fins, but if 2:00 is a moderate interval, no fins.
  • Keep track of how many 100’s they’ve done as a group. It’s easy to get lost for everyone, so it’s best to have a master tally.
  • For test set purposes, keep track of the fastest 100 each swimmer has made (ex. Susie made 1:02 then she attempted 1:01 and missed by 3 seconds. What I would record as her last 100 would be 1:02) then remind them of these before we begin so they can have a goal time in mind.
  • The set can be done as freestyle, stroke, or IM– it’s up to you!
  • If swimmers start off too slow, they run the risk of “getting stuck” and not being able to change gears and therefore dropping out too soon. If swimmers start off too fast, they run the risk of expending their energy and dropping out too soon. To combat this, it’s important that a swimmer approach this in a smart way– strong, moderate and setting up good habits at first then build from there. I remind swimmers when they get within 10 seconds of their top, it may be time to change gears.
  • I’ve found it’s easier to explain this set with an analog clock and if we don’t have an analog clock, I’ll draw one on a whiteboard so they can visualize “the top”.

This is truly a fantastic set for getting swimmers to encourage and push themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of. The first time through this set may be a little chaotic and confusing, but the next time will be far smoother and exciting! 

Any questions? Alright, let’s go…

Let me know how your swimmers’ 100’s on 2:01 goes! 

“Alright, let’s go…”

I wrote out my first practice on a Starbucks napkin. My voice shook as I tried to project over the noise of the whole swim club practicing at one time. The swimmers in my group looked up at me, equally eager and exasperated. I watched my 11 preteen swimmers do what I had told them to do and all I could think about was how wasn’t good enough. I sat on the block hugging my knees almost the whole time. I’d get up and stand for a slightly different vantage point, but it didn’t matter. I was scared out of my mind. I’m not a coach– what the hell did I get myself into?

I will be the first to tell you that my first three weeks coaching my own group were not good. I was out of my league. I started hearing legends and stories about my predecessor and how my practices were “easier” (we did a lot of drill). My swimmers and the other coaches feasted on my insecurity. Every time I walked on deck or talked to either of the head coaches, I got the feeling they thought I was some special kind of idiot–they may have even been regretting hiring me! However, I had still no idea what I was doing wrong despite being talked down to and around. 

I started catching on to the way this club trained after about two months. I had my group going harder and faster, but I still wanted to coach them smarter than just yardage– that’s boring for everyone. I wrote intricate practices that I copied onto a whiteboard and the kids loved not having their memory tested and I loved not having to remind them of what to do next. Their strokes looked great, they were making the intervals, they were doing what I had written for them the way I imagined it! I was starting to feel my confidence and inspiration growing! Maybe I could actually do this coaching thing…

After four months of coaching, I was positive my job was on the line. My kids were improving, a lot in fact, just not the way they were “supposed” to in the vein of the rest of the club. At a monthly coaches meeting I was told I wasn’t allowed to use the whiteboard anymore, “Give them multiple rounds of something and they just remember it.” This was more of a test of my swimmers than me. I didn’t touch that whiteboard for at least another 4 months after that, but my swimmers rose to the challenge and recognized and remembered the patterns of my sets and practices. During this time, I learned more about training through research, observation, and my graduate school work. My practices grew in depth and engagement– whether it’s because they had to or wanted to remains a mystery, but not one that needs solving.

As my training learning curve was ramping up, there was one thing I didn’t need teaching– connecting to each of the swimmers. I took time before practice to talk to my preteen girls who just wanted someone to hear their pointless stories. I listened to the boys try to get a one-liner in on one another and got them back with a few of my own. I wanted to know who they were off the pool deck because it was easy for me to see who they were in the pool. This wasn’t any extra effort by any means, it seemed and was natural to me, and it paid off (and continues to pay off). One of my 11 year old swimmers later told me that they appreciated how I “talked to them like normal people”. I was shocked that they would be talked to in a way that was anything but “normal”… then I remembered my own circumstances and vowed to continue to be someone they can be “normal” with, speaking to them with respect and reason rather than from a place of condescension or impatience.

From this, you may think I’m still an idiot. Maybe, I know I’m still relatively inexperienced as a coach. Going into my fourth year as a coach, I have not “seen and done it all”. I haven’t developed any international superstars, but I have had a hand in developing some pretty awesome kids. I’ve been lucky enough to contribute to the success of some truly talented top age group swimmers in the nation. Those swimmers’ practices are just as much for training me as they are for them. And as with every set we give them, we’ve all gotta start somewhere. And after explaining all that… Any questions? No? Alright, let’s go on the top.