WoW #7 – University of Tennessee A Look Inside the Coaches' Minds

Thank you Matt Kredich and Lance Asti from the University of Tennessee for contributing to our Workout of the Week blog (click on image to view full size).

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Matt and Lance wrote incredibly detailed notes when contributing their workout, so we hope you enjoy reading this as much as we did!

Coach Overview

This set was done by both Sprint and Mid-Distance athletes.  The distance guys probably did a broken 20k or something 🙂

Some notes on each piece:

The primary focus of this workout is Anaerobic Capacity.  We mix in this intensive swimming with some smooth extensive swimming throughout the workout. 

Warm up:

We begin with a Running Dive and Glide to work our posture off the start and the way we travel through the water at the very highest speed.  We also did some light breath control and breaststroke under the lanelines.  We are warming their bodies up but in a way that is fun and energetic.  It is a great way to get them psychologically engaged in the workout right away.

Set 2:

We are beginning to add a technical element to the workout.  When we “line up” on a kick board, the athletes lay on flat with the board under their lungs.  They should align their entire body in a straight line, working to get the bends out of the upper and lower back and making sure the head is in line with the spine (setting up aquatic posture).  The stroke count focus on the 200’s are very challenging for most of our athletes.  This is designed to stretch them and make them uncomfortable.  They will have to think about every possible way to reach the stroke count goal (anchor, body shape, body tone, etc).  While many will fail early on, by the end, they have reached the goal or at least gotten closer and discovered great things about the way they move through the water.

Set 3:

Waking up their legs.  The 10m turns are simply a strong push off the wall, an underwater turn right at the first set of flags, and fast dolphin kicks back to the wall.  You can’t hide from the kick sox.  While we need to learn to control our legs and energy output, we also need to have the best legs in the NCAA as a weapon when it is appropriate.

Set 4: Speed drill.  These are very short but very high tempo bursts.  They should be getting farther with each effort but maintaining tempo.  Most of the time, we come at swimming from efficiency, then add tempo.  This is simply a way to have them view speed in a different way.  Tempo first, then add the anchor and efficiency to the tempo.  Just another challenge, especially to the ones that have a hard time getting to high tempos.  This also wakes them up and sharpens them for the next set. 


This is our first anaerobic capacity set for the day.  It is simply 10 x 25 @ :30 at 100 Time, Tempo, Stroke Count, and Kick Count.  If they “fail” at any of those elements twice in a row, they are done with the set.  The rest is enough where they can swim light and fast…essentially “easy speed”.  They are essentially getting a great rehearsal for their race pace swimming.  They are familiarizing themselves with their event but without having to deal with a lot of lactate.  This should be short enough (and with enough recovery) to prevent this from becoming a tolerance set.  We don’t want them to GRIND on this set so if they do happen to fail, we just move on to the next set.  This isn’t punishment, simply a way to individualize it and prevent ugly swimming.  We had some that failed at 6 repeats while many of them made all 10 without any issues.  We follow this set up with some very smooth swimming with a technical focus.  This extensive work compliments the speed work and gives us some light, purposeful supporting volume.


50’s with toys on LOTS of rest.  The paddles and fins aren’t optional.  Some LOVE this and thrive, others get very uncomfortable with the added equipment.  For those that thrive, this is a great set to have fun going very fast.  Our top men were :18 low our top women were :20 low (free).  For those that struggle, this challenges them to use their body and help transfer dryland strength into the pool.  We teach them to use their toys for an added anchor and to guard against getting “too physical”.   Again, we follow this speed up with some smooth extensive swimming, this time with a turn focus.

Clive Commentary

Matt Kredich has produced some great results since he took over and Lance Asti has been an integral part of that success.


The first thing that struck me was the sophistication of the whole workout design, right from the warm up through to the ‘warm down’. Detailed instructions are given for each set; not simply the reps, distance and repeat time, which is often the norm. Also included are breathing patterns and prescribed stroke counts, as well as descriptions of preferred kinaesthetic sensations. Not only are the details of the specific instructions described for the whole group(s) but there are individually personalized instructions for selected swimmers. It’s attention to detail that does not always show up. It obviously does at Tennessee.


There are also quite a lot of esoteric phrases and abbreviations, such as ‘Uh20’, ‘harmonic’ and ‘HH’. Many coaches will be ‘flumoxed’ (there’s an old English esotericism to keep you amused) by those. Uh20 is underwater. The other two are terms used by adherents to the aquatic explanations of Bill Boomer/Milton Nelms.

Harmonic denotes a form of coordination where the frequencies of the stroke elements and their respective rhythms are integer multiples of the overall stroke pattern. In plain English, that’s delightful swimming. Fluid. It has ‘flow’. It’s like pouring cream. One stroke flows seamlessly into the next one. It brings a smile to your face when you watch it.

HH is an acronym for ‘Hand Hits’ which simply means hand entries into the water or, even more simply, strokes. I always think simpler is better. But not too simple.


The primary focus was anaerobic capacity development. Last post (found here) I outlined a model for estimating suitable total distances for each type of workout for a variety of swimmer levels and I had 2,700m per hour for international level swimmers and 2,450m for national level when working on ‘speed’ components. This 2 hour 1 minute workout (see the precision!) is 5,450 yards which converts to a rate of 2,471m per hour. That’s not to say these swimmers are not international level because we have to assume there are very few restrictions on pool time or swimmer availability; it’s not a club program.

What that number does reflect is the additional time allocated to clear explanations and clarifications and also to adequate rest intervals to allow the next swim to be right. Check out the very first set:

15m dive and glide @ 2:00

2 x 50 in the 50m pool @ 1:30

A dive 15 takes, what, seven seconds max? It’s glide, not even swim, so the effort is low. On 2 minutes? Really? Seriously? Well, yes. Because it has to be done correctly. And it has to allow for reflection time. My guess is the start needn’t be exactly ‘on the top’ like you would demand with young age group swimmers for organizational reasons. These swimmers deserve a chance to prepare, even for a dive 15 in the dive well.

Then they move to the racing tank and they’re going long course with the pool set up short course. This is one of the greatest breaststroke exercises ever devised. With lanes set at 2.5m width it forces the swimmer to hold 2.5m stroke length. I’m a little confused by it because it says ‘Uh20 every other lane’ so it may means 5m per stroke. Awesome. And the 2 x 50 are on 1’30” so, again, time for thinking.

All the warm up is very short distance stuff so the ‘sprinty’ type muscle activation is well catered for and the neurological stimulus and kinaesthetic awareness is accented throughout: the 4 x 100 includes 50 free ‘stroke slide for distance’ and the 2 x 25 ‘line up’ on board with best posture encourages straight body line and helps eliminate the hills and valleys from the upper and lower back. The whole workout is saturated with rich stimulus.

The 200s with pre-specified stroke counts are described as, “very challenging for most of our athletes.” Well, exactly. Challenge is what great coaching is all about. Comfort zones are about falling asleep – ask the Tiger Lilies in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Matt and Lance say, the 200s are, “designed to make them uncomfortable,” and the hallmark of a great athlete is the ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable, right? Of course.

Same thing on the next preparatory set: “You can’t hide from the kick sox.”

And on the next preparatory set: “This wakes them up and sharpens them for the next set.”


The preparation is extensive and finely detailed.  It leads into two anaerobic capacity sets, the first of which is ‘simply’ 10 x 25 @ 30. ‘Simply’ is complete and utter coach-speak sleight of hand. This set prescribes speed (time), tempo (stroke rate), stroke count (stroke length) and kick count. That’s not simple. The only things it doesn’t specify are heart rate and lactate level and both of those are total irrelevances. It’s a classic example of what I call ‘layered complexity’. 10 x 25 is simple. 10 x 25 @ 30 is simple. They are ingredients. Anyone can do it. It contains no stress, no challenge, no discomfort whatsoever. Add the other four layers and you have yourself a fine recipe. Cook them correctly and you have a cordon bleu dish.

The target time is not particularly onerous; that’s not what makes the set challenging. It’s the other layers that set the bar high. But what if the bar is set too high? What if the swimmers fail? You know what? They get a reward. They get to be done with the set. Think about that. Usually its fail and you start over. Not here. Fail and you are done. Beautiful. D-1 swimmers are motivated. They want to get it right; to be tough; to be the best. If the set is too much, or too long, then move on; come back another time and get it ‘righter’.

The second of the ANC sets is another of my favorites: 12 x 50 with paddles and fins @ 1’30”.

These Paddles+Fin sets should always be very short distance – 50m is probably the maximum, 25s are good for learning. They enable the swimmer to move through the water faster than they can naturally do. Because of that they learn how to deal with the increased drag – more speed, more drag. The rest intervals need to be big because you want them to swim fast, very fast. 50s on 1’30” is perfect. But how fast is fast? The rule of thumb is at least 10% faster than they can go without the fins and paddles. So a push 22.5 female should be aiming at very low 20’s possibly sub 20.0 with fins and paddles. The U of T men were 18 low and the women 20 low. If it’s not that fast then something is wrong. Maybe 12 x 50 is too many? In fact the first time you do this set 1 x 50 may be too many. The speed is the important thing; if they can’t repeat at 10% or faster, then stop. There is no point doing any that are slower. Build them up 1 x, 2 x … after years, yes, years, you may reach 20 x, but 1 x 50 at the right speed is better than 20 x 50 at the wrong speed.

Paddle size makes a difference. If the paddles are too small the swimmer cannot generate enough power to go fast, if they are too large then they can’t handle the power they generate. Simple solution: the size that enables them to go fastest is the right size.

The workout finishes with a very structured warm down at a specified speed and with a focus on specific aspects of turns.

Oh, and you can tell that Lance was a sprinter back in the day because he says “The distance guys probably did a broken 20k or something.


There you have it for Commit’s Workout of the Week! Looking forward to sharing a new workout next week and learning more from Clive Rushton.

If you’re a coach that would like to contribute to this series, please email with your request. Thanks!


Commit & Clive

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