WoW #8 – Team Veneto A Quick Visit to Italia!

Thank you Davide Bizzotto from Team Veneto for contributing to our Workout of the Week blog (click on image to view full size).

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Coach Overview

Club name: TEAM VENETO
Training group: SPRINTERS GROUP
Swimmer’s age: 15-18 years old
Coach: Davide Bizzotto
Team Veneto: born in early 1990, is one of the main swimming clubs in Italy. For ten consecutive years winner of the Junior National ranking. From 2003 in the Top 8 with the Seniors Teams.
– Friday 15th January 2016
– 1st week on the first cycle of three specific cycles.
– 12 weeks before Italian Championship.
– 25 meters pool.
Goal: In preparation for the high specific weeks, before the Italian Championships, during agonistic work cycle I constantly check the swimmers’s aerobic preparation although they are sprinters. It helps athletes to save resistance skills acquired during endurance winter cycle and sustain recovery post hardest sets.

This workout shows who is at the level of aerobic power (6 sets of 3×100 with short recovery) combined with an extra effort of a 50 swam at 200 pace.

I will replay this set every three weeks so I can also check the preparation for the 200 events.
WU: 1250 m. There’s a combination of easy and progressive swim, drills, pads and fins for better muscles activation. This warm up is short (20/25minutes) in order to not compromise the long main set (over 40minutes). 

Main Set: On Friday we usually do a set like this, a combination of aerobic power and race pace training so the biomechanics of the main stroke doesn’t suffer extra volume swum at medium intensity. 

We have a total of 18×100 and 6×50. I chose to add  5″ extra every two sets for the 100s reps so I can be sure that swimmers can maintain threshold pace. During warm up if I see good shape I don’t change the @1:10 rest. 

Last request for athletes, but not less important, is to have a big mental activation for the technical part (first of all turns!.. dps, etc)  so they can work, for example, on the last turns of every race where they can show their mental endurance skills.

Kick set: On Friday we usually have an anaerobic kick sets (reps between 25-75 m) after the main set. In this practice we kick a 50 all out followed by a 50 easy. I ask the same time after the third 100s where the rest is shorter than the other 100s.

WD: I like to work on technique after the harder sets. It helps swimmers to recover their best stroke. So I propose 600m drills and a set where they have to check dps with a gradual increase of speed.
Next day: I proposed a Race Pace training (100 event) with short repetition and a long pull set for recovery the anaerobic fatigue.

Clive Commentary

This week’s WOW comes from Europe; Italy to be geographically accurate and Team Veneto to be precise. It’s Europe: it’s a 25 meter pool.


The workout was done in mid-January – 12 weeks before the scheduled national championships. I don’t have the precise periodization plan but Coach Bizzotto says it is the “first week of the first cycle of three specific cycles” so I’m guessing each cycle is three weeks and that allows for a three week taper. Remember, I’m guessing. The three week model is pretty universal but it should be modified to build on, or even maximize the individual swimmer’s strengths and eliminate or, as a short-term fix, circumvent their weaknesses. Each block, therefore can be a little longer or a little shorter than the ‘model’ three weeks.

What I’m not guessing at is the categorization of the workout because Coach Bizzotto clearly labels it “Aerobic Power combined with 200 Race Pace + Anaerobic kick set,” and I’m going to focus both on the combination as well as the actual detail of the sets for this comment.


Coach Bizzotto “constantly checks the swimmers’ aerobic preparation even though they are sprinters”. This is good practice. He correctly points out that the aerobic capacity developed during the winter endurance cycles allows them to be resilient and helps enhance the speed of recovery after the hardest anaerobic sets. Sprinters need a solid aerobic base in order to do this.

“Constantly checks” means the aerobic power set is repeated every three weeks – once every meso-cycle. It is Coach Bizzotto’s ‘standard test set’. Any set can be a test set if you simply repeat it and compare the results; this is Coach Bizzotto’s and it’s a corker – English slang for exceedingly excellent.


The “Aerobic Power + 200 Race Pace” set combines work in the aerobic power zones with short bursts of race pace efforts (RP), which is what Dr. Jan Olbrecht calls ‘spicing’. It’s a good analogy because it adds flavor to the set and makes it much more appetizing.

It’s six rounds of 3 x 100 followed by a 50 medium and then a 50 at 200m RP, so its 2,400m in total and designed to take 32 minutes. The 100’s are targeted at ‘threshold’ pace (training intensity zone 3) so 30-ish minutes is a perfect length but here’s the surprise: it’s not a threshold set, nor is it a race-pace set. Know what? It’s a VO2Max set.

“What?” I hear from across the wavy fields of cyberspace. Yes, indeed. But not in the conventional sense of a set designed to increase the ‘actual’ VO2Max – the ability of the muscle to absorb oxygen and use it. A great physiologist once told me that VO2Max was largely irrelevant for swimmers, “If it’s good enough for them to be good, then its good enough for them to be great,” was his summary. In other words VO2Max as we conventionally understand it is not a limiting factor in swimming fastest.

What is important is the speed we swim at when we are at ‘VO2Max” intensity. So not VO2Max per se, but the swim speed at VO2Max. That is affected by how much specific muscle power the swimmer can apply to produce propulsive force in zone 5 when all the possible muscle fibre combinations are in play and the energy conversion options have progressed through their available sequences. That is what is important. And it’s important across all the conventional pool-based race distances. However, the race distance that sits right in the middle of zone 5 is 200m.

The set works because the 3 x 100s at threshold vigorously activate all three fibre types but that intensity doesn’t overly stress them. Then the ‘medium’ 50 allows a psychological and volitional ‘re-set’ ready for the RP 50. That 50 throws the intensity above the critical barrier between zone 4 (lactate clearance) and zone 5 and stimulates the functions necessary for a great application of power.

Zone 5 can operate in lactate tolerance mode, or VO2Max mode, or maximum lactate production mode; it all depends on how the set is designed. This set is a classic designed to increase the swim speed at VO2Max and that purpose is way more important than improving VO2Max itself.

So far, so good. But … there may be a potential problem – the anaerobic kick set which follows the aerobic power set.


The four main development modes of training – aerobic, anaerobic, capacity and power, can act in complementary ways or can act antagonistically depending on how they are fitted together (combined) and the order in which they are fitted together (date). Mesocycles which are aimed at an overall development of aerobic power have the associated effect of reducing anaerobic capacity and do not complement aerobic power or support its development.

If the overall goal of the mesocycle is development of aerobic power then the inclusion of anaerobic power sets needs to be approach very judiciously. The 4 x (3 x 100) kick set is obviously not an anaerobic capacity set (which would be verboten during an aerobic power mesocycle) because it is too long and the rest intervals are too short, so it must be classed as anaerobic power.

Including this type of anaerobic set with an aerobic power focus is OK but it will tend to maintain the anaerobic power levels rather than develop them. They needn’t be included every day – every three days would suffice – and, personally, I’d put a 1,200m set like this on a different day to the aerobic power/RP set.

It is quite a challenging set because the rest interval reduces quite significantly during each 100 (2:15s down to 1:45s) yet the swimmer is asked to hold a constant pace during the 50 max/50 easy progressions. Reducing the rest and holding the pace mean that the stress on the muscles increases and the effect intensifies. It doesn’t change, it intensifies. This could over-lay or even over-rule the effects already produced during the previous set because it is targeting the same combinations of muscle fibres and energy conversion mechanisms. For this reason I would separate these sets out and place them on different days.


The workout concludes with a warm-down focussing on technique and a set of descending 50s. Descending during a warm-down is both highly unusual and highly recommended. The descent is accompanied by an instruction to maintain stroke count. Beautiful. Holding SC while increasing speed must involve a deliberate increase in stroke rate. During warm-down. How good is that?!

The following day’s training includes race pace training for the 100m distances and a long pull set to help recovery from the anaerobic stress. I’d be inclined to move the anaerobic kick set in there as well so that the intense anaerobic stress is concentrated on a single day rather than experienced ‘every’ day. For the younger swimmers in the group – the 15 year-olds – it won’t be as much as a potential problem as for the older ones – the 18 year-olds. The older ones will have significantly more developed physiological mechanisms and processes and specific development will be more critical than the general development more suited to the younger ones.


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2 thoughts on “WoW #8 – Team Veneto A Quick Visit to Italia!

  1. “Descending during a warm-down is both highly unusual and highly recommended.”

    I used to integrate and use descending (or decreasing speed) 50’s or 100’s with my former team quite a lot during our last year together. This is a good way to have atheltes warm down at the desired speed and really reap the benefits for the recovery process after the actual workout (especially when the available swim down time is short).

    1. Hi Coach Nico. Coach Bizzotto is doing it the other way around – he’s asking the swimmers to get faster as they progress through the w/d set. He asks them to hold or improve the distance per stroke and get faster.

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