Individual Medley Swim Workouts

6 Individual Medley Swim Workouts

Ready to take your individual medley to the next level? Here are some IM sets and workouts to help you build a bigger aerobic base, learn proper pacing, and improve the weak strokes in your IM.

The individual medley is a unique event in competitive swimming that incorporates all four swimming strokes in a single race.

The versatility and conditioning required makes the individual medley the hardest event in swimming to train for.

IM races require swimmers to excel in all four strokes, making it a true test of versatility, training and overall swimming skill.

In this collection of the top IM swimming workouts, we explore some sets and workouts that will help you build the skills and conditioning to master the individual medley in competition.

The IM workouts are designed to help you:

  • Learn proper pacing
  • Master the transitions between strokes
  • Improve conditioning to finish strong
  • Make your “weak” strokes stronger

And more.

Whether you are looking to develop a background to “survive” your first 400 IM or aiming for the podium, this collection of IM swim workouts will help you master the four strokes and master your personal best times on race day.

Let’s dive right in.

The 4-2-1 Medley Stack

This IM workout is designed for maximum coverage of distances and specialties. A general medley swim workout, if you will.

It combines a balance of speed and pacing to give you a full range of conditioning for your IM events.

Here goes:

Warm-up and pre-set:

  • 800 choice stroke warm-up – 200 swim, 200 drill, 200 kick, 200 pull
  • 8×50 IM order (two rounds) as 25 drill, 25 swim — @1:00 (or around 20 seconds rest after each 50)
  • 8×25 IM order (two rounds) swim – build to fast on each 25 — @:40
  • 100 choice loose

The Main set:

5 rounds

  • 4×50 IM order swim — @1:00 (Hit opening 50 pace of each 100 for your goal 400m IM pace)
  • 200 IM drill @3:00
  • 8×25 IM order swim — @:45 (hit opening 25 pace of each 50 for your goal 200m IM pace)
  • 100 IM drill @2:00
  • 100m IM FAST @2:00

Warm-Down

  • 200 swim choice loose

The 400m IM Pacing and Transitions Set

The 400 IM is a true distance event that requires proper pacing.

As Olympic and NCAA champion coach Gregg Troy—who coached Ryan Lochte, Elizabeth Beisel, and other 400m individual medley Olympic medalists—notes, each 100 needs to swum strategically.

“The 400 IM requires a conscious effort by the athlete to not overswim the first part of any of the 100s,” says Troy. “This is especially true for the first 50 fly. The athlete should build effort and speed through each 100 and focus on smoothly transitioning to the next stroke.”

Individual Medley Swim Sets

This medley set is specific to the 400m individual medley and is designed to teach swimmers how to build the first 50 of each 100.

After a proper warm-up, dive into the main set:

4-6 rounds:

  • 50 fly swim build @:40
  • 100 fly as 50 drill choice, 50 fly swim fast @2:00
  • 50 back swim build @:40
  • 100 back as 50 drill choice, 50 back swim fast @2:00
  • 50 breast swim build @:40
  • 100 breast as 50 drill choice, 50 swim fast @2:00
  • 50 freestyle build @:40
  • 100 freestyle as 50 drill choice, 50 swim fast @2:00

Set notes:

  • Build the 50s to FAST. Interval should be short rest—no more than 5-10 seconds.
  • On the 100s, focus on a fast transition from drill to the fast 50s.
  • Swim each 150 as a broken 100.
  • Drill 50s should be done smoothly and not sloppily.
  • Intervals for the 50s and 100s should decrease throughout the season as conditioning improves.

The IM Closing Speed Set

Individual medley races are tough to train for. Not only do you need to be able to be technically efficient in all four strokes, but you need the fitness to do all of them at a high level.

This set is designed specifically to help you close your IM races with speed.

Every swimmer knows the misery of “dying” at the end of a race; the legs feel like cement and the will to push on begins to evaporate.

This IM swim workout focuses on giving you the legs to close like a champion on race day.

After doing a thorough warm-up of your choosing, which should include plenty of freestyle, IM drill and kicking, let’s get after the meat-and-potatoes of the IM workout:

  • 3×75 swim, building each 25 and working the transitions (fly, back, breast by 25) @1:00
  • 200 free swim, last 50 FAST (with a six-beat kick) @2:30
  • 3×75 swim, building each 25 and working the transitions (fly, back, breast by 25) @1:00
  • 200 free kick, last 50 FAST @2:30
  • 3×75 swim, building each 25 and working the transitions (fly, back, breast by 25) @1:00
  • 200 free swim, last 50 FAST (with a six-beat kick) @2:30
  • 3×75 swim, building each 25 and working the transitions (fly, back, breast by 25) @1:00
  • 8×100 free as 50 kick fast, 50 swim (holding the same kick intensity as the fast 50 of kick) @1:45

Make sure to give it a good warm-down afterward.

And if possible, hit your legs with the foam roller after practice; they are going to need it!

Michael Phelps’s Favorite IM Set

Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all time, and he was an absolute monster in the individual medley races. Phelps won gold in the 200m individual medley four consecutive times, the only swimmer in history to do so.

IM Sets - Michael Phelps Individual Medley Workout

While his training over the years is legendary (including not missing training—not a single day—for five straight years), Phelps favorite swim practice was on the easier side.

This individual medley set is simple, designed for speed, and allows swimmers to hit top speeds across all four strokes of the individual medley.

After warming up, let’s dive right into some IM drill and speed:

80×25 @ :35

4 rounds:

  • 4 butterfly drill + 1 butterfly swim
  • 4 backstroke drill + 1 backstroke swim
  • 4 breaststroke drill + 1 breaststroke swim
  • 4 freestyle drill + 1 freestyle swim

While not the toughest individual medley workout on the pool deck, it does give swimmers a chance to hit all four swim strokes in IM order and play around with some different swim drills and top-end speed.

And hey, if it’s good enough for the greatest medley swimmer of all time, it’s good enough for me!

The One-Hour Ladder Medley Set

Short on time but long on goals in the water? This packed one-hour swim workout touches on all the bases when it comes to individual medley training.

If possible, try to get a dryland warm-up under your Speedo before diving into the water; doing so will allow you to spend more time improving your conditioning and less time warming up.

A 10–15-minute routine that includes arm swings, leg swings, jumping rope, and planks to activate the core is enough to promote blood flow to target muscles and prime you for a killer swim workout.

Here is the IM workout for those of you short on time:

Warm-up [10 mins]:

600 as: 100 swim free, 100 IM drill, 100 kick free, 100 IM drill, 100 swim free, 100 IM swim building each 25 to fast

Main set [36 mins]:

  • 2×100 IM swim build @1:45
  • 100 free cruise @1:30
  • 3×100 IM swim build @1:45
  • 100 free cruise @1:30
  • 4×100 IM swim build @1:45
  • 100 free cruise
  • 3×100 IM swim best average @2:00
  • 100 free cruise
  • 2×100 IM swim best average @2:00
  • 100 free cruise
  • 1×100 IM swim ALL OUT

Warm Down [10 mins]:

  • 10×25 freestyle swim, smooth, with perfect technique @:45 to cool down [9 mins]
  • Ten deep water bobs to loosen up your arms and a 5-minute hot tub if time allows 😊.

Swim Workout Notes:

  • This is a classic ladder swim workout, but instead of descending intervals on the way back down, increased speed and rest.
  • This quality-minded set lays an excellent aerobic foundation for your swimming.
  • Don’t forget to work the transitions in the 100 IMs. Races are won and lost on the turns, so swim in and out of them like you mean it.

The Weak Stroke Medley Swim Workout

Fast individual medley swimming requires being proficient in all four strokes. We all have a stroke (or even two) that aren’t as strong as our best strokes.

To train those strokes, you need to spend sustained chunks of time in training focusing on them. If your weak stroke is backstroke, the key is to essentially train like a backstroker for an extended period of time in swim practice.

Sets for Weak Stroke on Individual Medley

“To address weaknesses and to develop the medley swimmers must spend extended periods working on each area of the medley,” says Coach Troy. “Many times, weak strokes or areas are identified but not addressed properly.”

One of my favorite sets of all-time applies here.

It’s a set that utilizes some fast paced 50s to increase speed while breaking up the fast reps with kick and drill 50s to keep the heart rate up and increase the overall mileage performed on your weak stroke.

Here goes:

Warm-up

1000 as 400 swim choice, 300 kick, 200 pull, 100 swim build

Main set:

45×50 Stroke @1:00 (or 1:10 for breaststroke)

15 rounds:

  • 1 – Kick smooth
  • 1 – Drill
  • 1 – FAST swim

Warm-Down:

8×50 as drill/swim in IM order – focus on smooth swimming the whole way through — @1:10

Set notes:

  • The fast swims should aim to be swum at the 100 pace.
  • Work the stroke count on the fast swim 50s to help encourage better distance per stroke in the water.

What are the benefits of doing individual medley swim workouts?

IM training has many benefits beyond trying to drop time in the individual medley races on race day, including being more challenging, building a big swim-specific base, and keeping things fresh in the pool.

Medley training represents a huge challenge for swimmers, which can create a lot of different goals and training opportunities for improvement.

Medley training also serves as an excellent platform for future stroke specialization.

And because of the variety, individual medley training is awesome for keeping swimmers mentally fresh and engaged during long slogs of training during the season.

What is the best way to train for individual medley events?

Individual medley events require a ton of training. Swimmers must be exceptionally fit, particularly for the 400m individual medley, which is a true distance event.

The best way to train for IM events includes building a large aerobic base, lots of freestyle swimming, learning proper pacing, and focusing on weaker strokes with sustained blocks of training.

Build a training program incorporating lots of freestyle swimming and focus on weaker strokes with sustained blocks of training targeting that specific stroke to see improvement.

More Individual Medley Workouts and Resources

Looking for even more individual medley workouts and sets?

We’ve got you covered!

Here are some more IM sets to get the creative and IM juices flowing in the pool:

Power Up Your IM and Stroke Events with This Set from Badger Aquatics Club. Build some serious closing speed with this IM/stroke set from the Badger Aquatics Club.

3 Distance and IM Sets with Olympic Champion Janet Evans. American champion Janet Evans ruled the distance events for nearly a decade. Here are some of the legendary workouts the Olympic gold medalist and former 400m IM world record holder used to do in practice.

How to Train for the 400m Individual Medley with 3-Time Olympian Elizabeth Beisel. The 400m individual medley is one of the most challenging races for swimmers. Here’s a look at how 3-time Olympian Elizabeth Beisel trained for this grueling event.

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of YourSwimLog.com. He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.
Olivier is the author of the books YourSwimBook and Conquer the Pool. He writes all things high-performance swimming and is passionate about helping swimmers, swim coaches, and swim parents  master the pool. His articles were read over 4 million times last year and his work has                                  appeared on USA Swimming, SwimSwam, STACK, NBC Universal, and more. He’s also                                    kinda tall and can be found hitting noon-hour lap swims. You can learn more about                                       Olivier here.

Olivier Poirier-Leroy Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of YourSwimLog.com. He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.

Olivier is the author of the books YourSwimBook and Conquer the Pool. He writes all things high-performance swimming and is passionate about helping swimmers, swim coaches, and swim parents master the pool.

His articles were read over 4 million times last year and his work has appeared on USA Swimming, SwimSwam, STACK, NBC Universal, and more.

He’s also kinda tall and can be found hitting noon-hour lap swims. You can learn more about Olivier here.

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