Swimmers have a lot of tools at their disposal when it comes to improving performance in the water.
Gone are the days when all we had was a kickboard and a pull-buoy.
Nowadays, we’ve got the swimmer’s snorkel, swim paddles, swim parachutes, and one of THE favorites of most swimmers…
In this article, we will look at some awesome ways to incorporate swim fins into your training for faster swimming.
Whether you are looking to improve overall leg endurance or build peak speed, swimming fins are a way to help you get there!
Let’s dive right in.
Why Should You Train with Fins?
Before we get into the sets and swim workouts, it’s worth outlining the purpose of using swim fins in the first place.
Some of the benefits of swimming with fins include:
Reduce the yardage on your shoulders.
Swimmer’s shoulder is a real issue for both competitive and even master’s swimmers. The constant overhead arm movements, especially when technique falters, take its toll.
Strapping on a pair of swim fins can reduce the beating your shoulders take on the daily and are a great way for you to train “around” cases of swimmer’s shoulder.
Improve ankle flexibility.
The added surface area on the fins helps create a gentle “pull” on your feet and ankles when kicking, creating a stretch and improving ankle range of motion.
Improved body position.
Fins hurtle you through the water faster, which has the benefit of putting your body into a more efficient position.
Swim fins are a great corrective tool for higher hips in the water.
Develop leg strength and endurance.
Swimming with fins, especially higher intensity efforts, develop power and endurance in your legs and hips.
Whether you are doing extended kick sets or short-and-sweet bursts of raw power, swim fins are an excellent tool for increased conditioning and strength.
Swim Fin Workouts and Sets
When it comes to building general endurance, fins are awesome as they increase metabolic demand in your legs and will also reduce the demand on your shoulders.
Which means you can rack up the meters and yards without taxing and stressing your shoulders too much.
Here are some sample endurance-focused sets you can do with swim fins:
Set #1 – The Kick/Swim Endurance Combo
- 100 kick with swim fins @:20 rest
- 50 freestyle swim fast with swim fins @:30 rest
Notes: Alternating kick and swim is an excellent way to build overall leg endurance and improve conditioning. Kicking speed is correlated with swimming speed1.
Powering up your kick will help you finish races stronger and also reduce the demand on your shoulders over the course of months of training.
See also: Olympic Coach Eddie Reese’s Favorite Sets for Getting Swimmers in Shape
Set #2: The Fartlek Kick Set
1,000 free kick with swim fins – for the last 25 of each 100, accelerate to all-out speed.
Notes: Fartlek training—long bouts of medium paced effort interspersed with quick bouts of fast effort—is one of my favorite ways to spice up endurance sets.
It’s also great for teaching you how to change gears (handy for races when you need to pass a competitor or fend off a challenger) and helps sharpen focus during longer workouts and sets.
Set #3: The Gregg Troy Sprinter Set
20×100 freestyle with fins and paddles @2:00
- ODDS: 25 kick all-out, 50 swim breathing every 5 strokes, 25 kick all-out
- EVENS: 25 swim sprint, 50 kick, 25 swim
Notes: Gregg Troy was the coach of Olympic champion and world record holder Caeleb Dressel at the University of Florida. This particular set is one of Troy’s favorite workouts for sprint swimmers.
Although this is more of an advanced set and designed for elite swimmers, feel free to adjust the intervals to your current level of conditioning and ability.
Swim Fins Sets for Speed and Power
One of the most appealing aspects of using swim fins is being able to swim faster than you normally would!
For a few moments, you are swimming as fast (or faster!) than your peak swimming speeds.
The good news is that you can combine the joy of speed with power development.
Here are some of my favorite swim fin workouts you can do to build speed and power in the water:
Set #4: Overspeed Swimming
8×25 freestyle with swim fins and paddles all-out @2:00
Notes: Short, simple, and sweet, this set is low on meters but ALL-OUT on intensity and speed. The goal is maximum speed and power!
When using swimming aids such as fins and paddles, your body is forced to learn how to move through the water at hyper-speed.
Fins and paddles are a combination of speed development and learning how to move through the water at increased speeds efficiently. Take plenty of rest to maintain a near-maximum effort throughout.
Set #5: Kick Power 9000
16×25 freestyle kick fast with swim fins, parachute and kickboard @1:00
Notes: Kicking with fins and a parachute are a great way to power up your flutter kick.
To get the most of this type of kick work, alternate two reps with a parachute with two reps without a parachute to get that added spring in your kick after dropping resistance.
? Bonus set: Want to take your underwater dolphin kick to the next level? Try doing vertical dolphin kick with fins with your arms over your head. Aim to do for :30, rest for :30, and repeat 10-16 times through. See more on vertical kicking here.
Tips for Swimming with Fins
Here are some quick tips for getting the most of training with swim fins.
Don’t turn them into a crutch.
Swim aids like paddles and fins should be used in a targeted fashion.
I totally understand the urge to use fins constantly in the water—swimming with fins is fast and fun, after all!—but make sure you don’t allow it to become a crutch.
Swim fin workouts and sets should serve the primary purpose of helping you become a better swimmer.
Stretch your ankles.
Improved ankle flexibility is a ticket to a stronger kick. The more range of motion your ankle has, the more water it can kick, and the faster you can sail through the water.
Fins can help loosen up stiff ankles, but don’t forget to pair this with some ankle stretches for maximum benefit in the water.
Use the right fins
Swim fins look generally the same, but they vary widely in function and fit.
Shorter blade fins are best-suited for power and speed development, as the shorter blade means you can maintain a higher kicking tempo, more closely reflecting your fin-free kicking tempo.
Longer fins are better suited for endurance work and swimmers new to training with swim fins.
For more information on choosing the right swim fins, and a full buyer’s guide, read this guide on the best swim fins.
The Final Lap
As fun as swim fins are—nothing quite beats moving across the pool like your hair is on fire!—they should serve your training and competition goals.
Use them to improve speed, get your legs in better shape, and improve technique in the water.
Try these sets the next time you hit the pool and kick your way to faster swimming.
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