Freestyle swimming to strengthen your heart, muscles and lungs

Training & Technique
Written by: arena coaches at 5 September '15 0
You are reading: Freestyle swimming to strengthen your heart, muscles and lungs

As we have already mentioned, the stroke most commonly used to develop your metabolic capacities is the freestyle.

Let’s see how we can improve our endurance, breathing capacity and cardiovascular efficiency using this stroke.

You can perform all of the following exercises after learning the right swimming technique, warming up and (possibly) measuring your MHR (maximum heart rate).

The intensity you are looking for is a heart rate of between 65%-80% of your MHR. If you do not know what your maximum heart rate is, work at an intensity that makes your face go “pink” without it ever turning “red”. Your face should stay the same colour and you should be able to talk without too much difficulty during rests.

Here are two training methods I recommend for increasing your endurance:

1. Over-Distance Training: this involves long continuous swims with no breaks. This exercise should last a total of over 45’.

Amateur swimmers, and even more experienced swimmers who are basically sprinters, should perform long but not excessively long sets, possibly repeating them 2-3 times.

The intensity of this exercise should be moderate, but it is also advisable to include a small amount of speed work with occasional sprints without stopping to induce the desired to changes to your nervous and hormonal systems.

Here are 3 Over-Distance Training methods:

Distance Swimmer 

  • TRAINING METHOD: 2 x 1.5km or 1 x 3km (10” sprint every 7’ swimming)
  • RECOVERY TIME: 45” and 0


  • TRAINING METHOD:  3 x 500m or 4 x 400m (10” sprint twice per set)

Amateur Swimmer  

  • TRAINING METHOD:  4 Xx300m or 3 x 400m (10” sprint once-twice per set)

This training system gives an enormous stimulus to your oxygen transportation system, increases your cardiac output, slows down your resting pulse rate, and increases your capacity to draw oxygen from the air you breathe into your lungs. It also increases your liver/muscles’ capacity to store glycogen, increases the size of your mitochondrion (our power supply) and its composition in terms of muscular fibre.

2. Interval Training: this involves repeating a certain exercise a given number of times with short intervals between each effort

Here are 3 exercises for this method:

Distance Swimmer

  • TRAINING METHOD: 10×300 – 30×100
  • RECOVERY TIME: 20”-10”

Sprinter  – Masters

  • TRAINING METHOD: 10x200m – 40x50m
  • RECOVERY TIME:  15”-7”

Amateur Swimmer 

  • TRAINING METHOD: 12x100m or 16×75 or 20×50
  • RECOVERY TIME: 15”-10”-10”

This training method has similar benefits to Over-Distance Training except that part of our energy stores are replenished during the short recovery periods and made available again for the next repetition. This allows lactic acid to be flushed out very quickly increasing our training tolerance, regulating our body temperature, oxygenating myoglobin and helping oxidise fatty acids.

Are we ready for long, steady training sessions? I am, but what about you? 🙂


Are you looking for the ideal training swimsuit for your own specific needs? Take a look here!


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arena coaches

Swim coaches, trainers and experts will give you all kinds of tips for performing at your best in both training and races.