Medley in training: when, where, how and why

Training & Technique
Written by: arena coaches at 18 March '16 0
You are reading: Medley in training: when, where, how and why

The main purpose of medley training is a matter of debate both among swimmers and their coaches.

In actual fact the medley should not be seen as four separate strokes but as one single swim style involving a wide variety of movements. That is why there are so many different training philosophies. Generally speaking, freestyle is the main stroke used in training sessions to improve swim skills. The second most popular stroke – particularly for quality sessions or when practising swimming at race pace – is the so-called “your own favourite stroke”.

This does not apply to swimmers who choose to focus on the medley.

In this case the specificity of swim skills involved is more complex than that required of swimmers focusing on just one or two strokes and this inevitably means training sessions are structured differently.

Let’s see how you can organise your training in 3 sessions-a-week lasting approximately  1 hour:

  • Each stroke will have a particular day devoted to it, except for freestyle that will be incorporated in every session
  • After warming up and before the main training session, always perform a short specific medley drill
  • This is followed by a specific work-out for the “day’s stroke” (both the complete stroke and just legs) and a work-out for just freestyle arms

The distance set for each day should be divided up into shorter sections to recover energy so that you can repeat the drill with more fuel in the tank.
600 warm-up (ex lo ao)

Session 1 (butterfly)

  • 600 warm-up (ex lo ao)
  • 300 m medley (e.g. 6 x 50)400 m butterfly (e.g. 2 x 8 x 25 with 20 “ rec)
  • 300 butterfly lo (e.g. 3 x 100 with 15” rec)
  • 600 m FS ao (possibly intervals)

Tot. 2200 m (88 laps)

Session 2 (backstroke)

  • 600 warm-up (ex lo ao)
  • 400 m medley (e.g. 4 x 100 with 20” rec)1000 m backstroke (lo) intervals (e.g. 6 x 100 with 20” rec + 8 x 50 with 15” rec)
  • 400 m  FS lo intervals (e.g. 200 with 25” rec + 100 with 15” rec + 2 x 50 with 10” rec)

Tot. 2400 m (96 laps)

Session 3 (breaststroke)

  • 700 warm-up (ex lo ao)
  • 300 m medley (e.g. 4 x 75 with 15” rec)
  • 400 m breaststroke (e.g. 16 x 25 with 7 “ rec)
  • 400 m breaststroke lo (e.g. 8 x 50 with 10” rec)
  • 400 m FS ao without stopping

Tot. 2200 m (88 laps)

From a physical training viewpoint there is also a big difference. The number of muscles involved in a medley race is higher than in a race involving just one swim stroke and your joints will come under greater stress.lo = legs only   ao = arm only    ex: technical drills

That is why gym workouts tend to be longer, focusing on exercises for various muscle groups and circuit training including exercises working on different muscle groups at different intensities (or speeds).

In my opinion and from an organic  viewpoint, this is the most complex, tricky and interesting swim stroke that requires most dedication but is also the most fun to practice.

Enjoy your training!

Download the training set (PDF) | Printable version


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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.