The Importance of Test Sets: How They Serve As a Barometer

In a sport that revolves around times, the implementation of test sets during practice are a great way to gauge where a swimmer is within their season. Test sets are challenging, but highly rewarding. Difficult sets push swimmers to race their teammates, but just as important, test sets allow swimmers to race themselves via their best times. A test set will physically and mentally challenge swimmers to become the best swimmer possible.

Pace Practice

A key component of test sets is the ability to practice your pace for your races. In swimming, particularly in distance races, understanding your pace is essential to have evenly swum races. For example, if you wanted to go five minutes in the 500-yard freestyle, your goal pace time would be one minute. Therefore, in a 500-freestyle focused pace test set, you would aim to swim one minute 100 freestyles or faster. The best way to prepare for your races is to routinely practice your pace during practice. Pace practices are fast and tough, so be prepared to push yourself and soon enough your hard work will pay off.

Race Yourself

During test sets, you can certainly race your teammates to push yourself, but you can also race yourself. Test sets tend to be repeated over the course of a season to allow for self-comparison. Repeating test sets allows a swimmer to race their personal best times, fastest pace, and own test set records. Due to the repetition of test sets, swimmers can gain confidence in their racing and prepare for their next meet. Additionally, due to the vast number of different types of test sets, a swimmer can work on all their strokes and even their kick. One of the best ways to improve as a swimmer is to race your own times. Therefore, test sets provide a prime opportunity for speed practice.

Mental Practice

Test sets are no easy feat to accomplish, so they are an excellent opportunity to practice one’s mental strength. The middle of a difficult test set is highly comparable to the middle of a tough race. Amid a tough race and a tough set, one must dig deep and persevere. All swimmers have been in a hard race and in order to keep pushing, they need to practice swimming when they are worn out, full of lactic acid and tired. Test sets provide the space for swimmers to push their bodies and work on their minds at the same time. The next time a daunting test set lingers ahead of you, approach it not as a dreaded challenge, but as an opportunity to make yourself a better swimmer.

Examples of Some Great Test Sets

  • 6x100s kick on a fast interval. If you miss an interval, stop. If you make them all, drop the interval by five seconds the next time you do the test set.
  • 20x50s freestyle best average on 1:05. This set tests a swimmer’s endurance and helps prepare them for a plethora of races from the 200 freestyle to the mile.
  • 11x150s freestyle is a great test set to prepare a swimmer for their next mile. This set allows swimmers to work on their pace and their mental fortitude.
  • 100s freestyle or stroke starting on 1:40 dropping by five seconds each one until you miss the interval. Threshold sets like these are great for comparing your own times and you can garner a lot of motivation for beating your record.
  • 4x200s on six minutes freestyle or stroke. A lactic acid buildup test set like this one prepares a swimmer for big swim meets full of lots of races.

The next time you see a test set written up on the whiteboard before practice, gear up for some fast racing and a fun challenge

By Annika Hobson

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