In swimming and sports in general, it makes sense to distinguish between three basic intensity zones. Depending on the intensity, the body uses different metabolic pathways to provide the necessary energy.
Aerobic Zone (Endurance Zone)
In this zone, the body primarily uses oxygen to convert the energy stored as carbohydrates, fat or protein into the fuel ATP (adenosine triphosphate) required by the muscles. Subjectively, training in the aerobic zone feels like a light to moderate effort. However, the intensity is only so high that one could theoretically train for several hours without being exhausted.
If you increase the training intensity more and more, you will eventually reach the point where the available oxygen is no longer sufficient to supply the muscles with enough fuel. If this is the case, the body additionally falls back on the lactate metabolism. This mechanism can be used to produce additional ATP for the muscles. The problem, however, is that in addition to the ATP for the muscles, the “waste product” lactate (lactic acid) is produced, too. If too much lactate accumulates in the body, we feel it as a burning sensation in the arms or legs. You get out of breath and every movement becomes difficult until at some point you have to stop to recover.
The threshold zone is defined as the area where lactate slowly begins to accumulate. The intensity is already quite high, but still low enough so that you could swim in this zone for about an hour without exhausting yourself.
Anaerobic Zone (Sprint Zone)
If you increase the swimming intensity even further, you will enter a zone where lactate accumulates so quickly that you have to stop after a few seconds to a maximum of 2 minutes to recover. This zone is called the anaerobic zone because most of the energy is provided via the lactate metabolism and not via the oxygen pathway (anaerobic).
Swim Training Based on Intensity Zones
Depending on the distance of the swim competition, the aerobic and anaerobic metabolisms are used with varying degrees: While in a 50 meter sprint swimmers almost exclusively swim in the anaerobic zone - you can tell by the fact that swimmers only breathe a few times and therefore swim with virtually no oxygen - at swimming distances of 400 meters and more it is mainly the aerobic metabolism that is active
So, how do you know in which zone you are swimming? The so-called Critical Swim Speed (CSS) has established itself for this problem. This number is calculated from the difference between the fastest 400 meter and the fastest 200 meter swimming time and approximately corresponds to the threshold zone.
For example, if you have calculated a CSS of 1:30 min / 100 m and want to train in the threshold zone, the swim speed should be in the range of about 1:26 - 1:34 min / 100m. If you swim faster, you train in the anaerobic zone (sprint zone). If you swim more slowly, you train in the aerobic zone (endurance zone).
The Swim Coach App automatically takes care of the calculation of the CSS and also provides all necessary training zones.
100 Meter Swim Training
So how do you specifically train for a 100 meter freestyle sprint swim competition?
To answer this question, we have put together a list of various tips for a faster 100 meter swim time:
Since as in a 50 meter sprint also in a 100 meter sprint mainly the anaerobic metabolic pathway is active, the anaerobic zone should be specifically trained. Short sprints between 15 and 50 meters are particularly suitable for this (interval training). It is important that the intensity is kept very high during all intervals to make sure that the muscles are stimulated to the maximum. Rule of thumb: If the muscles do not burn in the end, it was not hard enough! In the breaks in between, you should take enough time for recovery (1:30 - 3:00 min) so that the energy stores in the muscles can refill and the lactate is broken down.
We recommend at least one sprint training session per week. For a maximum training effect you should spend about 12 - 20 minutes in the anaerobic zone. However, intensive sprint trainings on two consecutive days should be avoided, as otherwise muscle building is hindered.
The 100 meter sprint is all about explosive arm pulls and a strong kick. Training sessions with paddles and fins are excellent for increasing strength. Outside the swimming pool, strength can be additionally increased with push-ups, pull-ups and other strength exercises. Here, too, you should make sure to allow sufficient time for regeneration and build-up of a muscle section. A technique that is also widely used by bodybuilders is to alternate between heavy arm sessions (with paddles) and heavy leg sessions (with kickboard or fins) to give each muscle group enough time to recover.
In contrast to the 50 meter sprint wehere mainly the anaerobic zone is active, in the 100 meter sprint the aerobic metabolism plays a very important role, too. The distance is just too long to get through without oxygen. In addition to the direct benefits for competitions, a well-trained aerobic metabolism also helps you train more effectively because you need fewer breaks for recovery and can cover longer training distances in the same time. To train your aerobic metabolism, intervals of 100 - 400 meters are particularly suitable. Swim the intervals at your Critival Swim Speed (CSS) and keep the breaks in between as short as possible (if possible under 20 seconds).
As with all swimming distances, a good water position and arm technique is crucial for a fast swim time. It is worthwhile to include some technical exercises into every training session to improve your swimming technique. Our favorite exercises are: Superman Drill, Towfloat Drill and swimming with one arm. But also training with a snorkel can help to focus on perfect arm and leg movements as well as good body rotation.
If you train with the Swim Coach App, the virtual trainer makes sure that your technique is not neglected.
Start / Dive
At the start it is important to have a quick reaction followed by an explosive jump and an efficient immersion phase. The jump can be trained well on land with series of jumps from a squatting position. Especially in the last weeks before the competition, the start should be trained specifically.
Since every breath you take has a negative effect on your speed due to the change in water position, you should be careful not to breathe unnecessarily often during the 100 meter sprint. Especially shortly after the start and during the final sprint it can be worthwhile to reduce the number of breaths. The better your anaerobic capacity is trained (see above), the fewer breaths you will need.
The flip turn is an important factor in the 100 m sprint, both at long but especially at short course competitions. With a good turn you can get a few tenths of a second. We recommend increasing your speed towards the wall and then making an explosive turn. There are many videos on Youtube on this topic.
Creating a 100 meter freestyle swim training plan with the Swim Coach app
The Swim Coach App helps you with setting up an effective training plan to enhance your speed in the 100 meter sprint. When creating a new training plan you can define various parameters to get a plan tailored to your individual needs. To see improvements we recommend to swim at least 4 times per week with a total distance of 8 km or more per week, e.g. 4 trainings with 2000 m per week. The training focus should be a mix of speed, strength, endurance and technique. Instead of technique you can also add an allround session to add even more variety to your swimming training. For each workout focus, the Swim Coach algorithm adds a dedicated training session to your plan and then cycles through them.
On the Account page, make sure to have the kick exercise slider set to 1/3 or more. As painful as kick exercises are, they are very important for a fast 100 meter swim time. As for the gear, it helps to have access to a kickboard, paddles and fins to give your muscles an extra stimulus.
Instead of setting up your own training plan, you can also choose the Competition Training option. Just select the 100 meter option and app will take care of the rest and create a balanced 100 meter training plan for you.
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The Swim Coach App is available for Android and iOS.