Michael Phelps Swimming Workout

The January 2005 issue of Men’s Journal contains an excellent article by P.H. Mullen called "Peak Performance: The Michael Phelps Swimming Workout." To write the article, Mullen interviewed all the right people: Joel Stager, an ace Masters swimmer and biomechanics specialist who runs the Indiana University Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming; Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps’s coach; and, of course, Mike The Man. The article covers stroke mechanics and training philosophy, then gives a ten-week program, with three different workouts each week — one for endurance, one for lactate threshold, and one for speed. The program speaks to all levels of swimmers, from novice to advanced.

Michael Phelps This morning, I gave my Masters swimmers a practice based on the above program. It’s from Week #8, and is designed to push your lactate threshold. The idea is to push yourself hard throughout the main set — but not all out. You will not be getting much rest between swims in the main set — but that’s the whole idea.

Make sure you have a bottle of water or sports drink handy for this one (and for every practice)!


400 your choice, on you own. Fins are OK.

8 X 25 on approx. :10 RI
Odds: Stroke other than Free
Evens: Freestyle

MAIN SET: 1500/1300//1100 plus EZ recoveries
The entire set is Freestyle, except for the recoveries, which are choice.

16 X 50 on :10 rest interval
(We had one swimmer do these on a :45 sendoff, holding :36. A big group was on :50. Others were on :55…1:00…1:10…and 1:20. Those on 1:00 to 1:05 did 14 X 50. Those on 1:10 to 1:20 did 12 X 50 and were getting about :15 rest interval.)

50 to 100 EZ recovery

3 X 100 on :15 rest interval
(Our :45 swimmer did these on 1:25. The :50 and :55 swimmers did these on 1:30. The 1:20 swimmer did these on 2:15 and was holding around 2:00.)

Phelps start 50 to 100 EZ recovery

2 X 200 on :20 rest interval
(We had enough lane space so that everyone had EXACTLY 20 seconds rest between their swims. Most swimmers had a fairly fast time on the first 200, and experienced a 7 to 10-second dropoff on the second 200.)

50 to 100 EZ recovery

PULL SET: 200 to 300
If you have enough time, this is where you should add a 200/300-yard pull set. You could do a straight swim, bumping up your normal breathing pattern by one stroke…or…you could use your normal breathing pattern and focus on streamling out of each turn. Or choose your own focus. Make this an even-pace swim.

Flippers are optional.
8 X 25 Silent Swimming. Your choice of stroke. LISTEN to your body — your hands, shoulders, cheek and jaw, shoulders, feet. Try to keep everything super quiet. Do 4 or 5 bobs between each 25 as recovery. Try to Zen-out as you warm down.

Total Yardage: 2300 to 3000