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How To Write A Set Part V

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV


Sample Set Construction


To make this concrete, we’ll walk through the thought process using an example swimmer, Steve. Steve will answer each of the questions along the way, and we’ll see how a set comes to life based upon some reflection. Here we go.


Decide what you want to accomplish


Steve’s been struggling with holding water with his arms, particularly when trying to faster. He’s having some trouble really feeling what he’s doing when he tries to go fast. He wants to improve his effectiveness and efficiency while traveling at speed.


Decide what tools you want to use to best accomplish the goal


Based upon what he wants to accomplish, Steve decides to use a resistance parachute. He also wants to really look in on his arms, so he is going to use a pool buoy to make sure that all of the focus is on his arms.


Decide the context you want to work in


Steve wants to work on his skills while swimming fast as he feels like that is what he is struggling with most. To make sure he’s accomplishing this goal, he’s going to keep the distances short, the rest periods longer, and the total volume relatively low. As a starting point, he’s going to pick 16x25@60 seconds rest.


The distances are short enough that he can swim fast, the rest periods are long enough that he should recover between repetitions, and the volume is low enough that he can maintain the quality of his swimming. Just as importantly, there is enough volume for him to get sufficient practice.


Decide how many subtasks you can handle


While Steve feels pretty good about his skills, he really wants to make sure that’s locking in on swimming fast and long. He’d rather ensure that he’s successful. As he’s done some resistance work in the past, he feels confident that he can work on his stroke count and speed with resistance. He knows he could make the set more complicated by changing the surface area of his hands with paddles or shaping his hands. However, he’d rather ensure that he’s dominating the set. Here’s what he’s going to go with-


16x25@60 seconds rest; Pull with a parachute and pull buoy; Golf- add stroke count and time and lower the number


If he wanted to make the set simpler, he could just choose to focus on speed or stroke count, rather than both at the same time. This would still allow him to work on his objectives, yet it would be more manageable. Alternatively, he could work on stroke count during the odd repetitions and speed during the even repetitions.


If Steve wanted to make the set more complex, he could add hand manipulations to the set. There are two options he could choose. He could switch the propulsive surface area every repetition by adding paddles or using a closed fist. Varying the surface area would make it more difficult to lock in to a strategy, and he’d be forced to adjust every time he switched. Steve could also contrast the hands by holding a single paddle, or any other contrast. This would make it a lot more difficult in that he would need to maintain equal pressure while trying to improve his golf score. It's pretty simple to adjust the set based upon how much success he’s having. If it’s too difficult, remove one of the extra challenges. If it’s too easy, just add another twist to the set.


Decide how much you can do WELL


While Steve started with 16x25, he thought more about how much work he could realistically perform well. Based upon what he’s done in the past, he felt like he could safely include more than 16 efforts. 20 would work. However, he felt that 20 in a row might be a little too much. As a result, he decided to do 2 sets of 10x25, with a 100 easy recovery swim in between. Steve’s set now looks like this-


2 rounds of

10x25@60 seconds rest; Pull with a parachute and pull buoy; Golf- add stroke count and time and lower the number

100 easy choice between each round


Step by step, Steve built a set that was designed by his goals, and adjusted to what he was capable of performing well. If Steve had different goals, the set would have looked very different. If Steve had different abilities, the set would have looked very different as well. Great sets occur when goals are clear and challenge is aligned with abilities. Steve did exactly that.


Simple. Effective.



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