Open water Swim sets: find your CSS

13/04/2016 TRAINING

This is  a second and third open water swim training set prepared for your with Loic Branda, our open water swimming coach consultant, who came in 5th at the World Championships.

In this set, we start introducing the notion of Critical Swim Speed, which is a threshold you want to achieve in your training sets when preparing for a long-distance or open water swim.

What Is Critical Swim Speed (CSS)?

CSS is the pace at which you’d swim a long distance or open water swim. Here’s why CSS training is effective and how you can use it.

The Benefits of CSS Training

  • CSS is typically at 75% of your maximum heart rate. It’s a pace that’s tough enough to develop your aerobic capacity but not so hard that it’ll take you days to recover.
  • CSS is a race-specific training pace. It may not make you the fastest sprinter in the pool, but it will train you to sustain a moderately high speed for longer distances, which is what you want to train for for preparing for an open water event.
  • CSS training teaches you about pace awareness while you swim, and without any equipment. If you go off too fast, you’ll pay the price later.
  • Thankfully you can test your current CSS pace without having to swim a solo 1500 Time Trial. See below for instructions: 

Training set n°2 

Warm up

  • 400 m Freestyle – Recover 20”
  • 200 m Backstroke – Recover 20”
  • 100 m drill Freestyle drill fist – Recover 20”
  • 200 m Freestyle Pull buoy

Main Set

  • 100 m Freestyle/backstroke – Recover 20”
  • 600 m Freestyle pull paddles – Recover 30”
  • 100 m Freestyle/backstroke – Recover 20”
  • 700 m Freestyle pull paddles – Recover 30”
  • 100 m Freestyle/breastsroke – Recover 20”
  • 800 m Freestyle pull paddles 

Swim Down

  • 200 two hands backstroke 

TOTAL : 3500 m

Training set n°3


  • 200 m Freestyle – Recover 20”
  • 200 m Freestyle Pull buoy – Recover 20”
  • 200 m kick freestyle 

Main set

  • Repeat the set 4x
  • (8 x 100 m Freestyle @Critical Swim Speed (CSS)*, Recover 15”)
  • CSS should be at 70% of your maximum heart rate
  • recover 1 mn between each 8 x 100 m

Swim down

  • 200 m kick easy with fins 

TOTAL : 4 000 m