Designing Sets using Heart Rates

Designing sets around heart rates.

Coaches must be sure they are getting the most out of sets designed to stress specific energy systems using heart rate measurements. Most coaches have a range of ages in their training groups and swimmers of all ages need to be challenged appropriately. In Age Group swimming heart rates should always be described as beats below max (BBM) to help swimmers gauge the intensity of their efforts.

Use the following as a guide for determining heart rates. Maximum heart rate can generally be described as 220 beats per minute, subtract the athlete’s age for females and half the athlete’s age for males. For example, Max heart rate for a 14 year old girl would be 213 and for a 14 year old boy would be 206.

Ask your swimmers to be at a beats below max level instead of inside a specific range. For example, an aerobic set heart rate target will be different for different ages. Instead of asking for a 140-150 heart rate, you should be asking for a rate 40-50 beats below max. (bbm) This will get all of the swimmers in your group into the right zone. 140-150 might be the right zone for a 16 year old boy, but it’s too slow for a 13 year old girl who should be in the 160-170 range. Swimmers must start their heart rate count with 0, 1, 2, 3… otherwise they are 10 beats off in their count.

Swimmers must swim as fast as possible at a given heart rate. There is a range of speed inside of an energy system zone and the swimmers must push themselves to a maximum speed, while remaining in the target heart rate. If they are to swim at 40 bbm, they should be almost erring into the 30 bbm speed and slowing down a bit as opposed to barely hitting 40 bbm.

Swimmers discover and experiment with this zone while they are swimming a set of repeats over a specific distance and getting their times and heart rates.  If a swimmer is doing 15 x 100 and holding 1:20 and a heart rate 40 bbm, ask them to swim 1:19 and see if they get the same rate. If they do, try 1:18 etc till they get into the 30 bbm range. Then they can slow down a bit and swim as fast as possible at 40 bbm.

Next add stroke count to the swimmers’ responsibilities and you can also monitor efficiency. If swimmers record their times, heart rates and stroke counts, they will have measures with which to monitor their training improvements.