How To Swim Train For A Sprint Finish

Pool Swimming Training & Events

How To Swim Train For A Sprint Finish

Looking to finish your swim strongly? Find out from Adam Walker how to train so that you can muster a strong sprint for the finish.

Looking to finish your swim strongly? Find out from Adam Walker how to train so that you can muster a strong sprint for the finish.


A lot of my training was on my own so it would involve self-discipline to push myself at the start, middle and end of a training session. I trained with limited rest for 5-10 seconds maximum between sets not allowing my heart to fully recover and then push again. For the last few sets I would see if I could go swim faster than at the start of my session.

I initially started sprinting for the last 100 metres, and as my fitness developed I would increase this to 200, then 400 metres at full speed. However, at the same time I would ensure my technique was maintained.

The training should be split between the pool and open water to work on fitness with the high tempo sets in the pool in order to maintain a good consistent pace in open water.

Training in open water

In open water, set yourself a route from point to point and a finish. Training in pairs or more with with swimmers who are a similar pace to you, work as a team and take it in turns sprinting for the finish with a different leaders. This also makes training fun and gets the competitive juices flowing.

Use the draft

I also recommend to try out different swim positions to work out the best one for drafting to save necessary energy and to attack for the finish. Remember you can save up to 30 per cent energy by drafting off the body of a swimmer in front.

You can save up to 30 per cent energy by drafting off the body of a swimmer in front.

Practice sighting

In addition to training for the sprint, it is important to practice sighting at speed. There have been occasions in elite competition where swimmers have been in the lead for most of the race and their sighting has let them down as they veer off course and are overtaken on the final straight.

A tip for sighting is to use the pull to lift up just enough to clear the eyes above the water. Do not breathe and sight together, breathing should be separate. Why? The more you lift your head, the more effort and energy it will take, it will also drop your hips creating a less efficient body position in the water and therefore more drag.

Reduce drag with correct position

The ideal position is to rotate onto your hip to sight which will reduce drag as there will be less body mass through the water and you will be more streamlined. This takes practice and requires good core stability. As well as technique training in the water, you can also do gym exercises to strengthen the side obliques and abdominals to aid stability.

The ideal position is to rotate onto your hip to sight which will reduce drag as there will be less body mass through the water and you will be more streamlined.

You can practice sighting in the pool, however, doing it in open water is the ideal environment as it’s more realistic to race conditions. It’s important to practice in different conditions as your race may be windy and choppy and it is more difficult to sight in conditions like these so it requires practice. In addition there are less landmarks in open water, therefore you may have to rely on the buoys.

Swim evenly on both sides

Practice swimming 10 strokes then sight and gradually increase to 12, 14, 16 extra before sighting and see if you stay in a straight line. If you are zig zagging or dragged to one side it’s an indication you are most probably compensating one side, that’s why it’s important to pull even on both sides. This can happen more on the breathing when the leading arm drives into the middle of your eye line as you take a breath.

You need to practice keeping the pull even on both sides and also for injury prevention to avoid rotator cuff irritation. Again this could be crucial at the finish of a race as you cannot afford to waste valuable energy at the end and have to swim more distance, which can affect your overall position.

Stay relaxed throughout

So you’ve done the training and physically you’re feeling good. However, if your mind isn’t in the right place, you might not get the best out of yourself. Staying relaxed throughout the race is crucial, if you are mentally relaxed, you will be physically relaxed from my experience and not waste unnecessary energy on anxiety.

Belief and knowing how much you can push yourself at the end of a race can make a difference to who gets the best out of themselves and wins the race. I saw a hypnotherapist who taught me a lot about the power of positive thinking and where to focus the mind, and this helped me a lot in races.