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Weekend Swim Workout: A Secret Training Weapon

The skills and habits you learn during this forced time out of the pool could make you an overall better swimmer.

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Unless you’re one of a very lucky few who have a lap pool or an endless pool in your backyard, you’re likely not getting any time in the water during this Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve been devoting our Weekend Swim Workout series to helping you get the most of your time on dryland and today we’re featuring an excerpt from the book Swim Speed Secrets by Sheila Taormina. Even when she has access to a pool, Taormina calls tubing (working with swim cords) her “secret training weapon.” Find out why and how to implement a plan with the excerpt from Swim Speed Secrets below.

Tubing: A Secret Training Weapon

The Halo swim training bench and tubing were specifically designed to train the underwater pull path (but the exercises can still be done without the bench if you don’t have access to one). Because the exercise is done out of water, athletes can pause in the middle of a pull and check their arm, hand, and shoulder positions. Athletes can also hold certain positions for 20-second increments to sear in the endurance for each phase of the stroke. Over time, elite muscle memory will develop and translate directly to their stroke in the water. A 15-minute tubing workout three times per week builds endurance for sustaining elite technique throughout a workout and a race.

Make tubing a part of your general strength program with the schedule below.

The Schedule

To supplement your swim and strength training, aim to do tubing three times per week. Start with moderate sets, just as you would in the weight room when beginning a program. You can train in time increments (30 seconds, 45 seconds, or 1-minute repeats, for example) or by counting pulls (sets of 10, 20, 30, or 40 full pulls).

The following schedule and example sets are a guideline for training with tubing, and can be applied with or without a bench and template.

Weeks 1–2

Pull a light to moderate amount, and expect muscle soreness at first. Aim for 40–80 pulls per session, or 2–3 minutes of pulling time. For example, if you shoot for 60 pulls, you could divide the total up into 4 sets of 15, or 3 sets of 20, taking 1 minute or more rest between sets. If you aim for 3 minutes of pulling time, you can go 3 × 1:00, 4 × 0:45, or 6 × 0:30 with 1 minute or more rest between sets. Take the recovery you need between sets to execute the next set with good form.

Weeks 3+

Gradually increase the amount of tubing you do as you feel ready, ultimately building up to 150–300 pulls or 5–7 minutes of pull time.

Sheila’s 3 Go-To Tubing Sets

1. To simulate my 200-meter freestyle race: 5×2 minutes at a 1.25 rate of turnover. Rest time between sets: 2 minutes.

2. To build strength and feel the burn at the end: 6×1:30 as 1-minute full pulls and the last :30 triceps only (the burn!). Rest between sets: 1:30–2:00.

3. To focus on form after making my triceps burn: 8×50 full pulls, as 20 triceps only (the burn!), then 30 full pulls (with great form).

See Sheila demonstrate all of these tubing exercises and drills, as well as get some pointers on form, at

Also be sure to check out out guide to the best gear for swim training when the pool’s closed.