Looking to improve your fitness and get in a quick but challenging swim workout? Then you are in the right place!
Keep reading to learn what HIIT workouts are and why you should try them. Then, scroll to the bottom for 5 FREE HIIT swim workouts sure to give you a full-body workout and have a positive effect on your cardiovascular endurance.
HIIT workouts are an efficient way to get a full-body workout in a short period of time.
Disclaimer: This post was written and reviewed by Katie Schimmelpfenning, USA Swim Coach and Registered Dietitian. This is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as training advice. Consult a doctor prior to beginning any new exercise program.
Table of Contents
What is a HIIT swim workout?
HIIT stands for “high-intensity interval training.” High-intensity interval training is a type of workout that alternates between short bursts of intense exercise followed by seconds of rest or low-intensity, easy movement.
The goal of HIIT is to elevate your heart rate and push your body to its maximum capacity during high-intensity intervals, followed by brief recovery periods.
Depending on your fitness level and your medical history, HIIT swimming can be a great way to challenge your body to get close to your maximum heart rate.
HIIT swim workouts involve shorter-faster sprints! We aim to keep maximum effort portions to less than a 50. For beginner swimmers, a reminder that a 50 is equivalent to 2 laps in a short course yards pool or 1 lap in a long course meters pool.
Why should you try HIIT swim workouts?
High-intensity interval training in the pool is great because unlike HIIT strength training and running, swimming is a low-impact workout that works the whole body. Because of this swimming is a great exercise for injury-prone athletes or people with joint pain.
HIIT swimming sets are an excellent type of triathlon swim workout. High-intensity workouts in the pool tend to be more fun and effective than swimming 2000 yards or meters straight.
The workouts below are an ideal choice to improve speed and cardiovascular fitness in less time.
HIIT workouts tend to feel like they go by faster compared to swims where you go 500-1000 yards straight with no goal. While meditative for some, low-intensity swimming in a steady state can feel painfully boring for others!
HIIT swimming is an effective way to add speed, challenge, and purpose to your swim training!
The importance of warm-up and cool-down
You may be thinking “Oh, great, so for these HIIT workouts I just dive in and do a couple of 25 sprints, and then I am done?” Nope!
We still recommend a warm-up and some speed drills before diving into the set to help improve your sprint performance, and prevent shoulder pain, and stiffness during the workout!
Warm-up is also a great time to focus on technique and good form.
And we can’t let you forget the most important part- cool down!
Cool down is an easy swim at the end of a race or workout to slow heart rate, promote blood circulation, remove lactic acid, and promote flexibility and range of motion.
Cooling down after swimming is critical for preventing injuries, muscle stiffness, and soreness! Taking the time to cool down helps you to feel fresh to perform well for your next workout.
Know your limits
Due to the high-intensity nature of these workouts, they may not be suitable for everyone, especially individuals with certain health conditions. It’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program, including HIIT.
As written, the workouts below include roughly a 10-minute warm-up, a 10-minute cool-down, and a 20-minute HIIT main set.
We do not recommend a reduction of time on the warm-up or cool-down but feel free to reduce the time or increase rest during your HIIT main set to meet your fitness needs.
5 HIIT Swim Workouts
Try one of our 5 HIIT swim workouts the next time you go to the pool! Grab OUR FREEBIE 5 HIIT Swim Workouts PDF HERE. We recommend printing the workout in advance and placing the paper on a kickboard to refer to during your swim!
HIIT swim set for the sprint freestyler
This workout is for the swimmer working on freestyle stroke speed. The main focus of this workout is freestyle sprints. Feel free to add a swim parachute on the first round of 25’s if you are in the mood for more resistance training!
These intervals are for a short course yards workout, feel free to adjust as needed.
200 smooth free @ 3:00 or :30-sec rest after
4×100 @ 1:30 or 15-sec rest between each 100
- 25 free slow arms with fast kick, 75 catchup drill
- 50 free slow arms with fast kick, 50 catchup drill
- 75 free slow arms with fast kick, 25 catchup drill
- 100 free slow arms with fast kick
4×50 @ 1:00 or :15 sec rest
25: closed fist drill
25: free swim focus on high elbow catch
4x 25 speed play @ :40 or :10 sec rest
- 12.5 fast free, 12.5 ez
- 12.5 ez, 12.5 fast free
- All ez
- All fast free!
4×25’s FAST FREESTYLE @ :20 or :25 or :5-10 sec rest
50 ez @ 1:00 or :20-sec rest
6x 50 pull @ 1:00-1:10 or :20 sec rest
Odds: breathe every 3 strokes
Evens: breathe every 5 strokes
HIIT swim workout for the stroke lover
Individual medley, most commonly referred to as “IM” is a mix of all 4 strokes in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and lastly, freestyle. IM is an excellent way to work many different muscle groups.
300: 100 fr, 100 bk, 100 reverse IM (free, br, bk, fly) @ 4:30 or :30 sec rest
4×75 @ 1:30 or :20 sec rest
First 25: scull
Second 25: drill
Third 25: swim
reverse IM order
3 x 50 focus on fast transition turn, build each 50 @ 1:00 or :15 sec rest
- 25 fly, 25 bk
- 25 bk, 25 br
- 25 br, 25 free
4x 25 fly @ :20 or :25 sec or :5-10 sec rest
50: 25 fly, 25 back FAST @ 1:00
4×25 back @ :20 or :25 or :5-10 sec rest
50: 25 bk, 25 br FAST @ 1:00
4×25 breast @ :25 or :30 or :5-10 sec rest
50: 25 br, 25 fr FAST @ 1:00
4×25 free @ :20 or :25 or :5-10 sec rest
50: FREE FAST @ 1:00
100 ez, free catchup drill 1:30
2 x 50 odd: 25 back, 25 double arm back, even: free breathe every 5 strokes @ 1:00
HIIT butterfly workout
This workout plan is for those who feel like taking on a butterfly challenge! With butterfly body position is key. Be sure you are keeping your hips towards the surface of the water.
300: 200 free, 100 reverse IM @ 4:30 or :30 sec rest
4×150 (option to wear fins) 50 free, 50 dolphin kick on back, 50 fly drill: 3 right arm fly, 3 left arm fly strokes, and 3 regular fly strokes
4×50 25 scull, 25 3 strokes fast fly, the rest of the 25 easy free
4x 25 FAST FLY (see intervals below)
1x 25 ez free @ 1:00
Round 1: @ :40 sec or 15 sec rest
Round 2: @ :35 sec or 10 sec rest
Round 3: @ :25 sec or 7 sec rest
Round 4: @ :20 or 5 sec rest
300 ez free
Lower body HIIT swim workout
This swim HIIT workout focuses on the kick and working the lower body! Make sure when you are working on your flutter kick that you are kicking more from your hips and not too much from your knees.
Focus on proper technique when kicking. Often we see people look like they are riding a bicycle when they try to flutter kick, trying to avoid this.
4×50 flutter kick on you back @ 1:10 or :20 sec rest
8x 25 fast flutter kick with a board @ :30 sec or :10 sec rest
4×25 underwater dolphin kick on stomach @:40 sec or :20 sec rest
8×25 fast flutter kick with a board @:25 sec or 7 sec rest
4×25 underwater dolphin kick on your back @:40 sec or :20 sec rest
8x 25 fast flutter kick with a board @ :20 sec or 5 sec rest
4x 75 pull breathing every 3,5,7 strokes by 25 @ 1:30 or :20 sec rest
Upper body HIIT swim workout
This workout routine is sure to work the upper body in a short period. During your warm up focus on feeling the resistance of the water and taking fewer strokes aka focusing on distance per stroke (DPS).
12×50: 25 free drill, 25 free swim @ 1:00 or :15 sec rest
5-8: stab drill
9-12: fist drill
4×50 25: scull, 25 free swim @ 1:00 or :10 sec rest
16 x 50 pull free (intervals below)
4 @ :50 or 10-15 sec rest
4 @ :45 or 10-12 sec rest
4 @ :40 or 5-7 sec rest
4 @ :35 or 3-5 sec rest
Train hard, improve your fitness
Swimming is a fun activity for people of all ages. Plus it comes with mental and cardiovascular benefits. These HIIT swim workouts, are a great way to add in low-impact exercise that works the entire body in less time.
Plus, with a high-intensity workout in the pool, you won’t feel as hot and sweaty during or after the workout! 😉
A lot of people get caught up in the number of calories burned and weight loss. For longevity in sport and in fitness we encourage swimmers to to find the type of training that is fulfilling and enjoyable rather than swimming only for calorie burn.
We love helping you swim faster, keeping swimming fun, and hearing your feedback! Let us know what you think of these workouts in the comments below.
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Katie Schimmelpfenning RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, USA Swim Coach, and former Division 1 swimmer. She helps competitive swimmers fuel and train to optimize performance, recover faster, and prevent injury! She is passionate about spreading evidence-based nutrtion tips to help swimmers across the globe.