Part III: What Do Crossfit Swim Workouts Look Like?

Welcome Back! Last week, we discussed the THREE common errors seen in many Crossfit Freestyler’s Strokes.

If you haven’t read Part II of this series, [CLICK HERE]. For Part I, [CLICK HERE].

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed writing this series because we are targeting a new audience–with some not so “new” information. All of the errors from Part II are universal to your everyday swimmer, so this series is definitely applicable to more than just “Crossfitters”.

For Part III, we are going to dive into a few Crossfit Swim Workouts. For those of you that have never blended these two mediums, here’s your chance to see how one team is currently doing it.

I would like to say thank you to my friends at SwimFitNashville. SwimFitNashville is a Nashville based Crossfit Swimming Program that provided me with the workouts for this post. A good buddy of mine, Jordan Slaughter, started this program and it’s been gaining some serious momentum. You can find his team onFacebookTwitter, and Instagram: @swimfitnash to find more information and updates about their daily workouts!

Let’s dive into a few of their Crossfit Swim Workouts:


First off, they start with 10-15 minutes of relaxed swimming, where the athletes are able to loosen up and intermix any kicking, pulling, or stretching they may need. The main focus here is to stay loose and relaxed.

Skill set (this is swim-level dependent):

After the warmup, every athlete moves to a skill set, which is based off your current level of swimming fitness. For the more elite swimmers, the coaches touch on everything from drills, sculling, flip-turns, underwaters, high intensity bursts, 50m short rest repeats, and distance per stroke. This time is similar to the time of a regular swim workout. For beginner swimmers, or “future swimmers” (as they like to call them)–the coaches use this time to help them learn how to swim as efficiently as possible, through 3 main areas: body position, breathing, and balance. Using these 3 areas, the coaches are teaching the athletes how to improve their swimming technique, while improving their current swimming fitness level too.

“Our goal is to make their fast swimming easier, and their easy swimming faster.” –Jordan Slaughter.

Here are a few examples of the “skill sets”

Elite Example #1:

4×50 drill

4×25 sprint kick on 1:30

4×50 drill

4×25 sprint swim on 1:00

Elite Example #2:

12 min EMOM (which stands for every minute on the minute)

Min 1: 25m swim

Min 2: 50m swim

Min 3: 75m swim

Min 4: 100m swim

Beginner Example:

4x 25-meter swim with emphasis in one of the 3 main areas

Followed by instruction/coaching

Workout of the Day (or WOD–in Crossfit terms):

After the skill set is completed, the athletes move to their main focus of the day–the WOD. Below are a few examples:

WOD #1:

Swim Nancy”

5 Rounds for time:

100m Swim

15 OH Squats (95/65)

*Workout should take 15 – 20 min if scaled correctly.

*If overhead/shoulder mobility is weak scale to front squat, back squat, or air squat.

*Swims should take no more than 2.5 min. Scale the distance to 75m or 50m if needed.

*Know how you’re scaling before the workout begins.

The “Nancy” is a term coined for a specific benchmark Crossfit workout that every Crossfit athlete partakes in. The purposes of the normal Nancy workout is to learn how to control your heart rate. With SwimFit Nashville’s workout, I like how Jordan changed this workout to fit within the swimming pool medium, and it really fires up the athlete’s legs with their overhead squats between swims!

WOD #2:

Body Weight Sprints”

4 rounds of:

50m Swim

15 Air Squats

50m Kick

15 Pushups

50m Swim

Rest 2:00

*With 2:00 rest in between rounds, each round should be at 95%+ effort

*Heavy focus on squat technique.

*To scale the squats hold onto pole or TRX straps or recommended gymnastics rings to keep weight on heels and neutral spine, if needed.

*Scale pushups to knee pushups or :30 plank

*Scale swims/kicks to 25m if necessary.

*Know how you’re scaling before the workout begins.

This workout is a bit different than WOD #1 due to the fact that the movements between swims are body-weight related. Swimming is different from any on-land sport, due to the fact–it mixes body weight movements in a resistance environment—similar to weight lifting. The main difference between swimming and weight lifting is the drag coefficient exhibited in the pool. Water is 800x more dense than air, which makes drag that much more prominent to a swimmer. I like how this workout intermixes body weight movements in-water (through swimming) and on-land (through push ups and squats) because it teaches an athlete to understand why drag plays such a big role in the pool and also, how important swimming with great technique is!

WOD #3:

200m Wall-Ball Ladder For Time”

40 Wall-Balls (20lbs, 10’ target / 14lbs, 9’target)

50m Swim

30 Wall-Balls

100m Swim

20 Wall-Balls

150m Swim

10 Wall-Balls

200m Swim

*Workout should take no longer than 20 minutes.

*There are 100 Wall-Balls so pick a weight that allows you to get into a full-squat with weight on the heels, and shoot the ball cleanly to the target every rep.

*Scale to less weight or substitute wall-balls to Med-Ball thrusters.

*Scale the swims if needed by cutting distance in half.

*Know how you’re scaling before the workout begins.

This workout is similar to WOD #1 due to the fact it will TAX your legs A LOT! Also, it accumulates with a final long 200m swim—which is a good distance for any level of swimmer. This WOD will definitely get the heart rate up, including a good leg burn at the end.

WOD #4:

12 Minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of:

75m swim

15 ground to OH

10 toes to bar

5 burpees

*If overhead/shoulder mobility is weak scale to front squat, back squat, or air squat.

*Swims should take no longer than 2-minutes.

*Scale toes to bar to sit-ups or plank, if necessary.

*Know how you’re scaling before the workout begins.

I included this last workout here because the variability of it. I really like how it incorporates more Crossfit movements like burpees and toes to bar. Dealing with water and the deck being slippery is something the SwimFit Nashville coaches really have to take into account. For safety purposes, the coaches make sure the deck is clean and free of any swim equipment, toys, or water bottles. Also, they have all their swimmers bring an unused towel and keep it close to their station to wipe their hands dry between swims and lifts.

Cool Down:

After the WOD is completed, the workout is technically done. Many athletes chose to warm down afterwards by swimming, stretching, or a combination of the two. The equipment is put back into it’s original place and the pool deck is cleaned.

As you can see from these workouts, they are VERY different from a traditional swim practice. For some swimmers, they may enjoy the variability of the WOD’s as opposed to your traditional 10×100’s Freestyle. Whether they may be something of interest to you or not, make sure if you decide to partake in a swim Crossfit workout–that you are in good physical shape and are familiar with the different Olympic lifts. These workouts can be very dangerous for those who do not have the proper supervision, so please do not attempt them on your own!

No matter if you are a Crossfitter, a regular athlete, or a swimmer—understanding how your body moves in water is CRITICAL to your success in the pool. The more you practice in the pool, the easier it will be to understand how much drag there is and why swimming technique is so important.

Swimming is a funny sport, because it really isn’t correlated to how hard you try. Often times, the harder you try in the pool—the slower you go (very opposite of Crossfit). In life, you can’t forget about the little pieces—so why should the pool let you? #SwimLikeAFish

Until Next Time,

Abbie Fish

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