getting a 400m swim time down – how to train?

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  • getting a 400m swim time down – how to train?
  • finbar

    What are all your 400 meter times btw?

    5m50ish. I’ve gone under an hour for an ironman swim.


    P.B is 5:04.8. That was years ago. Id be happy to do it under 6 and a half now.

    That was in a 25m pool.

    Fair play to you guys!

    I’ve not gone for a PB but swam just over 7 mins in my warm-up 400 this morning.

    When I try and push for speed my technique falls apart but I’ve only been swimming FS for a year.

    Convert – talk to me about High Wycombe?

    Premier Icon llama


    Closer to 4:30 25 years ago, but the older I get, the faster I was πŸ™‚

    And I was 3rd in the county 100m masters fly final 34-39 age (cough cough 3 people entered)

    Don’t bother – whatever some have said above, you don’t actually lose huge amounts of time with a normal turn if you do one efficiently – I reckon it only made a couple of seconds difference to my 100m times. Tumbles won’t get you from 8:26 to sub-8. Far better to spend any time you might have on learning normal swimming technique.

    It might not make up a huge time difference over 400metres (probably worth about a metre a length) but they are good for training because it helps to keep things flowing whereas a touch/open turn breaks up rhythm.

    Some people can learn how to do them quickly whereas others seem to struggle so it is worthwhile giving it a go for 15 minutes and seeing how things are.

    Premier Icon convert

    Rick Kiddle – UK tri champ back in the day I used to race against (I say race against, I mean I was in the same race and he kicked my butt). He is now a full time coach with a great setup up at his house. The best thing from a swim perspective about Rick is that he was not a natural born swimmer and therefore as a coach has some empathy with having to learn to swim rather than some elites who it just came naturally to.


    5:06 for 400m, no tumble turns πŸ™‚ (25m pool)


    Question for the OP – why is 8 minutes the target?

    I’m not as quick as some on here 6:05 was my best timed – though I never did properly train for swimming.

    Premier Icon llama

    5:06 without tumbles is pretty good

    could have got under 5 if you did them πŸ™‚

    Premier Icon molgrips

    I found it helpful to try and glide each stroke as much as possible. For a while I ignored times and tried to do single lengths in as few strokes as possible. Without a big push and glide I started at 23 strokes for 25m and after a few goes and a lot of internet video watching I was down to 17.

    However that meant a fairly low stroke rate it seemed which meant I couldn’t breathe every three strokes and now I breathe every two. I always look at the same side of the pool when I do breathe though so I get one length on each side.

    If it’s for a tri, there’s an argument that you should save your legs…

    beach lifeguard qualification. i’m taking it with my surf club so i can be of more help with the grommets on sunday mornings.

    i also was next to someone on christmas morning who nearly drowned, i was shocked that despite well over 30 years of surfing and being really comfortable in open water/waves, i did’nt know what to do.


    Some interesting stuff here and many good points.

    I never had a big interest in swimming until my kids took it up competitively and got to a quite high level training and racing with a top UK club. I was blown away by the training and technique required.

    Coaching. Coaching. Coaching. Get yourself along to a proper competitive swim club (Speedo League ideally, where do you live ?). Either join as an adult member of get some private lessons, it will be money very well spent. I guaranty the coaches will love he fact that you have a target, 8min 400m freestyle.

    It’s hard to know where to start without seeing your technique and knowing your standard. 8 mins is pretty slow (I couldn’t do that of course but at a competitive level it’s pedestrian)

    Time in the pool and KM’s swum make a huge difference – 400m is a relative long distance, plus of course technique. What I saw with my kids is there are “levels” to the technique, they don’t move you on until you master the level.

    You must learn to tumble turn. Learning that will probably be easier than some of the other stroke techniques. Underwater is actually faster too. Alternate side breathing (every three stokes) is a good as it lets you see lanes either side of your to track race progress and breathing is “slow” but you have to do it. Many good swimmers have a favourite side though. What’s important is to master getting a good breath efficiently with minimum head movement (your head create a wave and you can actually suck air through one corner of you mouth whilst most of your face is below the water line)

    Your arm reach, hand position and the way you bring your arm back through the water and it’s relative position next to/under the body make a big difference. (I tried this “top level” S technique and it’s knackering for 25m !)

    Coaching Coaching Coaching

    Enjoy, it’s fun to learn new stuff.

    Is the 400m time in open water? In which case don’t bother learning to tumble, the reasons you want to go under 8mins are nowt to do with pool training and triathlons! 8mins slow ….nice bit of encouragement there to people.
    My PB is 7mins would like to get it down to 6.30 this year for my tri’s although upped distance to Olympic tri’s this year .. on which note I must get back into the pool soon it’s been a while since serious training as focusing on running! Doh.


    beach lifeguard qualification. i’m taking it with my surf club

    There must be somebody there who can help with a bit of swim technique coaching?

    You must learn to tumble turn

    Still wrong.



    Just to wind you up a bit the countries best 10 year olds can swim 400m free in around 5 mins (by 11 the best times are closer to 4:30) πŸ˜€

    Premier Icon convert

    8mins slow ….nice bit of encouragement there to people.

    I know what you mean but I stand by making the point. The original post talked about deciding the training strategy between power, endurance or speed sessions. It might seem a bit tough love but at those sort of times the biggest priority is to learn to swim (i.e. technique) not how to structure the session. There are 9yr old club swimmers that could do those times without seeing their heart rate climb to 3 figures (mild exaduration!)simply because of good technique.

    Sometimes you need to understand where you are at in order to know how best to improve.

    8mins slow ….nice bit of encouragement there to people.

    its cool, i know its slow. although i surf i never ever swim. the time before when i timed myself over 400, a year ago, i was over 10mins. i checked the swim club times and found that i was back of the pack 10 year old girls category.

    anyway, last summer i read an interesting thing about using swim technique for paddling a surfboard which got me started. my wife’s godfather is a coach and when they were down in august he came in the pool with me. he said ‘you can’t swim’.

    Premier Icon rugbydick

    The Southern Yeti – Member
    I have a copy of total immersion easy freestyle that I’ll sell for Β£20?

    I’ll take the DVD off you if the OP doesn’t.

    I’m doing an open water tri in September and “I can’t swim” πŸ˜•

    My email is in my profile. Cheers!

    Sometimes you need to understand where you are at in order to know how best to improve.

    Very true.

    take the dvd rugbydick, i’m broke having to pay for all this swimming.

    another questiuon… just been looking at trunks. whats the deal with these jammer ones, good idea or no?


    speedo jammers ?

    basically anything not baggy and i suggest for the sake of others that you dont get full on budgie smugglers ! the short type jammer is a good compromise

    Premier Icon llama

    go for the knee length ones and pretend you are a roadie


    gavtheoldskateranother questiuon… just been looking at trunks. whats the deal with these jammer ones, good idea or no?

    The Jammer style length is a good modesty compromise vs budgie smugglers. You don’t need the sharkskin type at “your” level πŸ˜€ (they do make a material difference at the top end though)

    M_C – where do you do your swim training?

    Premier Icon legalalien

    OP, you aren’t slow, just average. I just dug up an old results sheet from one of the 2006 Bedford Sprint Series triathlons.

    The fastest swimmer was 5:08, with the average being 7:54. My time in that race swimming the whole thing breaststroke was 8:09. I got down to 7:30 a few races later once I’d shed quite a few pies.

    As the majority of people say, technique is the thing you should be looking at. My freestyle 25m was about 22s. I studies the Total Immersion DVDs and had a training partner to dissect technique with and shaved off 3s per lap just by lengthening my stroke. I never swam a full race freestyle though, as I really struggled with the breathing for various reasons.


    I’ve no idea on a pb for a 400m but my pb for 5k (200 lengths in a 25m pool) was 1h41min but that was a long time ago. That’s a 400m in 8 minutes followed by another 11.5

    I was swimming 5 times a week and then playing waterpolo 3 times. There was a time when I’d be in a pool 3 times during a day. Polo before school, School training at lunch then club training in the evening. That’s probably the reason I packed it in πŸ˜•

    I got back in the pool last winter and could comfortably (I had minutes to spare :wink:) do a mile in under an hour but I haven’t lost all of my technique, just most of the fitness.

    its working chaps… 7m40 last night and 7m34 this afternoon – suffering a bit with a cold as well.

    also a positive knock on that my 8yr old boy, who i was shocked at how bad he could swim when i saw him in the pool for the first time in ages mid jan (he could’nt swin 25m without hanging onto the side of the pool and could just about doggy paddle – what the heck are his school charging me a fortune for swimming lessons for i wonder) has also gotten heaps of watertime and today did 100m non-stop breast stroke and also 25m crawl both for the fist time.

    Nice one.

    I’m a slow but relaxed swimmer myself – I can pootle along at 8 minutes pace for ever (7 50 something actually!), but I’ve not got the technique / energy to go much faster for very long. A good open turn is next on my list.

    I have done an awful lot of outdoor swimming though, and I’d recommend at least being able to breathe every 2nd stroke well on both sides – then you can choose to breathe away from the wind or waves, which make a big difference in anything big, if you’re a surfer, it isn’t like you’ll ever swim in small waves anyway.

    If it’s like normal lifeguard, the 8 minutes pool time is really just a catch all to avoid unfit people wasting their time on the course (no one wants an unfit lifeguard for obvious reasons).



    My best 400m was 5.10 in a 50m pool. That was flat out though. My technique is bobbins, can’t breathe on my right side.

    FWIW, I only ever use my legs for sprinting, normal distance work they just trail behind me. I found a used a lot mnore energy when kicking and didn’t notice a huge improvement to speed.


    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned pacing. It’s really worth checking your 100m split times. If your first 100m is very quick relative to the others, then work on keeping even splits over the whole 400m as this will help with your overall time.



    I was in the pool three times this week, far from mega distance, but concentrated on high elbow and catch and it made a big difference. Still a long way to go to reach my goal though.


    Good work doing the Beach Lifeguard qualification. It’s pretty hard work. Concentrate on long, slow ‘S’ pulls focusing on the push past your thigh (most propulsion). Do lots of 8x50m on 1min descending and 4x100m on 2mins descending. It’ll go down but needs plenty of training. Don’t worry about tumble turns, they burn loads of energy unless you’re very good at them. Spend your time on decent technique and keep your head down to encourage your legs to stay higher in the water.

    Speedo’s or jammers will make it a lot easier.

    Where are you doing the qualification?


    I’ve started swimming regularly again (3-4 times a week) after not swimming for 8 years when I left school/college. Bragging rights since everyone is posting, we had the fastest boys school team in the country and went to the Czech Republic!

    I would do as people have said above, swim the shorter distances with a little rest after 100m. I am building up slowly like that, 4x100m on say 2.00 for you, so if you get back on 1.50 you get 10 seconds rest.

    Then as you improve, bring that time down, or increase the distance. If you only ever swim 100m with a break, you will find it difficult to increase distance without stopping. Even a 5 second breather makes a huge difference. Try doing 100’s for a week, then build up to 200’s without a rest, until you can do 2 or 3 400’s back to back under 8 minutes.

    As for drills, we used to practice, touch your head with your hand as your arm comes over. Hold one arm out in the water infront, pull through with the other one, touch hands and change sides (so in effect lengthening your stroke time). Then breathing every 3, 5 or 7 strokes to help increase lung capacity.

    The breathing alternative sides never worked for me, I favoured my right hand side, I don’t really believe it makes you any slower/faster, but I would try to practice every 3 strokes.

    The biggest difference will be ditching the shorts for some speedos!

    i’m doing the course with my surf club, they get about 50 kids on a sunday morning in the summer so they like to encourage parent helpers to take the course. its also, as i’m finding, a great way to get some extra fitness in.

    at risk of sounding like a spotter, the more i swim the more i can see the need for technique. i was watching two guys last night when i was waiting for my boy. one guy swam like me, ok, the other guy was obviously swim club (the next group in the pool) and at half the paddle rate he was faster than the other guy. you literally could see he was just cruising, slow, no effort, and he was still doing every length under 30secs.

    shorts have gone, swim trunks now, but going to get some new jammers as my trunks are a bit old and baggy.


    Echo Total Immersion by Terry Laughlan.

    I struggled to swim one length a month ago – knackered by the end of it – punters would be throwing their washing in the pool to take advantage of the amount of churn I created in the water.

    I read about the principles of Total Immersion and went up to the local 25m pool and did 50 lengths with around 40 seconds per length and a 10-20 second rest between each length.

    A week later I did 60 lengths non-stop. It probably took me 50 minutes but it is amazing considering I couldn’t swim two lengths non-stop without nearly fainting just a couple of weeks before.

    My stroke count for 25m is 23-24 when I first start off but drops to around 26-28 at the end of those 60 lengths.

    That’s before I’ve tried any of Terry’s balance drills – it was just trying to follow the principles and slow everything down.

    It’s made me go from hating swimming to really enjoying it – something I never ever thought i’d say.

    Target is to get down to sub-20 stroke count per length and then start thinking about times.

    I know my legs hang terribly in the water so the balance exercises will help.

    Don’t know if that’s of any help lol!

    Don’t feel qualified to give advice here when there are 5m 400m swimmers around but two brief comments:

    1. TI is great for technique and efficiency but be very careful that it doesn’t lead to deadspots. Speed is a combination of stroke length and stroke rate and TI can be interpreted as being only about SL. Lost of swimmers have plateaued with TI simply because they become obsessed with stroke counting and SL. Its all about balance.

    2. I’m not even sure that ASA teaches S pull anymore but it is largely avoided – that is unless the coach has a relative who is a physio and is looking for shoulder referals!!

    Grantus – leg dropping is a classic sign of some TI swimmers who have let SR get to low. Have you tried tying an innertube around your ankles and then swimming? A knackering drill that soon highlights deadspots etc – if they exist, your legs will surely plummet to the bottom!!!

    IM medley for a warm up. Butterfly in a warm up – hahahahahahahahhaah.


    SBZ my thoughts entirely if someone said to me 200 IM for warm up I would get out the pool!

    Usually our sets consist of 100’s,200’s and very occasionally 400’s. I would suggest aiming to do 100m in 1.30 to 1.40 then have about 15s rest and repeat until you are fed up.Working on your technique is probably where the biggest gains could be made.

    6 minutes in the Club 400 last November.

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