For many swimmers, breaking 1 minute in the 100 freestyle is a major milestone. Whether you want to swim a 59.99 (or faster!) 100 free at your next meet or just want to beat your lane mate to the wall in practice, you’ve come to the right place!

No matter what your current 100 free time is, these tips will help you swim faster. You can apply these concepts to the 100 butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke as well.

Breaking Down 50 Splits

Let’s start by breaking down splits for each 50 of the 100 free. You can achieve a sub-1 minute time in a nearly infinite combination of splits, but let’s look at three examples:

  1. 29.99 + 30.00 = 59.99 sec
  2. 28.50 + 31.49 = 59.99 sec
  3. 26.00 + 34.99 = 59.99 sec

These races are not all created equal! In the first race, we can see that the swimmer evenly split the first and second 50. This is very difficult to do (the pros often don’t do this), but it’s possible!

Race #2 is our sweet spot. There’s about a three-second difference between the first and second 50. If your second 50 split is more than three seconds slower than your first 50, you may be going out too fast.

Related: How to Drop 1 Second in the 50 Freestyle

The third race shows what happens when you go out like a rocket and die on the last 50 — not a good strategy. There’s an eight-second spread between the first and second 50 splits. In the 100 free, you want to start out with controlled speed so you can maintain it throughout the whole race.

The pros often have about 1.5 to 2.2 seconds difference between their first and second 50. Here’s what that range looks like for a sub-minute 100 free:

  1. 29.00 + 30.50 = 59.50 sec (1.5 sec difference)
  2. 29.20 + 30.70 = 59.90 sec (2.2 sec difference)

So, how do you achieve these faster splits? Let’s take a look at each phase of the 100 free:

1. The Start

The start is the fastest point of any race. The moment you hit the water, you’ll start to slow down. You can shave a few tenths of a second off your 100 free time by improving your reaction time off the blocks. 

2. The Turn

Turns can sometimes feel like a welcome break from fast swimming — but you shouldn’t treat them that way! Accelerate into your turns, and you’ll carry that momentum out of the turn and into your underwater dolphin kick. Make sure your streamline is very tight to avoid creating too much drag!

Related: How to Do a Freestyle Flip Turn

Your turns are especially important in the short course 100 free. You have 3 flip turns, while in long course meters you have just one.

3. The Finish

Don’t glide into the wall on your finish. Power through your last few strokes and hit the wall hard, ideally on a full stroke. If you watched the men’s 100 butterfly final from 2008, you remember how much the finish matters! 

4. Breathing

Sticking to a consistent breathing pattern during your 100 free will help you find a strong rhythm. If you go into the race without a breathing strategy, you could be doing your muscles a disservice. For example, if you swim the first 25 without taking a breath, you’re going to feel it on the last 50. 

Related: 5 Worst Breathing Mistakes Swimmers Make

Whether you breathe every 2, every 4, every 3 or every 5, train your breathing pattern in practice so you’re used to it on race day.

5. Tempo

It’s really common for swimmers to swim the first 50 with really solid stroke tempo, but we watch their arms slow down significantly as they approach the finish. 

Related: How to Warm Up for a Swim Meet

Part of this issue comes down to pacing (more on that in a moment!), but it can also be due to a lack of race pace training during workouts.

You can improve your stroke tempo with a tempo trainer. Set it to your desired stroke rate and stick it in your cap or attach it to your goggles, and it will beep to keep you on track!

6. Pacing

Related: How to Swim 10% Faster in 4 Weeks

As we mentioned earlier, the last thing you want to do in the 100 free is to go out too fast on the first 50. Based on your goal time, break down what your 50 splits need to be, and train at race pace! Swim 50s and 25s at or above your goal pace to challenge your body and build endurance so you can sustain those speeds over the course of the 100.

Try This 100 Free Pacing Set

Before you try the workout below, calculate your goal split for the second 50 of your 100 free. You’ll use that pace during this set! Let’s use a 31 sec goal pace as an example. 

  • 6 x 50 Free @ 1:10 (2nd 50 Pace + 2 sec = 33 sec)
  • 100 easy
  • 4 x 50 Free @ 1:20 (2nd 50 Pace + 1 sec = 32 sec)
  • 100 easy
  • 2 x 50 Free @ 1:30 (2nd 50 Pace = 31 sec)
  • 100 easy
  • 1 x 50 Free @ 2:00 (2nd 50 Pace – 1 sec = 30 sec)

What is your goal time for your 100 freestyle? Share in the comments, and let us know your favorite way to work on speed in the pool! For more Workouts, technique tips and Training Plans, download the MySwimPro app! Sign up for MySwimPro Coach to unlock all of our training and coaching resources.

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10 Comments

  1. Ben Davidson on

    I’d love to get to 59.99 for my 100 free but need to do it soon as I’ve just turned 52 and it seems harder to hold my strength. My best time for this race is 1.05 which was at a sanctioned meet last year. This was 3 secs faster than my previous best. My 50 splits were approx 31 and 34 sec. My best 50 time is 29 sec. I think the pacing device was the thing that was most useful as I used it to train at the right tempo. I think I need to increase my dry land training and breath work so I can swim stronger for longer, especially the underwaters off the turns and maintain speed in the last 25.
    Next major race is in September so might have time……….

    • Taylor Holmes on

      You’ve got this! Building strength via dryland will definitely help you build extra power for those walls and help you maintain a high stroke tempo on that second 50!

    • Taylor Holmes on

      Keep working on your breathing pattern and breath control! You’ll build endurance and control over time 🙂

  2. Today during training at the pool we measured our 100m for the first time, and I did it in 1:25
    It was in the middle of a training session, no dive, no turn (I do it like the beginners by pulling the side of the pull) so I’m sure I can shave off 5 or 10s, but not 25s. Should I set 1min as a goal, or is it over-ambitious?
    For long distances, I’m just under 2min per 100m.
    Is there a benchmark to guestimate your 100m sprint based on your casual 100m time?

    • Hi George, improving your turns can definitely help reduce your overall 100m time! 1:00 doesn’t necessarily have to be your goal time. It may work better to set smaller, more achievable goals and work toward them in increments of a few months. When you achieve that goal, set a new one and keep going! Working to drop 5 seconds is a great place to start!

  3. I’m currently a 1:03 swimmer. My 50 time is a 28 low and I’m 48 years old. I think the 29.2 / 30.7 is the only chance I have to break 60 sec. I have been doing 12 x 25s on 35 sec trying to hold under 16 and I succeed on average 8 out of the 12. Is this the best way to train? Is there something else I could do?

    • That’s a great set to work on speed! Keep working at it until you’re closet to 10-11 out of 12, and maybe try a similar set with 50s!

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