Workout Games

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Games to Play During Workouts

Swimming workouts can be tough to manage, especially if you have varying levels of ability in the pool at the same time. They can occasionally be boring too, just follow the black line, flip and repeat. Sometimes in the middle of a season the team and coach get bored and cranky. It’s times like this when a “game” workout can help alleviate the boredom for everyone, while still getting some good work in. Here are a few ideas of workout games that you can play with your swimmers of all ages. Safety first on all of these! Make sure no one is diving in the shallow end or landing on teammates as they enter the water. Also, check out the products that IST makes that will make running those practices even easier!

Fish Ladder

A fish ladder is kind of a relay.  Divide the team into 2 or more equal groups of 5 to 10 swimmers. The more swimmers in the group the more exciting the race.

The first person starts off the blocks (or the wall if you don’t have blocks), sprints to the other end of the pool and hops out. The second person takes off as soon as the first person’s feet have cleared the near flags, third person goes as soon as the second person has cleared the near flags, etc. You should have a nearly continuous line of swimmers in the pool. Everyone sprints to the other end of the pool, gets out and back in line. As soon as the last person to leave the start end touches the wall to complete their 25, the first person can go again. If your non-starting end is shallow, the kids should start from in the water or jump in feet first – no diving into shallow water!

They continue in this fashion until everyone in the group has completed 20×25’s. The first relay to get every member to complete 20×25’s and get everyone out of the pool and onto the deck wins. It’s a great way to get the kids to sprint a 500, plus getting out of the pool at each end is a good workout too. Winners can get a prize, or just a high 5.

SWIMCLOCK With Bluetooth

The SWIMCLOCK with Bluetooth allows you to program sets and workouts in your Android or iOS device and run them on IST’s popular 2 and 4-digit pace clocks. If you already own an IST pace clock, you just need the Bluetooth adapter. It plugs right in to your existing clock. You can also purchase a new clock with the Bluetooth built right in. Plug the clock in, turn it on, connect the app and you’re ready to go. You can keep your entire workout library in your back pocket!

For more information or a quote contact IST at 800-835-2611 or


Playing Card Workout – as posted on Facebook by Coach Tyson Ormonde

Picture of workout and playing cards

Photo Credit: Tyson Ormonde

Requires: Standard deck of playing cards.

There are a couple ways to play this game, and the variations are limited only by your imagination! The simplest version is to have the kids draw a card out of the deck and then swim what is on the card. You can set it up any way that you want. In this example the suite determines what stroke they are going to swim and the number indicates how they will swim it.

For example:

Diamond= Fly                             Heart = Back                       Club = Breast               Spade = Free

2 = 2×25’s                                            9 = 9×50 all free

3=3×100’s                                            10 = 10×25’s

4 = 4×75’s                                            Jack = 1×500 Free (regardless of Suit)

5 = 5×50 kick                                      Queen = 1×400 IM (regardless of Suit)

6 = 6×200’s                                          King = 1×500 swim suit stroke

7 = 7×50’s                                            Ace = 1×100 Backwards any stroke

8= 8×25’s

You can have one person draw for the whole team, or they can draw for their lane and each lane can do a different workout. You can put times on the distances (i.e. 30s per 25) or just let them swim them on their own interval. They get a lot of work done and they enjoy the anticipation of finding out what they chose. The 500 Fly is pretty brutal, but you can always let them draw again!

WORKWARE Workout Software

WORKWARE runs on your computer and allows you to create and store sets and workouts that can be run on your scoreboard, including Colorado and Daktronics numeric scoreboards. You can run a different set or workout on each line of your scoreboard, so everyone can be doing something different. On IST Alphanumeric scoreboards you can display either the time of day or a scrolling message on the scrolling line during the workout. It’s like having an extra assistant coach!

WORKWARE also allows you to download sets and workouts to your phone, so you can create your workouts on the computer and then run them on your IST SWIMCLOCK with Bluetooth!

Contact IST for more details or for a quote at 800-835-2611 or


Deal or No Deal

Deal or no deal swim workout

Photo Credit: Eve Julian, Ottawa Hills High School

This game is based on the game show of the same name.


20 – 8.5×11 pieces of paper (card stock or construction paper, so you can’t see through it)

16 post-it notes numbered 1-16, 4 post-it notes labeled “Coaches Set”

Painters Tape

Flat surface for hanging the cards on.

Whiteboard to write on.


On 16 of the pieces of paper, write sets ranging from 100 to 1600 yards in 100 yard increments. For example:

  1. 4×25 Hard/Easy (100)
  2. 1×200 IMO Drill (200)
  3. 2×150 Kick-Drill-Swim (300)
  4. 1×400 IM (400)


  1. 7×200 Desc 1-3, 4-6, 7=All out (1400)
  2. 30×50 2 EZ – 1 Hard (1500)
  3. 4×400 Mixed IM (1600)


First turn the papers face down and shuffle them so they are out of order. Then put a numbered post-it note on the back of each one. Hang the numbered cards in order on the whiteboard or wall in a 4×4 grid with the tape.

Create 4 more cards with “Coaches Sets” on them. These can be anything that you want them to be, ranging from easy to hard and any distance. Label these with post-it notes that say “Coaches Set” and hang them on the wall next to the grid of numbered papers.

If you have a whiteboard, or another piece of paper, write 100 through 1600 vertically. As the “cases” are opened, you can erase or cross off the distances that have been done. It helps the kids visualize what might be left on the papers.

To Play:

After the warmup, have the first person on the team (you choose who gets to pick) choose a number. The whole team then swims that set, and the coach crosses off the total distance on the list. The coach can pick the next swimmer to choose.

After 4 sets have been chosen and swum, the Coach can offer the team a deal. Have the swimmer choose their number, but don’t show them the set yet.  Take down the first Coaches set card and show it to the kid who is choosing this round. They then get to choose whether the team takes the Coaches set (the deal) or if they go with what is on the card that they chose. Make sure you show them what they didn’t do if they chose to do the Coaches set!

Make your workouts easier and more fun with IST. Take a look at SWIMCLOCK with Bluetooth and WORKWARE today. With help from IST, you’ll have more time to focus on coaching instead of watching the clock.

Looking for more ways to get great coaching ideas? Check out the Central States Swim Clinic May 18-19 in Oak Brook, IL. Registration is open now! Don’t forget to stop by the IST booth and sign up to win a 4-digit pace clock!