Vasa 30-20-10 Power Building Interval Workout

power based interval workoutThis workout is an adaptation of the “30-20-10” Interval workout that has become popular with many runners and cyclists.  It works very well as a Vasa Swim Erg power-building swim workout.


The workout consists of doing seven one-minute intervals in a continuous “round” or set. Each work interval consists of doing 30 seconds at easy pace/power, 20 seconds at a moderate pace/power, and finish with 10 seconds at near max pace/power.

It is ideal for doing multiple rounds of 7 minutes duration, with a little active rest or alternative exercises between rounds.  The number of rounds per workout is determined by a few factors, such as the training phase/time of year, the athlete’s fitness level, and the goal race distances. For those who work with a coach, be sure to seek your coach’s guidance on the best ways for integrating this workout into your program.


During the Base building period, do it once per week. During the Intensity and Race Prep periods of your training plan, do it up to twice per week. During the Racing season, do it once per week and with fewer Rounds at high intensity to stay sharp.



Ideally, warm up gradually for 10 – 15 minutes at easy intensity by doing a mix of supine cardio pullovers & Freestyle swimming on the Swim Erg. Plus, incorporate some dynamic exercises on or off the Swim Erg, especially for shoulders and core stabilizers.

Main Set:  7-minute Round using “30-20-10” Interval concept

Each round consists of seven, one-minute intervals. Each 1-minute interval is divided into 3 segments – 30 seconds, 20 seconds, and 10 seconds.

  • Do the first 30 seconds at an easy pace/power.
  • Do the next 20 seconds with pace/power increased to a moderate speed & intensity.
  • Finish the last 10 seconds of each minute by sprinting at high intensity, slightly faster than the race pace.

Repeat this 1-minute sequence 7 times, which completes One Round.

NOTE: Strive to maintain the same Stroke Rate for each 30-20-10 segment.  Focus on increasing your pulling power. Holding a steady stroke rate shifts the intention to use proper stroke technique throughout the workout. It also is a great way to reinforce accelerating the “blade” (palm to elbow crease) from the “catch” through to the finish of each stroke.

Repeat the 7-minute round multiple times as prescribed by the training plan or depending on your fitness level and goal race distance. See the duration below.


Finish the workout with an active recovery exercise (easy swim or dynamic exercises) for several minutes.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS and VARIATIONS of a Power-Building Swim Workout


• Do this workout once per week during a Base building period, and once or twice during Intensity and Race prep periods in your overall training plan. Do it once per week during the Racing season.


• Begin by using moderate intensity when first incorporating this workout into your plan. Set the Swim Erg damper door at 1 or 2. As you make progress in power output and strength, then gradually increase the intensity and the damper door resistance for some or all Rounds.


• The number of Rounds depends on the length of the races you are planning to do. The longer the race, the more Rounds you will want to build up to. Gradually increase the Rounds during the Base building and Intensity periods of your training plan. Taper the number of Rounds per workout as race season nears.

Control for Variables:

Stroke Rate – strive to maintain the same stroke rate for each 30-20-10 segment while increasing the Power (Watts) incrementally.   This will force the athlete to focus on using excellent technique and accessing the power from accessing the large muscles of the back when a high elbow catch is used for each stroke. It also helps the athlete learn when during the stroke path to “accelerate the blade” – (i.e. fingertips to elbow crease) – from the “catch” to the end of each stroke.

Make note if you are able to hold similar power numbers from the first round to the last round of the workout. Pay attention to the quality of your technique toward the end of the workout when fatigue has set in. This is often when form deteriorates. Improving your fitness, practicing with proper form, and mindfulness all help to sustain power and efficient technique over time.

Suggestion: Review this video technique clinic on How to improve Freestyle Technique



For a greater challenge, to increase resistance to fatigue, and to improve overall athletic durability, add some functional exercises designed for improving core stability, and upper & lower body strength.  Adding these in between each 7-minute round is ideal, even though the total length of the workout will be extended.

Here are links to videos and exercises that fit well into these workouts:

• Power-Building Swim Workout Core Stabilizer Exercises

• Total Body Exercises

• Shoulder injury prevention

4 key external rotator exercises for swimmers and triathletes

Brick Workout

Triathletes may prefer to do this workout as part of a swim-to-bike brick workout.

Here is a video on how to do indoor swim-to-bike training:

NOTE: To learn more about the science behind this workout, refer to this article in Runners World and the Journal of Applied Physiology mentioned therein.

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