$23,000 USAS Funded Review of Literature on USRPT, Other Training Methods, Completed

A $23,000 project funded by USA Swiming, through managing partner the American Swim Coaches’ Association (ASCA), has been completed and is undergoing peer review. The study was undertaken by the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming at Indiana University, led by Joel Stager.

A full version of the report was available on the ASCA website in May, but has since been removed. An email to USA Swimming about when the full report would be released was not immediately returned.

Internet caching technology, however, allows us to view the first page of the report, which summarizes its two conclusions.

One conclusion describes the challenge of reviewing studies involving the physical training of children. The report concludes that while there are frequent studies on exercise (because it’s easier to study), the long-term effects of training on children and adolescents are relatively more difficult to come by,

The second conclusion says that “the current training paradigms employed with children in the USA are, from the perspective of performance, in fact, seemingly successful.” The second conclusion refers to USA Swimming, the funders of the study, as “the premier swimming program in the world.”

News of this study was first reported by Concussion Inc, who obtained an email from ASCA director John Leonard.

Read that email and report here.

While the first page of Stager’s report did not refer specifically to the Ultra Short Race Pace Training (USRPT) that has been employed most famously, though not exclusively, by National Age Group Record-breaking phenom Michael Andrew, an email to several high profile people in swimming indicates that this training was the precise reason why Leonard asked for the study.

The first paragraph of Leonard’s email reads:

6 weeks ago, I explained to (Wielgus) that the USRPT nonsense had no coherent background in terms of training young athletes (as 98% of USA Swimming athlete members are…) but that it had a lot of appeal to young coaches (and athletes) who are not knowledgeable about the history of training in the world and were being hoodwinked into thinking this is something NEW and of course young coaches are easily seduced by anything they perceive as “new” and especially if it means less work and is touted as the reason for the success of the latest Phenom.

According to the letter by Leonard, the purpose of the study was not to investigate whether or not USRPT was successful, rather to review the literature (presumably including that drafted by the methods chief scientific promoter, Dr. Brent Rushall) and make a judgement on whether the science used in that research was sound or not.

Stager’s full conclusions will be clearer once the full report is released, but his summary conclusions did not appear prepared to make a strong judgement on any specific training style to its support or contrary.

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Sprintdude9000
6 years ago

I have a feeling that sometime in the not too distant future John Leonard’s quoted email is going to make him look very silly indeed.

Reply to  Sprintdude9000
6 years ago

I thought we passed that point a long time ago.

Tact Vs. Fact
Reply to  Sprintdude9000
6 years ago

The sentiments of Leonard’s email may or may not be ultimately borne out, but John Leonard has already proven himself incapable of any sort of tact, both in this matter, and in others.

How he ever compiled enough political clout to become president of ASCA, I’ll never know. What’s the term limit?? When can we get this joker out??

Reply to  Tact Vs. Fact
6 years ago

Very disappointed with John Leonard’s comments. Married to an MD exercise physiologist, he often talks about quality vs junk training. USRPT is intriguing with its emphasis on sprint work. Not saying that the mid to distance group shouldn’t do yardage. Let’s see what happens as these different training techniques progress. Certainly decreasing long practices will allow these swimmers get more sleep, not a bad thing. Also supported by science.

Steve-O Nolan
Reply to  Sprintdude9000
6 years ago

But he sounds so open minded! Really swell fellow.

Dolphin22
6 years ago

He also said in that email referring to USRPT

“When in fact of course it is a failed methodology that was widely used in the 50’s, resurrected for about 2-3 years in 1970 with the famous Fox and Matthews book, etc. In each case, the valid principle of “specificity” (used by every coach who knows anything since the 1910’s) was being “abused” and presented as something it is not….but in the absence of contrary real science as evidence, young coaches were being led astray by the hundreds…….”

If it is “in fact” a failed methodology from the 50’s, can someone explain to me why they needed to spend $23000 of USA swimming’s money to research it? I’m still confused… Read more »

DrSwim_Phil
6 years ago

If this is truly peer reviewed, unless there’s a ridiculous mountain of evidence (and even then, this would still be in question), this study will be tossed strictly for the “…seemingly successful” line in the conclusion.

USRPTuser
6 years ago

I would just like to respond to “especially if it means less work” part of the quote above. Contrary to popular belief, USRPT is not easy, especially if you are truly training at your race pace and going towards failure. Every person who has come and trained USRPT with me was very surprised at how tired someone can get even after only 4 or 5 25s or 50s at 100 pace or 200 pace. It is very intense. USRPT is not the end all training method, but many people may find that they actually enjoy USRPT if they actually tried it as opposed to being so quick to reject it.

sven
6 years ago

Nothing like a guy with an obvious bias using our dues to attempt a smear campaign. I remember when I saw that Concussion, Inc. article, it was enlightening. The guy would be a joke, except it’s not funny that someone like him has so much pull.

I’m not as familiar with the rules of what gets published in academia, so someone help me out, here. Dr. Rushall references Joel Stager’s work several times in the USRPT literature. Is there any significant conflict of interest in putting a guy in charge of reviewing literature that is in no small part based on his own work?

D1 Swimmer
6 years ago

Believe it or not, there are still A LOT of teams doing garbage yardage practices everyday, even college teams, D1 at that. Some coaches are stubborn and simply will never understand the idea “quality over quantity”. I think that eventually these coaches will phase out and new, young coaches will come in and change swimming, but for now we just have to deal with it and keep fighting.

Coach
6 years ago

I will never understand why coaches/athletes/parents don’t simply look at the fastest and most accomplished swimmers, and if they are going to imitate any training plan — imitate the plan that seems to have gotten the best results.

For each single Gold Medalist/World Record Holder that has a USRPT background there are (probably more than) 5-10 with a more traditional and more well-rounded approach.

Anybody that points to science without pointing to the human organism acted upon by science is not fully investigating the options we have when training athletes.

It’s the human organism that creates the challenge, because no two humans are exactly alike. Coaching and training an athletes is a challenge because of this fact.

coacherik
Reply to  Coach
6 years ago

“For each single Gold Medalist/World Record Holder that has a USRPT background there are (probably more than) 5-10 with a more traditional and more well-rounded approach.”

Explain to me the well-rounded approach. Who has defined this well-rounded you speak of and why is it that way? I am curious more than anything. Because, for everyone single person who is at least open to conversation about USRPT and other methods like it there are 5-10 more with traditional dogma and ego clouding their views with little evidence other than the eye test you are eluding to.

Coach
Reply to  coacherik
6 years ago

The “US” in USRPT stands for “Ultra Short”. I think that I’m probably hung up on that part. Can’t people swim race pace for longer than an “Ultra Short” period?

As far as the “RPT” part of it, I’m all for it.

.

Sprintdude9000
Reply to  Coach
6 years ago

They can, but if they do it’s highly probable that they won’t be able to cover enough volume consistently at that pace for any training effect to occur within a set. (Remember that the purpose of USRPT is to develop technique and fitness specific to a very precise speed. It is highly unlikely that a swimmer asked to swim 4×200 @ 200 race pace will be able to complete more than 200 at race pace before fatigue occurs and the swimmer slows. If that happens (and because neuromuscular patterning and fitness are specific to velocity) the swimmer in question would, in effect, be training themselves to swim at a speed that they’re not planning to race at after the first… Read more »

sven
Reply to  Coach
6 years ago

The “Ultra Short” portion refers to the distance of each repeat rather than total volume, I think that throws a lot of people off. The truth is that a 200 fly set of 20×50 on :50 means potentially 1000 yards of high quality fly in just over 17 minutes. That’s a long way in a very short time. The idea is that short repeats allow you to cover a larger total volume of race pace. The short rest between repeats ensures the body recovers enough to sustain the effort without recovering so much that the body slips out of what I would call the “race zone” (HR, respiration, etc. all mimicking race conditions).

Essentially, the short work-short rest pattern… Read more »

Sprintdude9000
Reply to  Coach
6 years ago

I’m no statistician but that appears to be a very poor use of numbers.

Using the same methodology you could say that if, for example, 10000 swimmers use ‘method A’ and 30 go on to win Olympic medals, then 60 swimmers use ‘method B’ and 29 win Olympic medals then ‘method A’ is better since it led to more medals being won in total. Which is obviously wrong since a much greater percentage of swimmers using method B have been successful.

Coach
Reply to  Sprintdude9000
6 years ago

All I go off of is my experience, and based off that I am going to keep doing what I am doing.

Coach
Reply to  Sprintdude9000
6 years ago

Here’s my question – are there even 3 US Olympians – or medalists of any nationality – who trained USRPT-like as adolescents in their formative years? I got Kevin Cordes (not rushall’s usrpt, but …) Cuz the list of Olympians who grew up doing traditional and towards the heavy volume is voluminous.

coacherik
6 years ago

The biggest problem with the anti-USRPT crowd that I have come across is that many have not read what Rushall has published. I am not even going into the sources yet, but the training philosophy that is USRPT. 3 of the most common thoughts I have come across…

Its been done before: show me the documentation that this exact protocol has been done before. if you can, I will gladly eat a double helping of crow.

You can’t train distance swimmers on it, not enough volume/base training: Wouldn’t swimming a tremendous amount of repeats at shorter distances with the rate, stroke length and time be good for distance swimmers. 30 x 100 @ :20 rest at 1650 pace sounds pretty… Read more »

coacherik
Reply to  coacherik
6 years ago

Sorry, four comments. Math is a little off today.

CoachTim
Reply to  coacherik
6 years ago

CoachErik, I agree to most although your first statement is not true, there is data out there on this type of training, very good data, but taken by coaches who have stuck their necks out so good luck getting it from them. As to your last statement that nobody has won an Olympic Medal using this paradigm is a little off as well! If you look at the Australian Swimmers who were developed from 1995 to 2001 which included Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe by Bill Sweetenham their training was actually very similar. Is it exactly like USRPT, no but it develops the same principals. Maybe USA Swimming or ASCA can call the Australian Institute of Sport and ask for… Read more »

coacherik
Reply to  CoachTim
6 years ago

The key is not exactly like this. That is where the rub is. Everything is different. Similar, but different. Currently, many of the anti crowd are specifically targeting USRPT, some for obvious reasons while others is that it goes against EVERYTHING THEY HAVE EVER KNOWN. It scary and why people, like JL, are reacting the way they are.

Reply to  coacherik
6 years ago

I think that JL just got his feelings hurt because it wasn’t his idea. It gets results, it makes the sport a better experience, and he lost out on his chance to exploit it for cash flow.

Sprintdude9000
Reply to  The Screaming Viking!
6 years ago

This.

Aussie
Reply to  CoachTim
6 years ago

CoachTim
I agree with your thoughts re Aust swimming. Kieran Perkins used to do 30×100’s at or faster than 1500 pace 3 times a week. Back then it was considered a heart rate set, now some could argue its a distance swimmers USRPT set?

I believe training is all about balance, combining science and art as a coach.

Re Bill, no disrespect to him, but he had no hands on coaching of Hackett or Thorpe and I’d argue little input into their development during that time. Of course Denis Cotteral and Doug Frost would have taken on board any advice or tips offered by coaches at the time, after all isn’t that what we all do?

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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