Becca Mann Blogs USRPT, Day 2

Becca Mann, one of the toughest and best junior swimmers in the world, will be spending this week living and training with Michael Andrew, one of the best male 14-year old swimmers in the world, and his family at their home near Lawrence, Kansas, and will share her experiences with us. Becca, who trains in Clearwater, Florida under Randy Reese, was a member of the 2013 U.S. World Championship team after finishing 2nd in both the 5km and 10km at last year’s National Championships, and placed 8th in both the 5km and 10km race in Barcelona. In 2012, at the U.S. Olympic Trials, the then-14-year old Mann qualified for finals in the 400 free, the 800 free, and the 400 IM.

To see Becca’s day 1 blog, click here.

Hi SwimSwammers!  Here’s the second Andrew Blog.  Today we drove over to KU where we did a quick USRPT practice and attended Dr. Rushall’s seminar.  I’m going to cover some of the commonly overlooked details of USRPT, answer some questions, and post the practices.
Morning practice, SCY at KU, all freestyle
100 warm up
9x25s sprint from the blocks, about a minute rest.  I was holding 11.4s and Michael was holding 9.5s.  We did 1×25 fly at the end.  I went an 11.8, Michael went a 9.8
1 minute break
10x50s.  12.5 easy, 25 all out, 12.5 easy.  About 20 seconds rest
1:30 rest
21x25s at 100 pace, 15 seconds rest.  I was holding 12 lows and mids while Michael was holding 10 highs and 11 lows
Warm down.I forgot to say how much rest we got in our practice yesterday, so I’m going to be it here.  Yesterday’s workout was SCY.  We got 15 seconds rest for the 25 breasts, 25 seconds for the 50 frees, and 10 seconds for the 25 frees.  During the 8 minute break, we did about a 150 easy and then recovered at the wall for the rest of the time.
Dr. Rushall’s Seminar
The first thing Dr. Rushall said in his seminar was that USRPT is, “not theories, but deductions made from scientific work.”
-USRPT requires completely new thinking
-In USRPT, there is no such thing as lactate tolerance or anaerobic training
-You have to discard any currently held ideas about swimming
-You must accept that science is right and opinions are mostly wrong
-Except difference performances and training from different swimmers
-A set is a “training stimulus”.
-How a swimmer reacts is a “training effect”.
-What results from the set is a “training effect”.
-The demand of the training stimuli is the “training stress”.
HIERARCHY OF IMPORTANCE OF SPORTS SCIENCE (training emphases for serious swimming)
1. Biomechanics (technique)
Swimming science journal reference :
This study divided the National Team – divided into female sprinters, female distance swimmers, male sprinters, and male distance.  The study states what the swimmers on the National Team had in common with their competitors.
Female sprinter data: The earlier they started swimming, the sooner they burned out
Female distance data: Average yardage was high.  How can we have our swimmers do enough yardage all at race pace?
Male sprinter data: the more hours they swam/yardage they do, the slower they swam
Male distance swimmer data: Swimmers had nothing in common
2. Psychology (mental control and intrinsic rewards)
If the swimmer doesn’t want to do it, they won’t do well.  You have to want it and be present in practice.
3. Physiology (conditioning)
You can only go as fast as your hereditary body can go.  However, if you don’t have good physiology, you can make up for it in technique.
“As a result of a stress the body tends to recover beyond the point of mere restoration.  This is the process of adaptation, and it varies with the intensity of the stress.  Very small amounts of of adaptation occur with light loads, and quicker adaptation is gained with heavy loads.”
-If a swimmer is going to do 16x200s and they’re singing songs the whole way through, they won’t get anything out of it.
-If they swim 40x50s at race pace with 20 seconds rest, they have a high chance of improving because
-If a swimmer is doing 16x200s and starts swimming lousily at number 10, they should stop.  When they keep going, their technique gets sloppy and it’s detrimental to their stroke and recovery.
-Energy supports technique.  Fatigue does not.
“To develop specific conditioning in the muscles and manner of movement to be used in a particular race.  This requires specific brain patterning.”
The PRINCIPLE OF SPECIFICITY is acute in swimming.  The swimming technique and how it is energized is velocity specific.
A “training effect” is the specific adaption that results from a particular swimming activity.
The “strain” of swimming is training is the cumulative effect of race-specific and non-specific physical exertion (traditional training).
“Both produce fatigue; one useful, the other useless.”
Swimmers should always come out of the pool a better swimmer than they were when they jumped in the pool.  They shouldn’t leave the water until they’ve improved on something, or done something better than they’ve ever done before.
Coaching serious swimmers is not like coaching lesser or younger swimmers.
-For beginner swimmers, drills can be beneficial since they do not know the correct way to swim the strokes.
-For average trained swimmers, drills are mostly no longer beneficial .
-For serious trained swimmers, drills are harmful.
Don’t train beginners like Olympians and Olympians like beginners.  Enter why drills are harmful.
-For beginner swimmers, any swimming can be beneficial
-For average trained swimmers, specific and non-specific swimming are beneficial.
-For serious trained swimmers, non-specific training is very harmful.
“When you’re in the water, you’re totally supported.  On land, you have to deal with gravity.”  Dr. Rushall says that dryland and drills will not help the swimmer since it’s not specific to swimming.  How does it help your stroke when you’re too sore to swim well?
-Recovery is as important, if not more important, than work.  Without recovery there can be no training effect.
-Conditioning effects are limited by hereditary (no amount of training will improve inherited physiological capacities).
-Conditioning effects are limited within a season – swimmers achieve maximum fitness in a limited time and then cease to improve.
-Great individual variations refute to the use of single or group programs.
-Irrelevant exercises/swimming is useless.
-When physiological  conditioning is emphasized in traditional training, swimmers spend most of the year avoiding overtraining and over-reaching and not gaining benefits.
-Overload increments should be stepped, not gradual or whimsical.  Steps provide opportunities for specific adaptations.
-Repeated exposures to workloads are necessary for specific fitness improvements.
-Fatigue inhibits learning.
-The greater the number of sessions per weeks, the better. [Recovery, strain, total life stresses, etc.]
-The greater the absolute distance covered in a week, the better. [Relevant or irrelevant swimming, specificity, extraneous activities.]
-Variety in training programs is essential.  [Insufficient repetition of training stimuli.]
-Any swimming directed by a coach is beneficial.  [Only if the intention is there.]
-Conditioning training is best. [Actually, third of three in importance.]
-There are zones of training [Not within human physiologies.]
-The harder the swimmer works, the better. [Violates the Principles of Individuality/Specificity.]
-There are physiological indices of good training. [Unrelated to racing.]
-Drills and equipment are beneficial.
-Fitness can be improved year-round. [Actually, very limited.]
-Physiological training principles are accurate.  C:\CompactDisks\Cdcsa\csa\Vol71\noakes.htm [Read the conclusions of this study.]
-Specificity.  Only race-pace or faster swimming will lead to improvements.
-Slower swimming will produce more economical slow swimming and also produces non-specific overload (strain) and is of no benefit to racing.
-Rest is as important as work.  Thus, active rest periods need to be scheduled within practice sessions.
-Interval training is the base model of repetition structure.  It produces the most extensive specific overload aided by its repetitious nature.
-Total specific mileage is the criterion for beneficial training. [This contrasts with the completion of sets, total yardage, etc.]
-Keep track of total yardage.  Answer what was improved in the session.
-A major task is to define what has been improved in the USRPT set
-Never give up pool time for dryland work and never do dryland work that interferes with training participation or full recovery between training sessions.
-Yards swum at race-pace or better is the criterion for beneficial training content.
Step 1: Form a General Outline of the practice
-Recovery lane
-Whole-pool sets
-Different lane sets
-Recovery opportunities
-Token warm-up
-Four sets
-Skills and technique work consumes time
-No warm down
Design of a USRPT session
1. Token warm up
2. Skills, technique intro., 50 meter practices
3. First USRP set
4. First recovery
5. Second USRP set
6. Second recovery
7. Third recovery
8. Third recovery
9. Fourth USRP set
10. Session recovery
Step 2: Form like-groups of swimmers in every lane for all sets
1. Each group has close repetition times
2. Same interval time with small discrepancies between rest periods
3. Orderly training to produce good water and passing lanes. Five second starts.
4. Overall, the total set times should be close.
5. Follow each set with a pool-wide general recovery.
Step 3: Determine the stroke(s) to be swum in all sets
1. The restriction from training for butterfly
2. Only use constant-pace and stroke sets
3. Each lane has the same stroke                               step 4 – 7 ??
4. Keep in mind a high number of trials.
Mixed training produces mixed results.
Step 8: Incrementally adjust performance criteria in a set to stimulate improvement
-Occurs when the swimmer nears the maximum number of repetitions in a set or when improvements have ceased.
-Always adjust repetition time to make the work more challenging and race-specific.
-Usually a change will need to be effected in 2-3 weeks.
The first 4-6 repetitions are unsettled physiologically.  This occurs because the set begins after a rest.
-Specific training accelerates the adaption phase.
-Unrelated fitness has no effect within the set
-Training effect for performance is developed.
-Only past this  phase do training effects occur.
-This stage of the set mirrors the early stages of a race.
-Longest rest is 20 seconds, sufficient for stored oxygen and phosphate compounds to be restored and for aerobic functioning to continue.
-Oxidative work continues across the set without diminution in the rest period.
-The body learns how to move and how to energize the techniques.
-A rough guideline is to have swimmers complete approximately three times the race distance (within reason).
-Eventually, the onset of fatigue occurs and it is largely neurological.
-Performance drops.  After a failure to reach race-pace, one repetition is missed to allow more rest.  The swimmer uses the break to focus and gather resources.
-When two failures occur in a row (fail, rest, fail), the set is abandoned and the swimmer begins active recovery.
-The maximum number of repetitions should not be completed.
50 meter races are unique because:
-Hypoxic – mostly without breathing and so the energy used has a very small aerobic component.
-Pacing is not critical but is helpful.
-All phases and skills must be performed perfectly.
-Performed at a level rarely exhibited in training.
-All training elements should stress at least one race-relevant factor.
-Swimmers should be encouraged to develop levels of effort not experienced before.
-Allocate 20-30 minutes of the training session and persist until the swimmer’s performance deteriorates.
-Training volume is slow to improve.
-Traditional coaches are training swimmers to train, not to race.  USRPT trains swimmers to race.
-When exposed to conditioning programs, the”Individuality of Training Principle” requires that individuals be accommodated for their inherited capacities and states of training/adaption.
-There is no place for practicing errors.  Not only does incorrect practice detract from correct practice, but it also makes it more difficult to do the correct practice.
-Optimal and maximal improvements will only come from correct practices that transfer to the competitive setting.
-It is the available stored oxygen and high-energy metabolism of the phosphagen-related substances that is the anaerobic activity primarily involved in racing performances in swimming
-USRPT is especially effective for swimmers who swim several events a meet because, in a USRPT practice, you swim as fast as you can with about the same amount of rest in between sets as you do in a meet.
-Do a very minor warm-down.  [Mostly can be done outside of pool—at least AnT pace if any swimming.
After the seminar, P2Life representative, Tim Shead, came in and talked about the benefits of P2Life.
CoachErik asked: When you say you were failing pace and had to do 25s @ 200pace, does that mean you hit 3 failures before the 10x50s and 6x50s were over?
Answer: We actually were stopping at 1 fail during the 50s.  We both failed on the last 50 of the second set (the 6x50s).
Q: You said what you were going, but what were you trying to hold or was the times you stated what you were supposed to hold and were not?
A: In the 50 breasts, my 200 pace was 34.5 and Michael’s was _30__.  In the 25s, my pace was 17.25 and Michael’s was ___15_.  My 200 free paces were 26.26 and 13.13.  Michael’s were  25.6 and _12.8__.
I’m going to let (coach) Peter Andrew answer these next two questions.
BD asked: How does turn time factor into pace (is usrpt specific to the 10th’s of a second)?
A: We don’t factor it in.
Q: How does one measure practice improvement…longer sets, shorter rest, fewer strokes etc?
A: More repeats at race pace.
That’s it for this blog!  Tune in tomorrow to see more USRPT!

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makes complete sense
7 years ago

This is fabulous. Hats of, Becca for thoroughly explaining this unique training technique. As a mom who’s watched my 11 year old suffer through 7,000 yd freestyle sets with terrible technique while her best race is the 100 breast I’ve always wondered why! The best answer I got was “because it’s worked for swimmers in the past”. Worked for all swimmers? Huh? On the whole, I’ve found that swim coaches feel distance training and garbage yardage is so impressive but it hardly ever produces results in meets. Want to know why the slackers on your team perform best in meets? Here’s your answer. They’re not wasting their time over swimming like the other suckers. You hate them because the only… Read more »

Reply to  makes complete sense
7 years ago

Your examples don’t make a whole lot of sense. For every swimmer that swims well at meets without trying hard there are plenty who work really hard and it pays off. Sure, not everyone does well both high yardage programs, but then again, not everyone is meant to be a good swimmer. You can’t just use some peoples’ success or lack thereof as evidence for a particular system either way. This method sure sounds nice, just like all systems that promise more results for less work. They’re like get-rich-quick schemes. They sound attractive because a 2000 yd workout that promises to make you just as MICHAEL ANDREW!!!! sounds easier than actually putting in the work

Reply to  Eagleswim
7 years ago


That’s not making a whole lot of sense easier… It’s not 2000y workouts and it doesn’t promise to make everyone as good as Michael Andrew…

It’s 2x workouts a day (the way the Andrews do it, apparently), and depending on the events you are training for, it could be upwards of 3,000 per workout… so still getting 6,000y in per day.

And it’s very clear that Rushall believes that athletes are limited in their potential by their hereditary body types and physical attributes.

He’s just saying this is the ideal way to maximize your race potential, which again, is different for everyone.

Reply to  Hulk Swim
7 years ago

My point about Michael Andrew is this: would it be on this site if he wasn’t fast?? Every get rich quick scheme depends on a few success stories, and until it’s proven otherwise, I don’t see this any differently

Ragnar Darko
Reply to  Eagleswim
7 years ago

Eagleswim, couldn’t agree more. Our only true recognizable and successful (so far) product of this method is Michael Andrew, and it’s impossible to justify his success based solely on his training since he is so big for his age.

makes complete sense
Reply to  Ragnar Darko
7 years ago

Even if it only “sort of” works I applaud anyone challenging the the status quo that says if you want to excel at this sport you have to be prepared to spend 5 hours a day doing it.

Ragnar Darko
Reply to  makes complete sense
7 years ago

I’ll second that. I think we’ll see how this all pans out in the next couple of years leading up to Rio.

Reply to  makes complete sense
7 years ago

Rio has nothing to do with this- Michael Andrew will be 17 going into Rio. He is, and let me say this loudly and clearly:


Either way, it will not be an arguement for or against this way of training. 17 year old guys don’t make Olympic Teams anymore. Especially in the US where we have so many post-grads and pros. Him not making it (even on a relay, where he’ll need to be top 6 when I can name at least 12 guys off the top of my head who are still training for Rio and are in their mid-20s) won’t be dissapointing at all.

Michael Andrew, like most elite… Read more »

Reply to  makes complete sense
7 years ago

What would you propose would make this viable then? I think michael Andrew making the Olympic team would be the only way this training method gains any serious traction. 17 isn’t that old to expect someone to make the Olympic team, especially when you’re talking about an athletic freak who is supposedly using a completely revolutionary and game-changing training method that will leave all others in the dust

Reply to  Eagleswim
7 years ago

In my opinion, USRPT doesn’t sound like less work at all…just a very different kind of hard work. 2000 yards at race pace can be much, much harder than 6000+ garbage yards.

a few additional thoughts:

first, there might be several other swimmers implementing the spirit of USRPT, if not in name, during their training. Katinka Hosszu comes to mind as an elite swimmer that reflects many of USRPT theories in her approach to competition. i don’t know enough about how she trains to say anything for certain, but i wouldn’t be surprised if she did a lot of specific race-pace sets in practice. also, philosophically, Dave Salo seems generally aligned with this type of approach.

second, despite… Read more »

Reply to  TheRoboticRichardSimmons
7 years ago

third, almost all swimmers incorporate some elements of USRPT into their training cycle. it’s called taper. for 2-4 weeks before a big swim meet, nearly every coach increases the amount of short repeats swimmers do at race pace. is it possible that, to some degree, the reason people drop time when they taper isn’t because they’re “resting” from the impressive amount of training they did, but is instead because they’re finally giving their bodies the right kind of stimuli? just a thought.

this times infinity!

makes complete sense
Reply to  Hulk Swim
7 years ago

Wouldn’t it be something if after all these countless sets of ungodly garage yardage the true secret to racing fast and improving was an appropriate taper? Of course you have to’taper’ from something but tons of useless freestyle yardage to drop .50 in the 100 breast? Now that doesn’t make sense. Over training in the age group years is forced performance that is simply impossible to keep up as an athlete ages hence the enormous drop off in swimmers as they age.

Reply to  TheRoboticRichardSimmons
7 years ago

From what I’ve understood about usrpt, the whole point is being “all or nothing.” As in no drills, no dry land, no warmdown etc. you can’t just say that any race pace training constitutes usrpt, as race pace training has been around forever, and I doubt anyone has a problem with it. I’m talking about the whole thing.

Reply to  Eagleswim
7 years ago


“You must accept that science is right and opinions are mostly wrong”

CJ flatley
Reply to  makes complete sense
7 years ago

Well said about the slackers!!!! They go hard for about one quarter of the workout and end up swimming fast in meets. Great point!!!

bobo gigi
7 years ago

Wow! I don’t understand everything but it’s very interesting. Great job Becca Mann! And thank you for sharing that with us.
Just a question. What do the most famous coaches in the world think about USRPT? Do they find that interesting or does it make them laugh?

7 years ago

Powerful Becca Mann

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of 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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