Becca Mann Blogs USRPT, Day 2

  201 Braden Keith | January 08th, 2014 | Featured, International, News, Opinion, Training, Training Intel

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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201 Comments on "Becca Mann Blogs USRPT, Day 2"

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makes complete sense
2 years 9 months 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 time they practice hard is during the race sets. This dynamic has been going on in swim teams forever and now I understand why. I’m looking forward to every word Becca has to say about USRPT.

2 years 9 months 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

2 years 9 months 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.

2 years 9 months 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
2 years 9 months 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
2 years 9 months 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
2 years 9 months 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.

2 years 9 months 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 age groupers before him, is very big for his age. So aren’t most of the kids from high volume programs breaking NAG’s (Townley Haas, Max Miranda, Ryan Hoffer, etc.)

When he’s a full grown adult (20+) we can start the debate about whether this training failed his development, or prepared him greatly for the demands of racing the 100/200 distances.

2 years 9 months 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

2 years 9 months 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 the seemingly rigid nature of these USRPT sets, my guess is that a creative coach can find some really compelling ways to adapt these methods. (i have of my ideas listed below).

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.

here’s one of my own USRPT inspired sets for 200 swimmers: 4×200 free with a metric-based “abort” on 3 minutes

do a set of repeats at your target distance (200 free) with a coach timing you / taking stroke rate, etc. for each repeat, your goal is to hold pace / stroke rate / etc, which your coach is measuring for each 25 with a stopwatch. once you slip in one key metric, the coach blows his whistle and you stop. thought the set is written as 4×200, it may effectively become a set of 4×75 on 3 minutes. once you hit a certain threshold (say, completing a 125 at goal metrics) you may adjust your goals to something more ambitious.

in theory, this doesn’t adhere to the strict tenants of USRPT in that it’s not necessarily ultra-short, doesn’t have a large number of repeats, and will likely give a swimmer more than 20 seconds rest, which might be more than strictly necessary. however, it is race-specific, it forbids you from swimming at “below pace”, and it is designed with a recovery period to ensure that swimmers can invest the amount of energy they need to swim at race pace.

2 years 9 months 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
2 years 9 months 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.

2 years 9 months 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.

2 years 9 months ago


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

CJ flatley
2 years 9 months 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
2 years 9 months 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?

2 years 9 months ago

Powerful Becca Mann

2 years 9 months ago

Great stuff by Becca! One question I have is: are there any bigger clubs using this model? I feel it would be difficult to run a USRPT practice with 6-8 swimmers per lane.

2 years 9 months ago

This is the future!

2 years 9 months ago

Rushall sings a good song, but why isn’t Michael’s sister a world-beater like him? If one is only as fast as their heredity…shouldn’t Michaela be relatively as fast as Michael?

2 years 9 months ago

Sister is just getting back into swimming after 2 years off.

I’m at the seminar as well. We use it for our high school team. We modify some of Rushall’s program (e.g., still do drylands, power rack, aqua pacers,etc), but largely follow his suggestions for our swim sets. Time will tell, but mid-seaon times appear to be head of pace compared to last year.

2 years 9 months ago


I think this is the PERFECT method for HS programs! Not convinced it works for a 200m Backstroke.

2 years 9 months ago

You are missing the point. This method of training isn’t a guarantee to make anyone a world class swimmer, it is supposed to help maximize positive results for each individual.

von Marshall
2 years 9 months ago

I absolutely understand how this training principle applies to sprinting, and it makes a lot of sense. Pablo Morales alludes to training specificity in ‘The Swim Coaching Bible’ where he talks about butterfly training.
What I think is less clear is how this training principle applies past the 100m distance mark. I cannot comprehend how swimming 25’s and 50’s can create a physiological adaption allowing for effective technique maintenance and stroke quality over, for example, a 200m butterfly.
I am open to explanation as I do think this training method could ultimately revolutionize the entire sport of swimming in terms of number of competitive participants and reducing burnout. I do somewhat echo Bobo Gigi’s comment of what do other leading coaches think to USRPT, I think that ‘do you what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you’ll always get’ works both ways. Smashing out insane mileage may not make sense for everyone but look at Michael Phelps and there is an obvious case to make for a more traditional approach (Michael Phelps is obviously not the only example but he is a very good one). Phelps broke the standing world record for the 100m free with his lead-off leg in the 2008 Olympic 4 x 100m freestyle relay.
Ultimately I think time will tell as to whether USRPT is a viable alternative, Michael Andrew is still at an age where growth and physiological maturation may have a lot to answer for, give it five years and if his record breaking trend continues may be USRPT will go down as the ‘standard practice’ for swim coaching.

2 years 9 months ago

Phelps is not exactly famous for breaking the lap counters. He trained a somewhat traditional but advanced way, as far as I know. Also he never broke or tied the WR in the 100 freestyle.

2 years 9 months ago

No, but he did go faster than than the record as it stood before the beginning of the trace, so that’s pretty arbitrary, and he does have the WR in 100 fly

2 years 9 months ago

Eagle, he didn’t go faster than the existing world record at the time. That 47.51 was a national record at the time, I think that’s what you were trying to say.

Von Marshall: As for how this applies to 200’s, the theory is that you’re putting your body in the same exact conditions that it will be in during the race in question, but taking just enough rest to refresh the oxygen supply and let the muscles replenish just enough to do it again.. but the 15-20 seconds rest isn’t enough for your body to come down from the agitated state and the conditions/chemistry in your body are effectively the same as during a 200. Since you’re giving yourself a tiny bit of rest, you can keep your body in this 200 “zone” for 20 or 30 minutes. While recovering from an intense AND prolonged stress like that, the body makes adaptations to better cope with those conditions the next time. When I think of it that way, it makes sense. I know that Peter and Michael intend to focus more on his 200 races in the coming weeks, so we’ll at least have one data point.

I’m excited for the potential change that we might be experiencing here. Regardless of your stance on USRPT vs. traditional training, the next few years are going to be exciting.

Steve Nolan
2 years 9 months ago

I thought Phelps was under the WR in that race? But that Eamon Sullivan just beat him, so there’s the WR.

2 years 9 months ago

Von Marshall – I think the question you should be asking yourself is: “would Phelps have swam EVEN FASTER had he trained using USRPT methods?” Unfortunately, we will never know…

von Marshall
2 years 9 months ago

sprintdude9000 – The oppsoite applies to Michael Andrews and USRPT advocates, would they actually be faster using ‘traditional’ training methods? As I said above, Andrews ‘hereditary’ growth and maturation characteristics could account for a significant factor in his performance.

I think the best way this method can be properly evaluated is when it is applied to fully matured adult swimmers. It’s basically a scientific study so to use a subject with uncontrollable variables such as growth and puberty is not a valid way to draw conclusions.

If USRPT was going to be critically evaluated as a case study it would be extremely flawed at this stage. That’s not to say it does not work, but the current test has too many variables simply because Michael Andrews is so young.

2 years 9 months ago

very exciting and I appreciate the fresh perspective from such an accomplished athlete. what does coach Reese think about USRPT? He seems to be an innovator himself, so wondered if he too likes this training style?

2 years 7 months ago

I know, he doens’t like it. I spoke to him about it… but actually, his own current training methods are not completely different from USRPT – but not as intensive as USRPT.

2 years 9 months ago

Some questions about the training system:

– “In USRPT, there is no such thing as lactate tolerance or anaerobic training”

How is this? Isn’t the principle behind lactate training to do high intensity repeats that eventually cause the build up of lactic acid, as would occur in a race? It would seem that swimming at race pace would be both anaerobic (without oxygen, because the body cannot sustain 100-200 pace for too long) and lactate causing because of the race-like intensity.

– Why are drills damaging to world-class athletes?

What do they do that hurts technique

– Why is weight training considered bad?

In almost every other power-related sport people lift weights. Football players lift weights for strength and power. Track sprinters lift weight so they can run more powerfully. Would a stronger pull not be beneficial in the same way?

– “Total specific mileage is the criterion for beneficial training. [This contrasts with the completion of sets, total yardage, etc.]”

Is this advocating long sets, to a point? In other words is it saying that given race pace training, would 100×50 at 100 pace (assume all were done with proper technique and goal time) be better than 10×50 at the same pace with the same technique?

2 years 9 months ago

– “Total specific mileage is the criterion for beneficial training. [This contrasts with the completion of sets, total yardage, etc.]”
Is this advocating long sets, to a point? In other words is it saying that given race pace training, would 100×50 at 100 pace (assume all were done with proper technique and goal time) be better than 10×50 at the same pace with the same technique?

I think this was listed under the common thoughts and practices that violate the principle of specificity.

2 years 9 months ago

It was listed here under “Parameters for a New Program:”

-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.]

2 years 9 months ago

Sorry- misread…

I think this’s means that the goal is the more race pace you do, the more you adapt… but that you still have to follow the guidelines of stopping at failure and building up the volume over time…

I started this a few years back it another club… it took two years (of admittedly still miximg other stuff in) to get to the point where bot h the athletes and myself trusted this enough to go 100% at it… and we couldn’t do it for 20x50s at 200 pace right away.

Started at 8 and worked up 2 at a time as we ‘passed’ each step.

With my new club (as of September)… I went back to 8 and we are working up… There are a few at 16/18 now… Some are still stuck at 10 or 12… but there has been drastic improvements across the board.

2 years 9 months ago

– “In USRPT, there is no such thing as lactate tolerance or anaerobic training”

From my discussions, Dr. Rushall there is no specific set focusing on lactate tolerance or anaerobic training (except for perhaps 50-m/y swimmers), as these sets start by taxing the alactacid system, followed stressing the neural, lactate, and aerobic system. These systems do work simultaneously, a common confusion is that one type of training only works one energetic system, when in fact the multiple systems interact together. Also, just because a coach has a “lactate set” doesn’t mean this will even be maximally taxed, often neural failure is the limiting factor.

– Why are drills damaging to world-class athletes?
This works on the theory that motor learning and neuroplasticity is impaired by similar movements. In world-class athletes, they are attempting to make slight adjustments to their ingrained biomechanics and perhaps performing similar movements will interfere with this motor learning.

I haven’t found a lot of controlled studies on this, but there are little to no studies on world class athletes (especially one’s in such a skilled sport).

– Why is weight training considered bad?
Other sports are way different. Ground-based athletes use ground-reaction force to to generate power and speed. In swimming, the sport is highly skilled, and as mentioned, mostly influenced by biomechanics. Weight training is often performed in high volumes, creating soreness and impairing biomechanics. Even if weight training doesn’t cause soreness it can take away from swimming, physically and mentally. These are potentially reasons why USRPT doesn’t support dry-land.

– “Total specific mileage is the criterion for beneficial training. [This contrasts with the completion of sets, total yardage, etc.]”
USRPT supports overload, as overload and failure are necessary for maximal motor learning. It is unlikely performing 100×50 at 100 pace is impossible, unless performed with high rest, which is very time consuming and not stressing the various energetics to their maximum (it likely stresses more anaerobic and neural stress, not as involved in most swim races).

2 years 9 months ago

> ” From my discussions, Dr. Rushall there is no specific set focusing on lactate tolerance or anaerobic training (except for perhaps 50-m/y swimmers), as these sets start by taxing the alactacid system, followed stressing the neural, lactate, and aerobic system. These systems do work simultaneously, a common confusion is that one type of training only works one energetic system, when in fact the multiple systems interact together. Also, just because a coach has a “lactate set” doesn’t mean this will even be maximally taxed, often neural failure is the limiting factor. ” <

Would I be correct in saying that it works lactate, but is not specifically designed as a lactate set?

2 years 9 months ago

Yes, lactate levels will rise (not to astronomical levels), but increase during the middle and end of a 20×50 set (for example).

von marshall
2 years 9 months ago

It says somewhere in the article that when the set is completed at the targeted metrics, the challenge is increased with more difficult metrics – faster splits, lower stroke rate/count etc

2 years 9 months ago


2 years 9 months ago

This sounds vaguely familiar to what I did at a DI school in the late 90s. No drag suits, no dryland, no weights, no doubles after December break, low volume, high intensity 4/6 practices a week on mod-long rest…

Great duel meet season and we always tapered like crap and got owned at conf. across the board of strokes & distances.

Not saying it’s wrong, but it should be handled very cautiously – the primary thing I take from the notes is that “this is not intended for beginners” which to me assumes that an athlete doing this type of work has a fairly substantial amount of capacity/development.

2 years 9 months ago

It could be similar, but I doubt it is the same form of training. The USRPT uses multiple practices a day and much more race pace then I’ve ever seem documented, even more than Coach Termin (who is the first person I’ve seen document it).

The main reason “this is not intended for beginners” is that beginners need more work on technique and having fun in the sport. Dr. Rushall breaks down what each swimmer should focus on relative to their age in this document.

2 years 9 months ago

Actually, you just nailed the program…didn’t know I was being that obvious.

In any case Michael Andrew is going to be an interesting phenomena to watch. I’m sure that his type of program has worked for world class athletes, and he is extremely good, but far from world class. It will be interesting to see if an athlete that was brought up/developed in this type of program can be successful long term and eventually at the world class level.

2 years 9 months ago

So I have received quite a few messages today about John’s reference to our work with high intensity training.

We did 15 years of in-depth direct measurement of our swimmers on VO^2 max, lactic acid accumulation, swimming technique and rate of improvement while utilizing a high intensity model. All of the changes in these parameters produced by the high intensity model were compared with known changes in VO^2 max, lactic acid accumulation, swimming technique and performance improvements for swimmers of similar age using more traditional training methods. (Basically 18 to 22 years) The data were for men only and included a wide variety of talent levels. Our campus is home to one of the best state of the art swimming flumes in the world and our high intensity training model was created around the “evidenced based” findings from our measurements. The goal of this research was to develop a training model that would result in the largest improvements for our swimmers. It was the findings from our measurements that lead us to the high intensity method, not a predisposed philosophy.

For those of you interested in evidenced based coaching, many of the questions about the longitudinal physiological, bio-mechanical, and performance improvements swimmers might experience utilizing this form of training can be found by reading a paper we published in the Journal of Swimming Research that covered a 4 year period.


Budd Termin
TeamTermin Sports Performance

"Traditional Coach"
2 years 9 months ago

I like all of this for sprinters, but how does this work for your distance swimmers? Mainly the 1500m and 1650 swimmers. Also how does one training like this taper?

2 years 9 months ago

Also curious about how this affects distance swimmers. But I do not believe Michael Andrew tapers at all.

2 years 9 months ago

Dave Salo advocates low yardage fast pace training. He does taper his swimmers.

2 years 9 months ago

my understanding after reading Salo is that ‘taper’ a relative term…

2 years 9 months ago

From Salo’s paper on “Teaching Breaststroke:”

The taper phase, also known as the fine-tune phase of our season, occurs over the final ten days prior to major competition. During this period, the yardage drops almost immediately to 2,000 to 3,500 yards with more focus on long, stretched-out swimming with interspersed periods of fast, intense, short swims. I don’t time pace 50s, etc., as this is a period we fine-tune the starts, turns and stroke timing. Also, a great deal of time is spent through the last month and a half on relaxation and visual imagery training.

2 years 9 months ago

How much are they doing during the ‘normal’ phase? About 3,500-4,000 if I remember correctly, so it’s hardly a ‘taper’. It’s a fine-tune, or a meet preperation phase.

You can’t really ‘taper’ from 4,000y a day.

2 years 9 months ago

Just curious, where did that Gold Medal Mel’s article about Phelps comeback go??

Did Phelps or his agent call and asked for the article to be pulled down?

2 years 9 months ago

Super slow swimming and drills did not hurt Alex Popov. There is a lot of good ideas here and a bunch of unsupported claims that do not make any sense, such as “drills are harmful to elite swimmers.” I believe in balance and technique and drills when done properly – the problem in USA Swimming is lack of “technique enforcement” by AG coaches. Every good program does sprints and race pace training as part of preparation for meets. You technique has to be perfect to disregard drills, and Michael’s is far from perfect.

2 years 9 months ago

I am in the midst of 6 hours 15000+/day for the past week and am so bored sore and tired. I really wish my college team did stuff like that

2 years 9 months ago

Just curious – what events do you swim?

2 years 9 months ago

both the butterflies. Probably the 500 although maybe 2 IM instead.

2 years 9 months ago

As a former butterflier with a traditional 2000s-era training background, I would say “watch out”.
There can be some benefit to doing the occasional 1,000 fly or 8,000 free set to build mental toughness, confidence, and push your body to see where its limits are.
But on the whole, my 100/200 butterfly were the fastest when I focused on training for the 100/200 fly instead of proving how big my balls were in practice. I never went nearly as strictly-orthodox as this USRPT, but I can say that swimming “survival butterfly” (where you’ve lost all momentum and are just trying to wrench your arms out of the water) often does more harm than good. It kills your shoulders and gets you used to swimming with your hips feeling like they are 3 feet underwater. When you finally rest and feel good, you feel like you are discovering a new stroke. Taper is NOT the time to be learning new stroke mechanics, and good butterfly mechanics are pretty much impossible to practice when you are “dead”.

2 years 9 months ago

Thanks for sharing, Becca!

2 years 9 months ago

Isn’t it great to be in a country where differing ideas are allowed? Time and time again throughout the history of sport (including swimming) when those in power take the approach everyone else’s opinion is wrong and there is only one way, it has led to diminished success. I applaud the academic effort put forth here but caution the attitude taken that everyone else is wrong. I also await enough of a pool of success to validate these theories-yes I said theories. Until we start tabulating world records for lab rats or giving as much credence to relative success tabulated on a spread sheet, it is a theory. Might be a great one but as long as your poster child is one of a kind 6ft 4 man child and you have no one winning internationally or with true proven success, I will listen intently to see where an edge may be gained in the application of these theories for certain athletes but I will not abandon my thoroughly scorned “traditional” “opinions.”

2 years 9 months ago

I’m not specifically responding to you, but to all those who argue the point that Michael Andrew can’t be used as an example as he’s 6’4″ and a freak…

So aren’t MOST of these elite guys from ALL systems and methods of training. Ryan Hoffer isn’t small. Caleb Dressel isn’t lacking natural gifts. Michael Phelps isn’t a 5’9″ kid who was MADE into some stud by doing tons of volume. Aaron Piersol was a big kid. Ian Crocker did some serious volume training as a younger swimmer and he was quite large for his age, so does that mean we can toss out volume training as a means for everyone, since he was so tall?

Forget his size. It’s about maximizing individual potential. A squarely (i.e. THICK) built 5’8″ 14 year old kid wouldn’t be as fast as Michael Andrew no matter how EITHER of them trained.

I’m not saying that 5’9″ squat guys can’t be successful in swimming, just that their ultimate cieling is theoretically lower than the 6’5″ lean guy.

And before anyone argues to point, ask yourself why most college coaches start conversations by asking for athletes height. It matters.

2 years 9 months ago

I agree that the attitude that ‘everything else is wrong’ is harmful for any athlete. Training specificity is important, but can come in many, many different forms.Human physiology is not an exact science and there will never be a ‘one size fits all’ training regimen….not even for an individiual. In a kid like Andrews with strong family support, training in his home, very focussed, a physiologic freak, obvious talent, etc. there will be great outcomes from any type of solid training regimen. I can’t say for certain, but i think he will be limited in the future based on this type of training because it is so specific.

2 years 9 months ago

Sometimes things are better. The attitude that “we should do all kinds of training because everyone is different” is a dangerous one. I think the USRP training is based of science – which really isn’t that different from person to person. I think “the everyone is different” attitude like getting the right answer to a math problem using the wrong equation. You have to be careful. Unless you are a physical abnormality science for human functioning is pretty much the same. I really don’t know why everyone is so afraid to follow this. I know people hold on to their beliefs and it would be horrifying to find out they could have been giving better training – but then wouldn’t it be good to change as quickly as possible? Why do the same old thing? I think it is great to look yourself in the face and try something that just might be the future of the sport.

2 years 9 months ago

I don’t think there is any ‘dangerous’ thinking here. You are correct that in general human physiology is equal. But there is the range of normal and a range of abilities based on hereditary make-up. In the clinical world of exercise physiology there is something called the ‘art of exercise prescription’. This term and application recognizes these differences in clinical patients. And the same exists for healthy, young individuals. I am certainly not saying this training should not be used…in fact i think it is to some degree used in most programs when race paced training is performed. But so work in a vacuum of USRPT, i think, will limit an individual. This really is based on the message that Dr. Rushall provided that USRPT is, “not theories, but deductions made from scientific work.”
So too is more traditional training methods and the wide range of other training currently being used in swimming.

2 years 9 months ago

It is “dangerous” to think everything will work and to do it on assumptions. You assume too much when you don’t back things up with science.

Using a term like “the art of exercise prescription” you are using the term that is very broad in a very specific situation. The term is most commonly used to describe getting the correct diagnosis – not specific to UNIQUE situations (I.E. not exact things being different). I think you need to look back on the term.

Also, I love the assumption that USRP is “limiting.” The science does not seem to back that up. If someone can show me science that proves it is limiting then I am in.

Swimmers are not asked to get punched in the face, correct? No one would every suggest this – it is not part of swimming training. Maybe, just maybe, USRP is what should be done…and swimming lots of yards in any instance is the punch in the face? I don’t know but I do know science backs it up… you have to open your mind to the possibility.

2 years 9 months ago

Also, the “range of normal” is totally in the science. Unless you breath water or have a physical disability – USRP is well within the range of normal.

2 years 9 months ago

“The first 4-6 repetitions are unsettled physiologically. This occurs because the set begins after a rest.”

If we are sticking to the law of specificity, why do the swimmers get 4-6 50’s to adjust physiologically when in a race, they have to get going after rest as well?

2 years 9 months ago

I’ve started using some of these ideas with my swimmers and really love what I see each time. However…
Rushall does come off as arrogant and disrespectful to all the work done by coaches over the years. I especially love the quote “only race pace or faster swimming will lead to improvements”. The missing piece of Rushall’s work seems to be explaining just how swimmers and coaches have succeeded without his help over the years.
I like the information Rushall presents and will continue to use many of the ideas (new ideas are great), but I’m not ready to condemn all other methods of training. I’ve read most of Rushall’s writings online & he definitely seems to be saying that every coach not using his methods is coaching incorrectly. His diplomacy skills could use some work.

2 years 9 months ago

He is just coming from science – not swimming. He only deals in scientific data. It hurts to hear but he really cares about that aspect over our feelings. He absolutely comes off as arrogant…I am just not sure that matters if he is correct….

2 years 9 months ago

Well put.

I like many of the ideas Rushall puts forth, and I appreciate that they are based in science. Most of what he preaches also makes sense to me intuitively – when I look back at what worked or didn’t work for me in training, much of it aligns with his principles.

BUT – Rushall often comes across as a self-promoting contrarian. He seems quicker to dismiss coaches with 30 years of trial-and-error experience than he does to listen and incorporate their wisdom. One often gets the impression that Rushall believes he has identified all possible variables in swimming and human physiology, and built them into a formula that derives the Correct Way of Training.

I suspect he is more of a clumsy communicator than truly arrogant, so I don’t want to pile on. It just bothers me that:
1. He describes strict adherence to USRPT as the ONLY way to maximize a swimmer’s potential.
2. He insists strictly-USRPT training is the best approach based on a theory that has been tested on a sample size of essentially zero.
3. He has never applied this method to distance training, but still never admits (that I’m aware of) that his training methods are geared towards sprinters.
4. I understand that he is still trying to make his training philosophy widespread enough to get real data on it, but he tends to state things UNEQUIVOCALLY that everyone has anecdotes to counter (what about the swimmer who always seems to hit their peak 5-7,000 yds into a practice? Who is recovering from an injury? Who has matured physically, and their old stroke isn’t working anymore? Who wants to try swimming straight-arm freestyle?)

2 years 9 months ago

TEA, your point #2 is a BIG one!

2 years 9 months ago

You realize Michael Andrew isn’t the only athlete in USA Swimming training this way, right?

2 years 9 months ago

I’m on the same page as you for most of this, but “what about the swimmer who always seems to hit their peak 5-7,000 yds into a practice?”

Do they warm up that much at meets? If they are trained to hit their peak with so much volume, how will they swim fast at a meet?


About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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