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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10 years ago

I’ve been teaching USRPT to my top group (15 swimmers aged between 12 and 15) since February.
Initially we had a large drop off in performance whilst they learnt how to do the training. This was because of the drop off in ‘yardage’ in comparison to my usual program (on average around 1/3rd less total per session) and other physiological and psychological factors that go with such a complete change in methodology.

After 6 weeks this happened – PB’s at a district meet from everyone. It’s not the fact that they swam PB’s that made me sit up and take notice, it’s that they all even split their races to within a few tenths per 25 (it was a… Read more »

10 years ago

We use USRPT in training, my club is the best in norway because we use USRPT ….. (I think) and we get PB almost all the time.

10 years ago

This is a very interesting approach, but as a “one-and-only” training regimen it’s flawed. For a system predicated on “science first,” it seems to reject other relevant science. No warm up and warm down means many more instances of injury. You’re expected to perform race quality 50s without any warm up, but what about in meets? Do you not warm up then? Also without drill, technique gets flawed as well. For one, drill is great for loosening up. But moreover, drill keeps you sharp.

There’s so much more as well, but other commenters have touched on it.

The thing about USRPT is it is great for race prep, but without a base and regular technique tuning, it’s worthless. Furthermore, 6000… Read more »

10 years ago

Science is always right. Love that. From incompressible fluid dynamics theory the Power required to overcome drag force is a function of velocity AND the drag force itself is a function of velocity squared.

Therefore, any swimmer that decreases their time by say 10% would require a 33% increase in Power. How to achieve that increase in speed is the tricky part, because as you increase muscle mass and volume, the drag force also increases. requiring even more power to achieve faster results.

10 years ago

This system is very insightful and very refreshing. Disagree with the drills and dryland. There are just too many benefits from dryland to be ignored.

We had a swimmer go from 59 to 54 in one year, 100 yd breast, by only swimming 25s and 20s. Never did a full 100 breast in practice. We did, however, bring in jump boxes and Kettlebells to improve his hip drive and power off the walls.

Reply to  Adam
10 years ago

“If you changed more than 10% of your program in a year you really don’t have a clue as to what worked or didn’t work”. This is from conversations with Paul Bergen and others.

Please list the benefits of dryland to swimming and cite the studies. Spare the anecdotes.

Reply to  oldschoolc
10 years ago


Reply to  oldschoolc
10 years ago

It doesn’t require a study to see that the best 100 freestyle sprinters are very muscular and to attain that level of muscle mass requires some form of weight lifting.

Reply to  Bossanova
10 years ago

Right on. Thanks man.

Reply to  Adam
10 years ago

ADAM – I can’t believe that you’re accepting BOSSANOVA’s guesswork as fact. I am totally with OLDSCHOOLC on this one. This kind of attitude is the reason that dogma permeates coaching practice in swimming to the degree that it does. Poor show.

Dave Hemmings
10 years ago

Thanks for the article – lots of respect for Becca Mann – was at the US Nationals a few years back watching you slam down the distance free
I took objection to much of this article – and have commented after most of the statements with my views
Dave Hemmings
Hillingdon Head Coach
London UK

Issues with USRPT
There is such thing as anaerobic training when a swimmer is working repeatedly beyond lactate threshold

Do not discard current ideas about swimming – embrace the work programmes of champions
Sometimes 100% science isn’t right but a combination of science and coaching opinion is

-A set… Read more »

10 years ago

So…assuming that swimmers were to switch over to this new theory/system of training, how much time should/would/could elapse before they would begin to see a difference in time?

If a collegiate athlete X were to join a team that practiced 100% USRPT over the summer, should s/he expect to be significantly faster before rejoining the college team?

If athlete X does NOT improve, does that mean that s/he is already training and competing at his/her full potential?

What’s a fair amount of time to devote to the trial – assuming all biases could be removed, and the athlete in question could 100% buy into the program and not hold back mentally, physically or emotionally in any way –… Read more »

10 years ago

Some of you sound EXTREMELY threatenedby this and I am not certain why. Listen…Rushall is really just taking some of the very basic tenets from the field of Exercise Physiology (i.e., Principle of Specificity, etc.) along with some advanced energy systems science/studies and applying them to a system of training. Throw in some neurologic adaptation science and voila!!

It actually makes complete sense to me.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

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