NBAC Coach Bob Bowman Comments on USRPT – Video Interview

  85 Gold Medal Mel Stewart | April 25th, 2014 | Arena Pro Swim Series, International, News, Training, Video

Swimming video edit by Coleman Hodges

NBAC Head Swim Coach Bob Bowman – Michael Phelps’ long-time coach – comments on USRPT (aka Ultra Short Race Pace Training). This was a followup question regarding the success of age group swim star Michael Andrew. Bowman has been asked this question a few times over the last several months. Bowman maintains race pace training is important, but that he does not solely coach race pace training to his swimmers. He prefers a mix of training.

Michael Andrew is coached by Peter Andrew, his father, aka Team Andrew.

In This Story


  1. Joel Lin says:

    Just for the sheer comedy of it, please ask Mark Schubert what he thinks of USRPT.

    • Braden Keith says:

      We would, but I don’t think anybody brought their riot gear or face shields to Mesa.

    • Alex says:

      Usrpt has emerged as an alternative to the boring, traditional, not race specific training that promotes Mark Schubert

      • Samuli Hirsi says:

        Please, do not generalize when commenting. Do you even know what some coaches are doing? Life is not black and white. Why don´t you swim USPROQT and some other kid rope climb while swimming. We all do what feels good and works for us.

      • Al says:

        Alex – please list the Senior National finalists or USA National Team members who train USRPT solely, most especially in the middles distance stroke races and distance fields – just to be certain there really IS an alternative to the “boring training” you refer to. You must understand – one young swimmer WILL ABSOLUTELY NOT CHANGE SWIMMING.

        • Windmill says:

          Yes! Been waiting for someone to say that. He’s huge and he’s realistically out on his own performance wise. I think we should all just clam up and see what happens in the next 6 years. N=1 means nothing.

          • Windmill says:

            Yes! Been waiting for someone to say that. He’s huge and he’s realistically out on his own performance wise. I think we should all just clam up and see what happens in the next 6 years. N=1 means nothing.

  2. Hulk Swim says:

    I like this. In case I haven’t made my stance on this issue clear- while I personally lean towards the USRPT end of the spectrum, I love and appreciate all kinds of work. If the coach believes, and the athletes believe, just about all kinds of work works.

    I’d you’ll allow for a massive over simplification of things, let’s say a 1 is pure Rush all USRPT, and a 10 is pure Schubert volume/aerobic… I’d say Bob is about an 8… and Salo is about a 3. My guess is that Eddie Reese is as close to a 5.5 as I can think of, for reference purposes.

    (I’d put myself at a 2.5… it sounds like Sven may also be in that range).

  3. Dan O says:

    It is sort of silly for Bowman to say “it’s all good.” There is plenty of stupid training out there.

    Almost nothing done in 1976 as Bowman mentions was done with the benefit of scientific analysis. That is what is different today – started by Councilman. A lot of coaches still don’t like science. They don’t want to change.

    USRPT hasn’t been done on a large scale for a number of years yet. No one here believes that Nathan Adrian would be as fast as he if he were training with Bowman, do they?

    • anon says:

      I actually think the training group is equally if not more important than the training style. You need someone (or many people) who push you to swim harder. Michael Andrew trains by himself…and based on the little that I’ve read, it would be very difficult to train with him because it seems to require a lot on 1 on 1 coaching time. He’s only 15 now so it’s all fun. But I honestly think he’ll get bored once he gets older. You need your friends to make practices fun.

      Adrian could be equally as good if he trained with Bowman. But, he has an incredible sprint-based group at Cal (including Ervin, Shields, Coughlin).

      • Tee Bone says:

        Keep in mind that Adrian came from a distance oriented program as a club swimmer. In fact, lots of our top international sprinters fall in that category.

        • RL says:

          Yes Tee Bone, but we had never heard of him back then. That is not proof that the club distance oriented program made him what he is today. Perhaps they were holding him back. Maybe he would have never reached the elite level with a Greg Troy type program (I know that is not who he swam for). I worry about the kids who physically or psychologically burn out or get overuse injuries from massive yardage. And you can’t change the composition of your muscle fibers. That’s genetic. Someone like Adrian most likely has predominantly fast twitch. Sometimes I think some of us are attached to the romance of the masochism of the sport. I know part of me is proud of the workouts I suffered through. But I actually swam better on a lower yardage/faster program than I did on a higher volume program. (and I was NO sprinter!!!) I would have jumped at the chance to join a USRPT program. So let’s live and let coach!!!

  4. coacherik says:

    What I see: Regardless of whether or not he agrees with training it exclusively, the bottom line is the very accomplished coach that he is (in a more traditional sense) considers it a legitimate style of training. There are a far greater number of coaches out there who can’t even hold Bowman’s clipboard, bashing USRPT without care or consideration. Those who are so bold as to brush it off as a fad or not a means for sustainable success just got served.

    • swimfan says:

      Not sure what you mean by the statement, you just got served. Race pace training is part of every good swim program just as Bob stated. I think his comments hit the nail on the head. This type of training has been around for years as Bob states but it is not a sustainable program for a team with any numbers. It sounds like you are a coach. How does your team fare with this type of training. How many national level swimmers do you have on your team? What kind of facts can you share with us. Are you a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal club? I wonder how many of these top 200 swim teams us USRPT for their training method. My guess is it is pretty much “zero”.

      • coacherik says:

        My point was that those who knock it without giving it time and the attention it deserves just heard from a very successful coach that it is legitimate. Its hard to tell which clubs are doing it 100% and having the success you demand. Considering many clubs have not been doing this for that long, its hard to say. We have been trying to implement this for about 1.5 years within two of our training groups, one of which is able to do it year round. The other has a 14 week HS season in the middle of it.

        We don’t have national level swimmers and we aren’t a bronze/silve/gold medal club. What we do have is some pretty convincing results based on those who have committed themselves to the number of practices we currently max out at year round. Only time will tell where they end up, because many of they are late to the sport and are maturing physically. All I do know is that many of the kids are able to repeat practice to practice much better than they ever were with any other style we have tried. We have little to know issue with injury and once they get through the first 6 months or so, swimming fast like this builds a lot of confidence.

        Could it prove to be difficult to run a 600 swimmer club out of a few 6 or 8 lane pools? Yes. Is it impossible? No. How many teams are that big? The average club size is around 100. Top 200 clubs? I’d like to know too. For something that has really only gained traction in its current form (race pace/traditional mix is not USRPT) since 2010 and more so in the last year is difficult to say. People would have to share that information.

        There are some successful clubs implementing it, ask Coach Garrett MCCaffrey. I encourage you to visit and see which teams are implementing it and the success they are having. I find it interesting that you say and agree that this type of training is not sustainable in larger programs when we haven’t heard from team say they have tried implementing it and failed.

        • swimfan says:

          Ok, looked at the website. I looked at the teams listed by the states. It doesn’t help me realize this is anything new as Bowman states in his video. This type of training has come and gone and quite honestly is getting blown out of proportion because of one swimmer and social media. I looked up coach McCaffrey. It looks like a little success but nothing impressive. The only difference with USRPT is the buzz word and social media is helping bring up discussion about this. Garrett is co-owner of swim swam, which is the avenue for all this discussion. They talk about belief base coaching and evidence base coaching. They talk about things being inefficient and harmful. Well, I have been coaching for nearly 30 years and what “I” believe has worked year in/year out. I don’t need scientific proof, the results over the years are proof and they are fact, not theory. Yes, there have been changes in my coaching style over the years but it has never failed our swimmers(few exceptions) to work hard and incorporate the buzz word USRPT type training when it is needed(the spinach per say as Bob states) to bring speed to a swimmers race. Don’t get me wrong, there are some coaches with junk yardage and they do not know what they are doing. There are probably more of these type coaches than we care to think about. If they chose to follow a program such as this to where they can learn that is more consistent than what they are doing because it is set it up for them, it would be better. How many college programs are going to convert to USRPT training? Maybe Salo is the closest thing. What are we preparing our Age Group swimmers and future college swimmers for if they want to swim in college. Some are going to quit in college because it is to hard. “Wholly crap, I can’t handle this”. As a very successful college sprint coach said a few weeks ago when I asked him about USRPT. You can’t invent anything new. It has all been tried and if you are a coach and not incorporating some of this type of training in your workouts, shame on you. Some of the stuff in this program totally contradicts what colleges are doing and looking at the NCAA championships, they are swimming pretty darn fast right now with current training methods. I suggest you don’t get caught up in the hype and review what successful coaches are doing and start making your own decisions for your program and learn from coaches who are and have been successful for many, many years and continue to get their swimmers even faster yet with proven methods of training, not scientific training.

  5. Sven says:

    Seems to be giving it more consideration than that speech at ASCA back in 2011. I approve of any coach who can stop himself from digging in his heels and stubbornly refusing to acknowledge “new” ideas.

  6. PKSS Grad says:

    USRPT is new in the way the Andrews and Dr. Rushall have packaged it, but the concept has been around for decades. Coach Silvia from Springfield College in the 50’s through 70’s and Coach Megerle at Tufts in the 80’s and 90’s were very into this type of training.

    • Sam Perry says:

      Paul Blair (RIP) at Little Rock Raquet Club did this type of training as well. I swam with him in 1988 but I was a 200 Backstroker wishing there was a 1500 Backstroke sadly, obvioulsy wasn’t a good fit for me. USRPT isn’t a good fit for everyone (not sure Ledecky, Yang, et. al. would benefit from it), but making comments like:

      “Michael Andrew with USRPT: a few medals
      All other Olympians with traditional yardage: hundreds of medals

      I really don’t think USRPT will become standard”

      is somewhat moronic. I know a lot of medalists Olympics on down who have benefitted from this type of training although it may not have been called USRPT. It is very similar and that’s what Bowman referred to. I am simply amazed at the negative comments made on this board day in and day out in regards to this style of training. Let kids develop into fast swimmers with whatever training works best for them. If they begin to fail and don’t make adjustments, then question their training styles. MA continues to amaze me. I watched him swim yesterday in Mesa (I was on deck) and he is the real deal. He’s been competing week in and week out for months now. To step up here in Mesa and swim a 51.56 after little, if any LCM training is astounding. The fact that he just turned 15 last week it’s unbelievable.

      • hooked says:

        Yep! Paul Blair loved it! And we loved Paul. Made swimming fun and taught his kids to train like they compete. Just ask Noel Straus, Tom Genz and John Hargis!

      • samuel huntington says:

        hahahahaha LOL so I’m a moron, that’s really adding to the conversation in this thread.

        All I said was there is no Olympic medalist to my knowledge who has only trained USRPT – fact. so I doubt people will suddenly switch to this philosophy – people are conservative by nature and slow to pick up new things.

        BTW, I didn’t even come close to criticizing MA, I actually said he is going to get medals.

        • swim1 says:

          “Michael Andrew with USRPT: a few medals
          All other Olympians with traditional yardage: hundreds of medals
          I really don’t think USRPT will become standard”

          I wanted to point out the exact point you criticized MA. Right there.

          • samuel huntington says:

            I don’t understand. Even though MA is only 15, I believe in him and think he will succeed at the highest level. And I also believe that USRPT will not become a big thing in training. Two separate points, neither criticizing MA. Hopefully everyone understands what I am saying!

          • Swim2 says:

            Your analogy that one swimmer has fewer medals than every Olympian ever is ridiculous. Because this program is not currently the “standard” means that there shouldn’t be as many swimmers as the rest of the swimming world. And then saying that it will not become the standard because it is not currently the standard is moronic.

    • DIIIer says:

      While they were great coaches I am not sure I agree with these analogies. Silvia was revolutionary, in part because of the coaching tree that he put out, but many of those swimmers attended Springfield because you could essentially major in athletic coaching. And nobody did less with more talent over the years than Megerle, although he was certainly hampered by having a 60 person team in an 8 lane pool. Even more, their success was at the DIII level, which is great (I was a DIII athlete) but is nowhere near the same as DI or olympic level. How many senior national qualifiers did Tufts have over the years? Probably less total than are on the Michigan team this year. It’s just a totally different ballgame.

      Taking it one step further, I belieev Megerle’s teams exhibited exactly what the potential drawbacks to USRPT are — complete inconsistency from year to year, i.e. school record holders one year did not make their New England / NESCAC team the following year, inability to compete in the distance events, and inability to compete on day 3 of the meet.

      Again, if I had 60 kids in an 8 lane pool (it may even be 6 lanes . . . . ) I probably would have trained the same way, but there was a TON of talent on those teams and they never did that much with it.

  7. easyspeed says:

    Thank you coach Bowman! USRPT is a silly fad, will be glad when we move past it. Andrew is a talented swimmer and a nice kid, hopefully he will get proper training at some point in his career. His dad did a good job as a coach getting Michael proficient in all four strokes, just need to work some endurance in there.

    • Braden Keith says:

      easyspeed – you must have watched a different Bowman interview than I did. I heard nothing indicating that Bowman believes that it’s a “silly fad”.

    • Hulk Swim says:

      I can’t tell if you are trolling or not… but if not… you really don’t understand their situation very well. What you are suggesting (training ‘right’ with a ‘real’ coach) is NEVER going to happen.

      From his 200 backstroke at the NASA Showcase meet:

      Prelims: 24.27/26.35/27.03/26.37 = 1:44.02
      Finals: 23.81/25.72/26.82/26.80 = 1:43.15

      His ‘endurance’ is just fine. At one point when he was around 1:44 mid his last 3x50s were scarily even. And then he goes out faster.

      For reference, here are all the NCAA guys who swam the 200 back in 143.0-143.5…

      30 Signorin, Connor SR Florida 1:42.96 1:43.03
      24.42 50.21 (25.79)
      1:16.61 (26.40) 1:43.03 (26.42)

      30 Teduits, Drew JR Wisconsin 1:39.84 1:43.03
      23.70 49.72 (26.02)
      1:16.49 (26.77) 1:43.03 (26.54)

      32 Rhoads, Dustin SR IOWA 1:42.94 1:43.04
      24.01 50.58 (26.57)
      1:16.84 (26.26) 1:43.04 (26.20)

      33 Oslin, Connor FR Alabama 1:42.46 1:43.05
      24.33 50.21 (25.88)
      1:16.39 (26.18) 1:43.05 (26.66)

      34 Hussein, Mohamed SR UMBC 1:43.90 1:43.06
      23.95 50.05 (26.10)
      1:16.64 (26.59) 1:43.06 (26.42)

      35 Blyzinskyj, Jack FR Florida 1:44.37 1:43.10
      24.44 51.27 (26.83)
      1:17.65 (26.38) 1:43.10 (25.45)

      36 Dudzinski, Kyle JR Virginia 1:43.06 1:43.17
      24.36 50.49 (26.13)
      1:16.78 (26.29) 1:43.17 (26.39)

      37 Owen, Robert FR Virginia Tech 1:43.00 1:43.43
      24.52 50.33 (25.81)
      1:16.70 (26.37) 1:43.43 (26.73)

      I sure hope some of those guys transfer to schools that work on their endurance.

      They are literally going to sink or swim with their philosophy. Instead of trying to coach the kid I vicariously through the internet… why not try and accept he’s not going to do thinks your way, and maybe- JUST MAYBE- learn something new, even if it’s a piece of the puzzle like Bowman says here…

      Giving the kid and his dad crap does nothing to help them, and does nothing to help Team USA in the future.

      And despite thinking the contrary before… I now strongly believe his dad is a decent coach… for whatever that’s worth.

      • Mackboron says:

        Your splits actually disprove your point. Looking at the back three 50’s prelims was okay but MA had that 27.0 in there, a 2.8s difference from his 1st 50. Only one of the NCAA swimmers had that big a fade. While his finals swim was faster it was not split as well, relatively speaking, there is a 1.1s difference between his last 3 50s! Just about all the NCAA swimmers are tighter on there back 3. Interestingly the outlier is Florida’s Blyzinsky who came home 1.3s faster then his 2nd 50! Perhaps with a ‘wholistic’ approach MA would be going a 1:41.xx or even a 1:42. Two 26.5s on the back 100 is just what the doctor ordered.

        Or perhaps he just went out too fast…

        • Hulk Swim says:

          He swam a 1:44 with three 26.8s earlier this year… what he does in most of his races is gets it well split and then starts taking it out faster. If you look specifically at his 200 back progression that’s what he does- Learns how to finish then takes it out harder. Learn how to finish that, take it out harder.

          Who’s to say that swimming the last 3 identically is correct?

          1 Murphy, Ryan FR California 1:39.16 1:37.35N 20
          22.76 47.13 (24.37)
          1:11.98 (24.85) 1:37.35 (25.37)

          2 Ress, Eric SR Indiana 1:39.25 1:38.69 17
          23.25 47.66 (24.41)
          1:12.47 (24.81) 1:38.69 (26.22)

          3 Nolan, David JR Stanford 1:39.72 1:39.17 16
          23.42 48.53 (25.11)
          1:13.85 (25.32) 1:39.17 (25.32)

          4 Pebley, Jacob SO California 1:40.42 1:39.59 15
          23.16 48.06 (24.90)
          1:13.55 (25.49) 1:39.59 (26.04)

          5 Bohman, Bryce SR West Virginia 1:40.36 1:39.83 14
          23.38 48.35 (24.97)
          1:13.85 (25.50) 1:39.83 (25.98)

          6 Darmody, Kip JR Texas 1:40.20 1:40.18 13
          23.12 48.62 (25.50)
          1:14.55 (25.93) 1:40.18 (25.63)

          7 Lehane, Sean SO Tennessee 1:39.42 1:40.35 12
          23.37 48.34 (24.97)
          1:14.22 (25.88) 1:40.35 (26.13)

          8 Conger, Jack FR Texas 1:40.27 1:40.73 11
          23.69 48.99 (25.30)
          1:14.94 (25.95) 1:40.73 (25.79)

          FIVE of those A finalists split +1 from the 2nd to 4th 50s… looks to me like it’s a smart and rewarding strategy to be aggressive taking it out.

          Either that, or those 5 guys are in need of a more holistic approach.

          • Mackboron says:

            PERHAPS they are all in need of a more wholistic approach. This data set matches up with what you were saying a little better. I was just pointing out that your data didn’t really match what you were saying. It may be because you were in Hulk mode as opposed to Dr Banner mode.

            That is a pretty electric environment for the A final. I’d suspect some of them to be going out a little fast and going for the gold as opposed to swimming their race. A lot of people are different and may pace races differently. However, Rushall in his papers suggests that a race should be swam pretty evenly if done correctly.
            “Going out “too fast” for too long generates lactate early in a race causing the subsequent pace drop-off to be magnified in the remaining race, usually producing higher-than-usual lactate levels and disappointing performances. The same swimmer, using a saner more even-paced race conduct over the same distance, is likely to produce a lower lactate level and better performance. While the lactate capacity available in a swimming race is finite (Rushall, 2009), it is the careful disposition of that fixed and limited resource that should be considered in a race. Too much expenditure early in a race not only limits that available in the latter part of a race but it also compromises the availability of aerobic energy over the same remaining period15 (Simoes, Campbell, & Kokubun, 1998).” His footnote 15 on the bottom of page 22 in Energy Training in the 21st century is interesting.

          • Sven says:

            Mack- I guess what I don’t understand about your point is the nebulous nature of the term “wholistic.” I get that it refers to the whole spectrum of training, and I’m on board with that, but I don’t see how a more wholistic approach would help him even split? I would think that if you want to even split, you would pick the desired split, and then try to make that happen over and over again in practice. If you try a split that you aren’t fully adapted to in a meet, you’ll fall off. I’m not asking for specific sets or anything, but what aspect of wholistic training would be “what the doctor ordered?”

          • Mackboron says:

            I’m not saying a wholistic approach would or wouldn’t. That’s why I put perhaps in caps. ‘Wholistic’ is pretty vague. I was more commenting on the data set not matching up with Hulk’s point. Could just be he needed to go out just a smidgen (.2) slower. Did you read the footnote? 1st half of it ‘This is an important point. Hypothetically, if a swimmer were to go out in the first lap of a long course 100 m event 0.2 seconds too fast, the fall-off in the second length could be anywhere from 0.6 to 1.0 seconds more than would be expected with correct pacing. A good rule-of-thumb is that the dive-lap should be no more than two seconds, and possibly less, faster than all succeeding even-paced laps.’

            I don’t know what MA needs. I’m not going to pretend that I know. Every athlete is different. It’s nice that he has his dad there to help him get better. As long as this pathway is working for him then he should continue to take advantage. Maybe his genetic make-up is such that he is a high responder to anaerobic stimulus.

            Again, I thought it was funny that the first ‘data set’ in fact disproved the point. ‘Working endurance’ is also a pretty vague statement right from the get go. Not to mention we are talking about endurance in a race that lasts 103 seconds. According to some the oxidative metabolism begins to become the primary energy source around 90s, but that has to vary somewhat depending on the athlete and training.

    • Greg Tucker says:

      You just trolling or you really believe this way?

      Having now seen USRPT through a complete girls HS season and almost a full boys season, I can sent lots of examples how it works.

      Maybe I should just have ignored this message.

    • PsychoDad says:

      USRPT is a spread offense in football. Spread offense worked until people figured it out; now it looks silly and stupid. USRPT works for MA, but cannot work for serious and large programs. As noted, elements of USRPT are used in all major programs, especially in National Group level. They do not call it USRPT, they call it a practice.

      • coacherik says:

        Do you have proof that serious programs cannot have success implementing this style of training? How do you know it won’t work for either a serious or large program? What makes a larger program better anyway? What’s the benefit or prestige in training kids 9 per lane?

        The size of a program and its relevance at the national level does not necessarily means it is more successful. It could mean that it has a larger population to choose from and may have more opportunities to find that kid or those kids to be at that level. Any good coach will tell you, there is luck involved in getting these athletes. Retaining them, along with psychological and physical development of that athlete is the rest. Would Todd Schmitz be less of a good coach if he never landed Missy Franklin in his program? No, he would just be less lucky like most of us, but he’d still be a good coach.

        If you have the space and the numbers to do it, why not try it? What is the worst that could happen? If it doesn’t work, but your swimmers got an appreciate for the intensity of this training and how hard they can really work for a sustained period of time and number of repeats, all the time.

  8. Lane 0 says:

    Thank you Bowman!

    USRPT, not a fad, not necessarily any new.

    Race pace training is good. And so are drills, weightlifting, and Aerobic capacity… And climbing ropes!

  9. Sam Perry says:

    Never called you a moron. Just said your comment was moronic.

  10. The Big Man says:

    Aerobic capacity can (and should) be improved through the full range of speeds of aerobic training, not just race pace. FACT!

    • swim1 says:

      Show me these facts. Tell me exactly what “aerobic base”is – I want to know. What is this mythical “base” you speak of? Please, use science – I need to know. Let’s end this debate with facts!

      • Morty says:

        Aerobic capacity. Not base. Mixed stimuli will create optimal adaptations in aerobic capacity, even when race pace training is not possible/optimal. Tudor Bompas periodisation model is not at all ‘disproved’ or debunked by USRPT.

  11. James says:

    I was looking at the USA swimming all time top 100 lists. It’s interesting how the sprints are now, by in large, dominated by swimmers from the past 5 years. Get into the 200 and further (especially in LCM) and you have a lot more 1980’s and 90’s in the mix.

    Now naturally it’s more likely that a highly physically developed young swimmer will gravitate to sprinting. But where are the epic 400 and 1500 m young swimmers??

  12. ArtVanDeLegh10 says:

    Many people refer to how the top sprinters used to train growing up. I’ve heard stories that Tom Jager got his first National cut in the 1500, someone mentioned that Adrian was a good distance swimmer or something like that growing up, I heard Eddie Reese talk about how Gary Hall Jr split his 200 Free 49/49–meaning he had a great aerobic base. A lot of people refer to the volume these older sprinters did growing up.

    All of these sprinters swam in an era where EVERYONE swam a lot, and a lot of aerobic type swimming. Saying that the volume training these great sprinters did growing up somewhat was a reason for their sprinting success later on in their careers doesn’t make any sense, but that’s what many people say. Instead, I’d ask the question, I wonder how much better they could have been if they DIDN’T train that way growing up? Obviously we will never know, but it’s certainly something to think about.

  13. Keeping it real says:

    I agree with Bowman here. USRPT is good training as “part” of a program….. and it is nothing new… you can find dozens of examples of people that have done this. Randy Reese spoke about the value of 80×25 @ the 1980 World Clinic. I just looked at an old swimming book (Councilman’s Competitive Swimming Manual) and I saw an Australian swimmer from the early 1970’s….Sonya Gray that swam the 100 and 200 Free…. Lot’s of 25’s and 50’s on short rest with multiple repeats…some sets look exactly like USRPT…. Councilman talked of experimenting with this type of training in the 1960’s.

    You people that claim that the “science” doesn’t lie…. you have to read all the science…. not just Dr. Rushall. I actually really like most of what I read with Dr. Rushall but after 25 years of coaching, I just can’t agree with it all. There is something to be said for experience… scientists hate “experience”….anecdotal evidence…..unfortunately….. but coaches have learned “what works”.

    When you read the science, don’t just read Rushall. Read Jan Olbrecht (Science of Winning), Ernie Maglischo, Clive Rushton (Swimformation), Bob Treffene, Tudor Bompa, etc…. and you’ll find “science” that both agrees and disagrees with Dr. Rushall. For instance, check out:

    2 presentations I came across recently from Dr. Maglischo on the Training of Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers.

    1) Video of a conference for rowing (but more about swimming):

    2) A PowerPoint presentation at a South African Swim Coaches Conference:

    and also…. from the Journal of Swimming Research…

    I would like USRPT to be the “magic pill” b/c it would make our job easier and progress for athletes more measurable…. but don’t measure it’s success on 1 talented athlete. Talented athletes respond to a lot of different programs. See how it works on the masses….ie. the average swimmer that just is not that good. Does it help them progress as well?

    As one very, very successful Olympic coach said to me recently….”There is more than 1 way to skin a cat. But one thing is for sure…… there is not just 1 way.”.

    USRPT is a good way to train Fast Twitch muscle fibers (FTx) aerobically…. but you still have to train Slow Twitch and FTa fibers with more traditional methods.

    So what I’m saying is you don’t have to pick sides….. Use the best of USRPT and use the best of Tradtional training.

    • Mackboron says:

      Thanks keeping it real. UFRPT will never be ‘The Way’. All athletes are NOT the same. One of the reasons the American ‘system’ works is because of all the coaches out there doing things differently. One way works for one athlete and another way works for another. Dana Vollmer crumbled working with Gregg Troy and blossomed with Terri McKeever. Isn’t it great that she could go try something different? Isn’t it interesting that Caitlyn Leverentz and Elizabeth Beisel both medaled in the 400 IM? What do you think would happen if we switched their programs? Many athletes will be drawn to what makes them successful. If their body adapts strongly due to aerobic stimulus then they need aerobic work mixed in with some specificity. If they are a high responder in their anaerobic capacity then that is where you can get them to adapt and become faster. As I learn and read more and more (The Talent Gene and The Science of Running are two great books rooted in science) I understand what Bruce Lee meant in suggesting we ‘Use no way as way.’ What is best for this athlete right now? How do I know that? What are my presuppositions?

  14. Justinl says:

    Personally, I think Bob Bowman is right on the money with this. Also, I feel like he brings up a few really good points. I think USRPT-like training is very important, and moving on, I feel more and more coaches will implement more of this approach. However, I do not think it is the single method to coach ALL swimmers. I completely agree with Bob’s thoughts on a more holistic approach to coaching, rather than the rush to say this USRPT is the greatest invention to come to swimming, since the use of goggles.

    I think what many people don’t think about, regarding MA, is the type of races he swims, which are predominately short swims. It has yet to be really seen, that a dominate distance swimmer to really use this method of swimming. Also, MA is a very young swimmer. I think everyone can agree that what MA is doing is phenomenal, however his mental toughness is just beginning to be tested.

    • Sven says:

      “I think what many people don’t think about, regarding MA, is the type of races he swims, which are predominately short swims.”

      I disagree and would actually go so far as to say it’s the most common concern with MA and, by association, USRPT. Hence all the “USRPT is great for sprinters but that’s it” comments. Michael specializes in the shorter events, yes, but those shorter events constitute 10 of the 14 competitive events (50, 100’s, 200’s, and 200 IM).

      Dominant distance swimmer using race pace? Ous Mellouli. Won gold in the open water and bronze (iirc) in the 1500m in London. It may not be USRPT, and Salo’s methods, while scientific, certainly have that “holistic” feeling that Bowman talks about, but it’s a solid example regardless.

      It’s true that almost all elite distance swimmers favor a more high yardage approach, and anecdotal evidence DOES have value, but I also think it would be a mistake to rule out the method based on conventional wisdom, when common sense and modern exercise science say it can work.

      • aswimfan says:

        But race pace training is really different from USRPT. Kieren Perkins also did race pace.
        I just can’t see how USRPT is solely used by distance training.

        • Sven says:

          No, USRPT is race pace training. Yes, there are iterations of RP training that incorporate slower swimming as a supplement, but the heart and soul of the two are the same. So if Kieren Perkins could have the success he did under such a model, why is it inconceivable to you that a more stripped down regimen (USRPT) could yield similar results?

      • Justinl says:

        I agree with your point regarding 10 out of 14 swims consisting of the shorter events. So, maybe something like USRPT or USRPT-like would beneficial as a central training method for top level swimming. Certainly, MA’s splits are very solid. However, I am not totally convinced it is something that should be used in age-group swimming. I have trouble wrapping my mind around how a coach could effectively do this with 20-30 kids. On Indie Swimming’s website, it says they train in a two lane pool, so in MA’s case, his swim group size is probably one or maybe two.

        I recognize your point about using USRPT in a college like setting, where there are multiple coaches and more room for attention. Because, I think with race pace training it is vital to have the time down to the tenth, so if you could, I would like your thoughts on using with a group (20+) of Age-group swimmers.

        • Sven says:

          Right, space is definitely the limiting factor, and I can’t give splits to 20 kids, so you have to get creative and the kids have to shoulder the responsibility of getting their time/doing the math and knowing their intervals. I read your question as being more about the management of the practice than the programming, is that right?

          If you teach the kids how to push off at the correct time, and do a perfect finish before quickly looking to the clock, they can get their times to within .2-.5 of their goal split. This is especially true at pools with large digital pace clocks (which, in my area at least, is most of them). For example, my rule is that, in the shallow end, the feet must be planted on the bottom until they see the 9 (or 4) and that they then quickly swing into position and push off. Done correctly, this results in leaving the wall at the desired time. Let’s say a swimmer whose goal is to hold 14 flat in his 100 fly touches and looks to the clock and sees a 14 immediately turn into a 15. I would say he missed that one. If he looks and sees a whole lot of 14 before it switches to 15, then he made it/was close enough. It’s all pretty subjective and not terribly exact, but you just have to get them to think of it all in terms of seeing a lot, a little, or a moderate amount of the number they’re looking for.

          While you’re totally correct that a huge part of RP training is being as close to your goal paces as possible, the vast majority of age group swimmers don’t need to worry about being .3 off on a split. They need to have a feel for how to swim their race and the conditioning to complete it, so even if one split is off by .5 or so, they’re still improving fast enough in other areas to drop time.

          In college swimming and higher tier age group swimming where gains are harder to make, that .5 potential for improvement is a lot harder to come by and may cost you a championship cut or finals spot. In this case, the individual attention and times to the tenth become much more important, as you mentioned. So my thought is that while a swimmer can’t get his or her own time exactly, he or she can get close enough to get the desired effect, and when it’s time for championship preparation, the coach can take a little more time with each swimmer to worry about exact tenths.

      • NMCoach says:


        You cannot compare Salo to USRPT…Dave sent me a set that he had given to his “Long Sprinters” as he likes to call them…main set was 5500 and had a ton of fast swimming in there. Hardly comparable to USRPT.

  15. RK says:

    This is turning into a pro-life vs. pro-choice argument. One side will accept nothing but their view, and the other is willing to find value in all options but maintains that there should be a choice. If those are the options, I’ll take pro-choice. It is the ability for athletes to choice their training environment that keeps the US at the top of swimming after all.

  16. NMCoach says:

    I keep asking for the program that uses USRPT and produces national level distance swimmers. The responses that I get are along the lines of “…my 13 year old dropped 30 seconds in his 500 this season after implementing USRPT”…

    I want to know which program uses USRPT with their sub 15:00 milers. Please don’t say Salo…totally different program than USRPT…Kieren Perkins averaged around 80K per week…hardly USRPT.

    Does it work for Michael Andrew? ABSOLUTELY
    Is USRPT the only method that is successful? ABSOLUTELY NOT

    • Sven says:

      Re: Salo. How so? Yes, USRPT is on the extreme end of the spectrum, but the core of each is race pace. What is the difference that accounts for Salo’s success and USRPT’s lack?

      Again, while I favor a low volume, high intensity approach, I’d say I’m way closer to Salo than Rushall, I just want to know what you mean when you say they are totally different.

      And while it’s true that most distance programs go high mileage, I think it’s unfair to ask which low volume clubs are pumping out good milers without first figuring out how many are trying in the first place. It’s a question of correlation and causation.

      One more thing: personally, I think you can get an athlete with the same potential out of either approach. ESPECIALLY in distance events. Rushall likes to talk up specificity and taxing the energy systems appropriately, but by his own data, the 1500m freestyle is 91% powered by the aerobic system. If you’re doing some long, slow swimming, it’s probably around a 95% or so aerobic contribution. Pretty specific, if you ask me.

      And if you stick to the guidelines given by Rushall, you’ll be hitting good weekly yardage. Assuming your swimmer trains for distance and mid distance, let’s say one morning you do 20×50 200 pace, 20×75 400 pace, and 30×100 1500 pace. That’s 5,500, not counting warm up, recovery sets, and cool down. Mix it up for the afternoon session with 20×25 100 pace, 20×50 200 pace, and 25×100 800 pace. 4,000 before warmup, recovery, and cooldown. That’s 10,000+ for one day of training (9,500 at pace), assuming your athlete isn’t exclusively focusing on distance events. You won’t hit 80k per week, but it’s quite easy for a distance swimmer to break 60k under this program.

      I think the “Ultra short” part of the program is based more on the distance of repetitions, rather than a blanket statement regarding yardage.

      • Sven says:

        Although it’s important to point out that those are the scheduled yardages. If your swimmer completes all of that at pace, he or she should increase the pace.

        So knock a bit of yardage off to account for the failure that the program demands. I don’t think that changes my point, though.

  17. ken baker says:

    What’s of interest to me – is the “buzz” that USRPT is getting all of a sudden – primarily due to the success of the Andrews Family.

    I know Peter and Michael are committed to this methodology – and why not? It’s provided results! – AND – what people don’t get – is that yeah, maybe one day – when Michael is done growing and starts to see his times plateau – he can add other elements to help him – like weights or resistance training – but in the meantime – why not let him go get all he wants.

    Historically speaking – Michael is erasing the book on the greatest age group swimmer ever – Chas Morton – who set the pace back in the 80’s – when he was a ‘manchild’ amongst the other kids. Not only did he have hair on his body at the age of 10 – if you talk with his coach back then – he had PERFECT FORM – which trying to teach an age grouper today in the traditional club setting is next to impossible.

    MA has a unique advantage in that he’s the only one his father has to coach. It allows for Peter to see technique issues that need to be addressed – and areas where Michael can improve – which is an advantage over other kids who swim in traditional programs and are simply trying to get faster – and not having one set of eyes looking at them at all times, and I’m sure at some point – with the family considering a move to FL – Peter will have an opportunity to set up shop – and attract other kids who will give Michael other resources to race against in the pool.

    Regardless of what you may think about USRPT – Bowman is right – “it’s all good” – and no “traditional” coach wants to come out and say ‘it won’t work’ – because I’m sure a lot of them are starting to look at implementing it into their programs – as much as they can.

  18. Stuart says:

    it is extremely disappointing to observe Mr Bowman’s clear lack of understanding of the training method. Throughout the interview he refers to his beliefs and opinions on how training should be formatted.

    It is very evident that Bowman has not comprehensively researched USRPT, something I find very worrying considering the “elite” coach status he holds – you would like he would have a more extensive answer as to why he believes the USRPT format shouldn’t be the single entity in a swimmers programme.

    Although, swimming is not yet an exact science, there is enough evidence out there for Bowman to look at and discover how USRPT is a very extensive researched method of training- or better yet check his own programmes can stand the same scrutiny! Bowman clearly has the mindset that USRPT is all about conditioning – if he had looked into it he’d see it is a lot more than just swimming 25m repeats!

    A final thought, is a great coach who makes a great swimmer or a great swimmer or makes a great coach?

  19. MKo says:

    That is a tough question: what worked?
    Was it the better sleep, food, training, mood, parenting …. ?

    –> “Victory has a thousend fathers….”

    Poor MA! He will get on the block knowing everybody will comment on his performance
    and even the skill of his father. What a burden. Good luck to him!

    • emg1986 says:

      Don’t all swimmers (or sportspeople for that matter) at elite level go onto the blocks knowing that everybody will comment on their performance? It’s is the nature of sport and nothing new.

  20. BackToBreast says:

    A lot of the negative comments about MA and race pace training in general, are probably from a lot of “Old School Swim Coaches” emphasis on OLD!

    Many would rather have a swimmer fail doing it their way, rather than succeed doing something not on their agenda.

    Their are far to many ego driven coaches around, it is almost an epidemic. Ive seen coaches take talented age group swimmers and drive them directly in Distance freestyle training no matter what they have shown promise in. Their is no ONE SIZE FITS ALL IN SWIMMING.

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About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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