USRPT stands for “Ultra Short Race Pace Training”. The premise for this training methodology is that race-specific high intensity swimming will yield the optimal performance results and fastest times in competition. The overall goal is to simulate a racing situation in a workout to better prepare an athlete’s body for the actual race.
USRPT has become increasingly popular because of Dr. Rushall’s publications and promotion after 2011. Dr. Rushall’s notion is that conventional training for swimmers is outdated, and based largely on the physiology of runners. Under this thought process, the energy demands of swimmers differ greatly from runners and other cyclic sports.
Building A USRPT Workout:
Ultra Short Race Pace Training is based on the concept of performing at race pace to mimic a real race. To employ this theory on a workout, the first step is deciding what race the workout will focus on. Below is a simple 4-step process in constructing a USRPT set:
- Step 1: Choose a Race
- Step 2: Determine How Many 25s (or 50s)
- Step 3: Identify A Goal Time
- Step 4: Calculate Rest Time (Interval)
For example, let’s say your focus race is the 100m Freestyle. If your goal time is to go 1:00 in competition, you’ll need to average 15 seconds per 25. That’s your goal time. The number of 25s you’ll try to hit that goal time on will vary, but anywhere from 16 to 30 will work. The interval should be calculated on a 1:1 work:rest ratio. Because the goal time is 15 seconds per 25, there should also be 15 seconds of rest per 25; therefore the ideal interval will be the :30. The resulting set is below:
16 x 25s Freestyle @ :30 (Goal Time: :15/25)
What to do if you fail to make an target time During a USRPT set?
If you fail to make your target time, you should sit out one repetition then jump back in on the next interval. If you fail a second time, the set is over and you should start your recovery swim. If don’t fail and complete the entire set hitting your target time on all repetitions, then the set was too easy – next time decrease your target time and/or decrease the amount of rest between repetitions.
The Science Behind USRPT
The two anaerobic systems, the alactacid (ATP-CP) and lactacid operate far behind their usual 10 and 25 second respective limits because; 1) creatine phosphate (CP) is replenished in the intensely working arm and shoulder muscles as they relax between propulsive efforts, and 2) lactate from the arms is cleared in the less intensely working, larger muscles of the legs. The effect is to keep lactate levels low. USRPT is designed to exploit this unique physiology that swimming has.
This is based on the principle of specificity in swimming-studies demonstrating that the energetics and technical skills of a particular race are specific to the velocity of the race. In pure USRPT, if a particular skill (kicking, etc.) is not fundamental to the race, it’s generally excluded.
USRPT exerts nonstop, maximal stress on every oxygen-using source of energy. Its format of short repeats and rests creates a training stimulus that 1) energizes aerobic, slow-twitch muscle fibers beyond the capability of standard aerobic sets; 2) converts a substantial fraction of anaerobic, fast-twitch fibers to the use of oxygen; and 3) binds oxygen to hemoglobin and myoglobin.
The overall training effect is to maximize not only base aerobic capacity but also the subsuming “oxidative capacity.” The result is greater speed endurance ― the ability to bring home a race before acid build-up takes its toll.
The concept of high intensity race specific is certainly not new, but has been popularized by swimming superstars including Michael Andrew. At the end of the day, if you want to swim fast, you need to train fast. Whether that’s applying USRPT, or more traditional speed sets into your workouts; the decision is up to you.