Are you curious what this swimming term USRPT means? Is it the future of performance training? Let’s find out!

USRPT stands for “Ultra Short Race Pace Training”. This essentially means that in training, you only swim at your goal race pace – or faster, in practice. This means no partial swimming – meaning drills, kicking, or any of that technique-focused work. If you don’t do in a race, you don’t do it in training. You’re only allowed to swim at race pace.

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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. Easier said than done, and this is actually the opposite of how 99% of people train today!

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 Rushall’s notion is that conventional training for swimmers is outdated, and based largely on the physiology of runners.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.

Typically in age-group, high school, college, or masters workouts, you’ll often spend most of your time swimming a lot slower than race pace. The goal is not necessarily to be race ready all the time, but to build an aerobic foundation. Then if and when you decide to go to a competition, you’ll taper down, reduce your overall swimming volume and let your body recover to swim fast. 

Typically, most people often swim 30-50% slower than their ideal race pace. For example, in a race I can swim 50 meters in 25 seconds. That would be my race pace! 

However my average speed for swimming freestyle in all my workouts is anywhere from 33 to 38 seconds per 50 meters. That’s about 40% slower than my race pace. 

So Ultra Short Race Pace Training challenges this traditional training methodology of swimming slow all the time in the hopes of building a big foundation and peaking at certain points in the season. Instead with USRPT, the goal is to swim fast all the time. Because if you want to swim fast, you have to train fast!

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:

  1. Step 1: Choose a Race
  2. Step 2: Determine How Many 25s (or 50s)
  3. Step 3: Identify A Goal Time
  4. 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)

See Full Example Workout

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 you 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.

Is USRPT right for you?

It should be noted that USRPT is targeted for intermediate to advanced swimmers focused on performance. It relies heavily on a strong stroke technique and high endurance.

You can do USRPT for any stroke, or IM training. This training concept can also be applied for longer events with a little variation, like the 400 Freestyle or 400 IM.

  • What are your goals?
  • How strong are you technically?
  • How much time do you have to train?
  • Do you like High Intensity Interval Training?

If you do not think it’s for you, that’s totally ok. If you do want to give it a try, checkout the MySwimPro app, we have a dedicated USRPT training plan that is designed to walk you through an Ultra Short Race Pace Training progression for the 50 or 100 distance of any stroke. 


Following a USRPT Training Plan

We created a 4-Week Training Plan dedicated to USRPT. Here is how it works:

  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • Workouts: 12
  • Average Workout: 1,300 meters = 30 minutes
  • Goal: Best time in 50/100 (any stroke)

Who’s it for? This plan is designed for a swimmer who is looking to improve their 50 or 100 time by following a high intensity training program that applies scientific principles of Ultra Short Race Pace Training.

How does it work? Complete 3 workouts per week for 4 weeks. Each workout session will last about 30 minutes. This program will push your body to achieve race pace performance in every workout. USRPT is designed to teach your body how to swim fast with perfect technique repeated over short distances.

The goal of most sets will be to achieve a 1:1 Work-to-Rest ratio. This workout plan can be performed in any stroke style with the end goal of decreasing time in a 50 or 100 distance race. Equipment (fins and paddles) are recommended for the third workout of each week.

This plan is available only in the MySwimPro App. Download the App for on iPhone and Android to subscribe to a training plan that’s right for you!

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.

We hope you enjoyed learning more about USRPT! Tell us what you think about this interesting new training technique in the comments.

See you next time! Happy Swimming 🙂

11 thoughts on “What is USRPT?

  1. You used a 1 minute example, which is very convenient. Let’s say you wanted to do a 100 free in 1:08.. you would be on a 17-second cycle, which would make the math more difficult. What would you do? Write down the time before hand? Like 17, 34, 51, 08… and have them written down at each end of the pool? I am just trying to figure a practical way to do this with a whole team practicing that has different times…

  2. I believe there is place for this type of training.
    Especially after a really good base phase.
    I do belive if you have a swimmer that swims 800m or 1500m.
    Even 400m
    Then they still have to swim the distance?

    I think both ‘types’ of training used in phases. Will give the best results?

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