USRPT (Ultra Short Race Pace Training) makes so much sense! Ive yet to hear a valid argument against the concept although I get it that for some coaches and athletes it is too far a cry away from what they are used to doing and what they believe works. I even know coaches who admit that all of their evidential musings around traditional training are purely anecdotal - but they have seen enough top swimmers and world class coaches yield results that this a sufficient evidence to justify their philosophies. Im totally cool with that - but for me, as a swimmer who always struggled to engage with the endless repetitions (300s pull; 400s reducing; T20s etc) and as a coach who has always looked for different methodologies in eliciting training responses (ultra short work; pool circuits; tabata protocols; race pace repeats etc) and achieving success with these models, USRPT is I believe a great way of getting in the pool, getting the job done... and going home!! See our Bang for your Buck Training blog for more thoughts on that...
As with any type of training though it takes time to build the necessary physical qualities to get the most out of it. In sport we spend our full career developing qualities to allow us to 'earn the right' to progress on the next regime, the next stepped level of development - USRPT is no different to this. Except that unless you are a young age grouper commencing on your first bout of higher intensity training, the chances are that no amount of 'slogging' up and down will prepare you to be able to perform USRPT effectively. According to Dr Brent Rushall, the founder and creator of USRPT, simply not being fit enough is a major element of individuals lack of ability to move forward with this type of training.
So in order to attempt the sets, we need to prepare for the sets. Here's a stepped guide to building your ability to perform a USRPT regime that can complement or even replace some of your current methods of training.
Stage 1: Building the qualities!
The first set we are going to plan is:
20x50@60 fs (a nice round number working off 20-30 seconds rest, increase or decrease this if your targets are faster/slower than the example below - for novice age groupers its sometimes a good idea to not worry too much about rest time initially as they will have a lot of other stuff such as reading the clock on their plate).
This is not therefore strictly a USRPT set (as it tweaks the rest allowance), but it's about building up to it at this stage - learning to swim with consistent pace, learning to spot the clock and immediately read your time, to drop underwater 1 second before your start time to ensure you push off on the dot and also to become familiar with the fail-rest-repeat process.
Next we need a target time - If an athlete has a 200m personal best or season target use this, divide it by 4, then add 3!
eg: target time/P.B = 2:00. Divide by 4 = 30 seconds, add 3 = 33 seconds!
Now get to the pool, warm up, then try the set! Each repetition should be swum in 33 seconds (allowing 27 seconds rest - ample!)
The aim is that if you cannot hold 33 seconds for a rep, you miss the next one out to gain a bit more recovery (but still count the missed one within the 20 repetitions). Eg. if number 12 is a failed rep, number 13 is missed and you resume the set on number 14.
3 fails or 2 in a row! Throughout the 20 reps, if you fail 3 repetitions i.e. numbers 8, 14 and 17 then you stop the set. We accept that there will be no benefit from pushing any further as theres a good chance your brain is pretty blown! In the same manner if you fail a repetition, miss one out, then fail the first rep back in, again you are done and the set is stopped (again with novice age groupers you may initially enforce larger rests so the 3 fail rule becomes a further developmental process once the concept of the set is achieved at a manageable pace).
Progress/regress/maintain as needed: at this stage the set should be manageable, there may be one or two fails in there, maybe 3, but the aim is to achieve most of the 50s, in particular the first 12 in a row is a good sign that you are competent swimming at that pace.
Regress: If all fails are up before 12 then the pace is too fast. Cool off, add another second to your time and try again tomorrow (always aim to leave 24 hours between same sets).
Progress: if all 20 are swum fairly comfortably, take 1 second off!
Maintain: If fails occur - ones that don't require the increase of the target i.e. reaching 15+ in total after all fails, keep going with the set. Each exposure aim to hit just 1 more repetition than the last time you did it.
Consolidate and move on: As mentioned above, 12 repetitions in a row is a good marker. Aim for this and once you hit it, aim to hit it on two more separate exposures. On these subsequent 2 you may find that you improve even further (which is great) but it will also ensure that sufficient motor learning has taken place for your new skill endurance level to be embedded and ready to be moved on! At this point, drop your target to +2!
Smaller progressions: as you improve your sets it may be necessary to increment by ~0.5s as a full second may be too much of a jump. Timing yourself to be 'under 32', rather than 31 is a good method here.
Goal: to achieve most of 20x50 (12 in a row minimum on 3 successive exposures) hitting your actual goal time of 30 seconds. Then were ready for building the 100 qualities, before moving to stage 2!
The set will take 20 minutes, with a small warm up and maybe a couple of lengths paddle at the end to cool off you will done in 30 mins! The perfect lunch break set before grabbing some choccy milk and back to work! Or its even a great way to start your normal age groupers session before getting back to more skills, working turns or underwater kicking!!
Aim for 3 sets per week to really advance (1 session to maintain, 2 to progress, 3 to advance!)
Comment below, let us know how you find it - or if you have any specific requests or need some tips let us know! Perhaps you want a specify programme built for your needs or those of your club? Take a look at our membership page, drop us an email or sign up to our newsletter to find out more!