Michael Phelps: Michael Andrew’s Freestyle Leg in 200 IM Shows ‘Training Error’

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Michael Phelps: Michael Andrew’s Freestyle Leg in 200 IM Shows ‘Training Error’

In the semifinals of the men’s 200 IM at the United States Olympic Trials, Michael Andrew was out significantly under world record pace the entire race, including by more than a second at the 150-meter mark. But he ended up falling off the pace badly on the last 50 of freestyle, and he settled for becoming the fifth-fastest performer in history at 1:55.26. Andrew’s 29.96 split was well off the world record split of 27.49 that Ryan Lochte swam on his way to the world record at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai. Andrew will surely need a much-improved freestyle split going toward to the Olympics.

In that 2011 final when Lochte set the world record, he actually lost ground on the last 50 to the man who has won the last four Olympic titles in the event, Michael Phelps. And after watching Andrew compete at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Phelps was able to analyze Andrew’s swimming and identify what happened that caused him to struggle so badly the last 25 meters of the race. Phelps observed that as Andrew got tired, he was no longer catching enough water at the front of his freestyle stroke.

“I just think to swim a good 200, you have to train for the 400. To swim a good 100, you have to train for a 200. So when you see somebody who has an amazing 150 and their stroke—I say ‘fall apart’ in the nicest way possible at the end of the race. I know how it feels,” Phelps said.

“When you’re slipping water like that, I feel like that’s a training error. You’re not giving yourself that chance to have repetitions in training that you’re going to feel the last 25 meters. If he finishes in 28-anything, he’s going to break the world record. His breaststroke was 32.1. Are you (kidding) me?”

Andrew has made no secret about his race-pace exclusive training philosophy, but Phelps thinks that the all-out all-the-time methods mean Andrew has trouble controling his speed and cannot dial it down when he needs to, such as the first 50 meters of the IM. Going out in 23.9, Phelps thinks, is too fast, and he said if he were to try that in a 200 IM, he would fade badly.

Every swimmer has a different physical makeup and different needs in training and technique, but Andrew will certainly need to find ways to improve on the last length to make a complete 200 IM.

“With the year that we’ve all been through, obviously, ups and downs, there’s a lot of different situations,” Phelps said. “But the consistency to be able to finish how you want comes in repetitions in training. If you’re not doing it, in this pool, you’re not going to be able to fake it. You can fake yards all day long. But your weaknesses, you’re going to be exploited every time you jump in this pool.”


  1. Sarah Weyl

    Karen Weyl lolz it’s a funny day when I’m agreeing with Phelps…even though he isn’t my favorite person, I think he is spot on here. When he talks about how you have to train the 400 for a 200, a 200 for a 100 etc that really resonates for me. I was never a huge believer in Michael Andrew’s USRPT training, I’m like feel free to keep that sh$t to yourself. The one thing phelps has going for him is that he did this for SO long, he understands training philosophy

    • avatar
      Tim Morrison

      Might be a training error but not in the way Phelps means: a ton of training completely removed from the speeds he needs on the 2nd 100.
      He needs to
      1. Address the Breast-Free split issue by doing combinations of repeated
      200’s build with Free at projected pace
      150’s Ba-Br-free at projected pace (ie: 28 low free
      100’s hard build Breast-w/free Free @ 28.0
      50’s IM order on 1-.5 Rest ratio @pace.

      • avatar
        Bill Cray

        Right on Tim as usual.

      • avatar

        Spot on! This is what Phelps is likely meaning. MA just needs to truly learn how to swim the 200im- I’m sure he and Peter will go to the drawing board and get him to a 28.5 free leg in the coming year.

        I think one issue is that MA’s breast split is so fast and aggressive that he essentially is saying “I’m going to get so far ahead of you that you can’t run me down!”

    • avatar
      Perry Lindo

      I think it’s always exciting to see proof of alternative training methods. As a pioneer, Andrew and his father will be sure to make tweaks and adjustments for the coming years. I wouldn’t call it sh*t by any means. I also agree that you need to train your distance 2x in practice…Maybe USRPT 400 IMs? Problem solved.

      • avatar
        Joseph Schultz

        A friend of mine a boarding school in 1992 center in Germany they would race their race and then break the race are you 200 race or broken 200s race that’s how they trade back in the 90s. Best of both worlds…

    • avatar
      Joseph Schultz

      He got second in the 50, he’s doing something right! And he won that race btw…

  2. avatar

    Are you kidding me!?!? He killed this race and came out so far ahead of his colleagues. Michael admitted in his post race interview that he needed to make a new plan for the last leg, but for the author to say that he “settled” for 5th in the world during a semi trials swim is ridiculous.

    • avatar
      Michael Metzger

      Absolutely. Michael Andrew completely crushed it precisely because of his training. Criticism is entirely premature and uninformed, as to what USRPT is and how it works. He will figure out the final 50. Time will tell and time is on the side of Michael Andrew.

  3. Richard Nielsen

    When Michael breaks the world record I’d like to hear if Phelps thinks his training is still flawed. After all, fast is fast. Having adopted USRPT myself, I’m now faster than I was 40 years ago. However, as an aging masters swimmer I did modify my training once a week, oddly doing just as Phelps suggest with one longer endurance day.

  4. avatar

    Obviously his opinion is his opinion, but come on, this training is what got him to this point and it will be what gets him over the top.

  5. avatar
    Joyanna Huang

    I understand what MP is saying and I believe that he’s saying it with an honest and kind heart. There is no doubt that Michael Andrew struggles on the last 50 free, but he DEFINITELY improved through every race he swims. He trains hard and DOES put in the work and effort to potentially break the world record. MA has the clearest shot to break the WR record out of all the swimmer this year and I have no doubt he will. I am a huge fan of him and his training methods. Just because some things worked for MP doesn’t mean it’ll work the same for MA. Yes, there are some core aspects that are crucial if you want to be a great swimmer, but every swimmer’s training is different.
    ALSO, to the writer of this article- how dare you harshly say that MA settled for 5 fastest! IT’S THE FIFTH FASTEST EVER IN HISTORY! Michael Andrew will definitely accomplish more in the future, but this should be celebrated and NOT seen as a failure.

  6. avatar

    First the guy is on a year round taper. he has a lot of talent to pull off fast short swims. the fact is he came back in 30 seconds that last leg. which is a joke. anyone can blow their load for a 150 meters and look great. that last 50 told me all I need to know about his training.

    Yes I like writing inflammatory remarks.

  7. avatar
    Anthony Preda

    Does anybody remember when Phelps would let his swimming do the talking?

  8. avatar

    MA has trained this way his entire life, going all the way back to Aberdeen South Dakota. Why change now?

  9. avatar
    Kevin Hill

    Doesn’t he just have to finish first to get a gold medal? He has Time is irrelevant. Don’t expect a world record every time he hits the water, and then if he doesn’t, don’t criticize his training method, which obviously works

  10. avatar
    Tim Morrison

    The efficiency of his training input vs training output is the greatest in the sports history. Revolutionary.
    The final 50 of his IM isn’t a widespread indictment of his training program.
    It doesn’t point to a lack of wasted volume disconnected to that needed 27s needed on the final 50
    Points to an issue WITHIN his program that’s easily corrected.

    USRPT unfortunately doesn’t structure for bona-fide lactate tolerance development which is evident on his final 50.
    Doesn’t take much to set up sets with work rest ratios that stimulate that from now to Tokyo using 100’s 150′ 200’s and demand low 28 final 50 Splits.

  11. Mi Ra

    So sad

  12. Steffen Gauss

    Mr. Phelps is right. Mr. Andrew needed better coaching to slow him down on the initial 25 to muscle through the rest.

  13. avatar
    Sandy Thatcher

    Being a month away from my 78th birthday, envy those swimmers who can finish a 400 IM, which used to be my best event when I was competing in my early 30s. Even the 200 IM is a huge challenge now. I stick to the 100 IM now. For me Phelps’s advice is not going to make a difference. Perhaps Michael will discover this himself if he continues to swim into his twilight years.

  14. avatar

    None of these comments aged well.

  15. avatar
    Bob Hopkins

    MA obviously has to change his training so that he does not die in the last 50 of a 200; why he did not do that earlier in his career is a mystery to me; slowing down on the first three legs of the 200 IM would help his last 50 but more distance training would appear to be in order for sure