USRPT: How This ‘Unconventional’ Training Works

Jul 30, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Michael Andrew (USA) after the men's 200m individual medley final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

USRPT: How This ‘Unconventional’ Training Works

Every athlete trains differently, and no one training regimen is the same for every athlete. This fact is especially true in the world of swimming. Over the course of the swimming’s history, training has evolved through advancements in technology and approach. Over time, different kicks and breathing patterns have been implemented, along with the introductions of advancements such as flip turns. The sport is continuously moving forward. 

In this current era, many training approaches have similarities. And then there is USRPT, a uniquely different approach to training.  

What is USRPT?

Created by Dr. Brent Rushall, Ultra Short Race Pace training or USRPT as it is often called, is a type of training in which athletes are continuously trying to reach another level and break through an unfamiliar threshold. According to the official Ultra Short Race Pace Training Website: “USRPT refers to the brief and strictly monitored work and rest intervals that swimmers are required to hold.” In USRPT, swimmers hold a certain time corresponding to the event in the set they are going to swim.

An example of an Ultra Short Race Pace Training set, according to USRPT.com, would be a set of 30 x 25s with a target time of 12.5 on a 30 second interval. This set is not designed for the swimmer to complete all 30 repetitions. After the body adjusts to the set (about six repetitions), if the swimmer swims 13.0 seconds on a repetition, it is considered a failure. The athlete then skips the following two 25s and rejoins the set until they fail. (back-to-back failures or three failures total).

What Makes USPRT Different?

In USRPT, everything is based upon personal times, unlike many traditional ways of training. Everything done in USRPT has a science behind it and is ultimately based upon the swimmer.

Ultra Short Race Training is unconventional in many ways. When training USRPT, swimmers have to be honest with themselves unlike in traditional training, where they may be able to back off. USRPT does not allow this. Backing down results in the miss of a repeat, and the goal of USRPT is to go until swimmers have nothing left, and when they back off, they are jeopardizing their training. 

It is easy to fall into the temptation to sit out, but the overarching goal of USRPT is to push swimmers to that next level. It is a level that is not often seen in traditional training. For decades it was thought that the more yardage swimmers put in, the better swimmer they will be. USRPT goes against that thought.

Why USRPT?

USRPT is not a new way of training. It was first written about in the early 1970s by Dr. Rushall, but it has only been popularly utilized by athletes for just over a decade. More, not many people in the swim community believe in this way of training. Many doubt this training for a multitude of reasons, but the biggest reason being the failure to completely and fully understand what USRPT is and how it works.

USRPT may not work for every swimmer, but there is one swimmer competing on the national and world stage that has shown the USRPT philosophy and training program works for them. This swimmer is Michael Andrew. 

Andrew has come under a lot of controversy in the swim community for training USRPT. Even though many criticize his training style, it’s hard to say that it doesn’t work. He represented the United States at the Tokyo Olympics in three individual events, and won a gold medal in the 400 medley relayPeter Andrew, Michael’s coach and dad, said they choose to train USRPT because, “it’s about specificity. To train something unspecific, then except to do something specific in a race, doesn’t make sense.”

What Peter Andrew said is at the core of what USRPT is. In swimming, everything has a purpose, so why not hone in on those specific elements, and train them to almost perfection, so that swimmers can reach their full potential.

Conclusion

USRPT is not the training type for every swimmer, but that same argument applies to traditional training. There is no doubt that USRPT is different from any other type of training being used in the world today. As the sport continues to evolve, who knows how this may continue to change. Soon, more teams might choose to adopt this “unconventional” training style.

Russian Sprinter Vladimir Morozov put it best: “You can just look at (Andrew’s) results and see that USRPT works.”

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

5 comments

  1. avatar
    Hmm

    30.69……

  2. avatar
    “Works”

    Shouldn’t works be the word in quotations there?

  3. avatar
    Isabelle Fraser

    I don’t think it worked for Tokyo. If it had he should of won the 200 IM…He won gold in the relay with a good breast swim, but had three outstanding other people on the relay as well. I am glad he got to win. I think a combination of training techniques is the best way to go.

  4. avatar
    JimL

    It’s like the Black Hole Set I used to have my older swimmers do.

    Interval starts at 1:30, distance starts at 100. Interval decreases by 0:02 each rep. If you miss an interval you drop a 25 and keep going.

  5. avatar
    Aagam

    Andrew peaked at trials. I believe he was doubting he could manage the team if he didn’t peak at trials, so he kinda took the risk. It is hard to peak a second time when the Olympics are so close and Andrew isn’t a kid anymore to recover overnight. Still, his last leg sucks.. if he can break the WR with that last leg I bet everyone would be like.. okay.. now we recognize senpai Andrew

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