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. This means no partial swimming – no 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 Rushall’s notion is that conventional training for swimmers is outdated, and based largely on the physiology of runners.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. American swimmer Michael Andrew is a famous supporter of USRPT. Watch his explanation of his USRPT regimen here >

Typically in age-group, high school, college or masters workouts, you’ll 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. 

Related: How to Taper for a Swim Meet

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!

The Science Behind USRPT

In pure USRPT, if a particular skill (kicking, etc.) is not fundamental to the race, it’s generally excluded in training.

USRPT exerts nonstop, maximal stress on every oxygen-using source of energy in the body. Workouts full of short repeats and rests create a training stimulus that energizes aerobic, slow-twitch muscle fibers beyond the capability of standard aerobic sets; converts a substantial fraction of anaerobic, fast-twitch fibers to the use of oxygen; and binds oxygen to hemoglobin and myoglobin in the blood.

Related: How to Break 1 Minute in the 100 Freestyle

USRPT maximizes not only base aerobic capacity but also “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 training is certainly not new. 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.

Building A USRPT Workout

When creating a USRPT a workout, follow these four steps:

  1. Step 1: Choose a Race to Focus On
  2. Step 2: Determine How Many 25s (or 50s) You Will Swim
  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

Related: How to Drop 1 Second in the 50 Freestyle

What to do if you fail to make a target time During a USRPT set?

If you fail to make your target time, you should sit out one repetition and 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 is your technique?
  • How much time do you have to train?
  • Do you like High Intensity Interval Training?

Following a USRPT Training Plan

If you do want to give it a try, check out the 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. 

  • Workouts: 12 (we suggest swimming 3-4 times per week)
  • 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 wants to improve their 50 or 100 time with a high intensity training program that applies scientific principles of Ultra Short Race Pace Training.

How does it work? 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 race pace performance and a 1:1 work to rest ratio. Fins and paddles are recommended. This Plan can be completed in any stroke. Complete the optional Dryland Workouts after your Swims or on days you don’t go to the pool.

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 commit to a Training Plan that’s right for you!

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

Ready to start your swimming journey? Download the MySwimPro app and get your personalized Training Plan when you sign up for MySwimPro Coach.

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18 Comments

  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. Jan van Rooyen on

    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?

  3. Pingback: Weekend Swim Workout: Ultra Short Race-Pace Training - The Daily Grit

  4. Dante Dettamanti on

    The biggest advantage that I see with USRPT training is that you get great results in much less time. This eliminates most of the boring and useless 4-6 hours a day of longer distance slower than race pace training, not to mention kicking sets, paddles, and all of the other BS stuff that coaches make swimmers do. An extreme example of outdated swim training was the Australian coach who had a swimmer training for the 50 meter sprint, perform a 5000 meter swim in practice. Talk about torture and a complete waste of time.

  5. Anca Boldan on

    Hi! What do you thing about someone doing “sprint-equivalents” from other sports? Is this useful for improving swim speed? To be more specific, I do 2 kickbox and 1-2 swim trainings/week. The kickbox trainings are 1 hour high intensity trainings, much more intense than swimming sessions.

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