A Mini Guide to USRPT

A Mini Guide to USRPT

9 Comments on A Mini Guide to USRPT

There has been a lot of buzz on the internet lately about Ultra-Short Race-Pace Training and I figured it would be helpful to put together a mini introductory guide to USRPT. What follows is by no means the whole picture and if you’d like to get more acquainted with USRPT please refer to Dr. Brent S. Rushall’s Ph.D, R. Psy research or you can check out our Introduction to USRPT Class.

What is USRPT

USRPT, short for Ultra-Short Race-Pace Training, is an evidence-based training program/stroke curriculum developed by Dr. Bent S. Rushall for the sport of swimming. It is very important to note that USRPT is evidence-based and not a theory. While theories are mere speculation, the results of USRPT have been proven to be consistently superior to that of traditional swimming training.


The term Ultra-Short refers to the brief and strictly monitored work and rest intervals that USRPT swimmers are required to hold. Swimmers training with USRPT are never allowed to rest for more than 23 seconds on any set. Training on such short intervals allows the swimmer’s body to maintain a low level of lactate in the blood while keeping a high level of glycogen in the muscles. This key feature gives the following benefits to USRPT swimming:

  1. Neuromuscular patterning – Traditional swimming training depletes glycogen levels and as a result drastically hinders and/or prevents the neural learning needed for quality performances. USRPT remedies this flaw.
  2. Shorter recovery times – With shorter work intervals, the body is able to sufficiently repay accumulated oxygen debt (AOD) and restore the body’s energy systems in a relatively short amount of time.

There are various other benefits to a USRPT format such as deliberate practice sessions, organised practices, and a greater number of quality repetitions, but we’ll take a look at those a little later.

Race-Pace Training

The term Race-pace training is based on the not so recent discovery that the best way to train the body for an activity (especially a complex one) is to replicate that activity as closely as possible. This is known as the principle of specificity. With this principle in mind, USRPT swim coaches design sets with a very specific pace and race in mind which allows the swimmer to develop an innate understanding and feel for specific races and it trains their body’s energy systems accordingly. This neuromuscular training is invaluable.


Example of A USRPT Set


One example of a USRPT set is 50 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 50 repetitions. After the body adjusts to the set (about 5 repetitions) if the swimmer swims 13.0 seconds on a repetition it is considered a failure. They then skip the following two 25s and rejoin the set until they fail the set (2 several consecutive failures or 3 failures total).

USRPT sets like the one above produces a specific training effect in the body and with such a high number of repetitions it familiarizes the body with the pace and technique required for 12.5s splits. A set like this would be designed for a 51s 100m butterfly swimmer.

Implementing USRPT

If there is one thing that people always seem to get wrong it is executing a USRPT set. It’s becoming more common to see articles from authors claiming to train USRPT when all they are really doing is swimming a few laps at race pace with a lot of rest. Hybrid models of training shouldn’t be expected to produce the same benefits as strict USRPT.


Which Swimmers Should Use USRPT?

It is popular belief that USRPT is strictly a method for training elite sprinters. That is a false belief.

Because it’s built on the principle of specificity, USRPT is used to train for 50s as well as for 1500s. Like I cover in my USRPT course, the method of training for a 50 and a 1500 are worlds apart, but definitely possible.


Who Is Currently Using USRPT?

Recently when Swimming Australia recognized clubs for excellence in young age-group swimmers the two clubs that led the nation, Cherrybrook Carlile and Carlile Swimming Club, both train USRPT. This is not the first time these clubs have accomplished such a feat and this is only one example of USRPT benefitting younger swimmers.

One prominent individual using USRPT is Michael Andrew, the youngest American male swimmer ever to turn professional. Michael’s coach/dad, Peter Andrew, has a simple yet powerful advantage over the vast majority of swimming coaches– he stays abreast of the latest relevant research. This knowledge allows Michael to train less than an hour at a time , only focus on dryland training in the summer, never use drills, etc… Coaches would do well to follow their lead in developing evidence-based swimming programs. Click here for more information on Michael Andrew.


Learning More and Connecting


This website is dedicated to bringing you the highest quality USRPT information on the internet and we offer two main ways to get connected

  1. Join our email list. As soon as USRPT bulletins come out I will send them straight to your email

  2. Visit the Forums. Once you venture into evidence-based coaching you can be sure that you will have questions. Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. In the forums are quite a few coaches with loads of experience who are willing to help and learn from each other.


Why You Should Care

Well honestly I don’t know how to convince you to care, but I can tell you why I care. I care because we have a serious problem in the swimming world.

100 years ago there was a lack of relevant swimming research to guide the decisions of coaches and they had to essentially rely on guesses and feelings to make the best decision for their athletes. Fast forward to 2014 and we now have an abundance of evidence on ways to train smarter and swim faster, yet a lot of coaches continue to subject their swimmers to unnecessary guesswork. In situations when helpful evidence is intentionally ignored I begin to question intentions.

It doesn’t matter to me whether or not you are sold on USRPT (although I will try my best to sell you on it). What I am ultimately concerned about is your level of dedication to the progress of the sport. You cannot claim to be future-minded, yet ignore the research and continue doing activities that have been proven useless or potentially harmful.


  1. Dean Wiederstein  - January 4, 2016 - 12:50 pm
    Reply /

    I own the San Antonio Swim Academy and am interested in beginning USRPT training for my USA club.

  2. Bobby  - March 15, 2016 - 11:34 am
    Reply /

    Usrpt is nothing pre than a fad. It’s premise oversimplifies the complex metabolic demands on the body during training and competition. Any physiologist and researched coach knows that training in the same form/fashion everyday will not produce optimal results over time. Usrpt neglects greater demands from the aerobic pathways used in all races over a 50, it does not allow for fermentation fermentation (the release of H+ ions detrimental to muscle contraction) or proper buffering capabilities. The training only touches Vo2 Max on a superficial level, and the suggestion that dryland and strength training somehow hinders performance is nonsense. The ability to produce more contractile force without added density can only help a swimmer.
    Get a sample size greater than one and reference some studies (other than got own) that address the aforementioned concerns.

    • John Halgren  - April 23, 2016 - 2:32 pm
      Reply /

      Try reading the research before you flame USRPT. http://coachsci.sdsu.edu/swim/usrpt/table.htm
      I use it for 5000m rowing and found it remarkably more effective than traditional training. It’s sad that the swimming world keeps its head in the sand while athletes in other sports enjoy what science has brought.
      And to your ‘aerobic pathways’ comment. USRPT is not just ‘sprinting’, which suggests you believe that USRPT is anaerobic. USRPT is highly aerobic.
      I just read an article written by the Dr. who helped train the 1980 US men’s hockey team. He found it ridiculous that an athlete would expect to get ‘faster’ by training ‘slower’. Aerobic base training is a myth.

  3. Cara  - March 29, 2016 - 11:52 pm
    Reply /

    You lost me immediately with your erroneous definition of theory. Scientific theories are concepts that have the highest level of research based evidence to support them. Gravity is a theory. Germ theory. Etc etc etc.

    • John Halgren  - April 23, 2016 - 2:38 pm
      Reply /

      Cara, you’re correct. It is a theory, and it’s tested everyday. Critical thinkers can set aside such trivial things and continue to examine the subject at hand. Don’t just throw your hands up and say ‘well, he got that wrong. The rest isn’t worth my time!’

      The world of swimming deserves more than that.

  4. Larry Smith  - April 12, 2016 - 12:24 pm
    Reply /

    As more and more kids — such as my son — try USRPT, the question becomes, what are they going to do when it s time to go to college? You have a map USRPT around the world, but none of the programs are colleges. Have you attempt to locate schools that use USRPT/race pace e.g. USC

    • John Halgren  - April 23, 2016 - 2:34 pm
      Reply /

      When you and your son speak with a coach, I would assume that you would bring up your son’s previous performances. That would be a great time to ask that coach, ‘are you training to practice, or training to race?’ You can tell the coach that your son trained to race.
      Way too many coaches train swimmers to survive practice.

  5. tattoo  - April 10, 2017 - 3:16 am
    Reply /

    As more and more kids — such as my son — try USRPT, the question becomes, what are they going to do when it s time to go to college? You have a map USRPT around the world, but none of the programs are colleges. Have you attempt to locate schools that use USRPT/race pace e.g. USC.

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