The inclusion of USRPT swim sets in the average swimmer's training program has become increasingly popular since Dr. Rushall's extensive papers on the topic were published in 2011. Even outside of the pool, high intensity interval training (HIIT) seems to be used everywhere from Crossfit and weight training to running and more. Dr. Rushall's papers take a strong stance when comparing USRPT to traditional training, and although we feel there are benefits to both styles of training, there is certainly a substantial amount of supporting research behind the USRPT methodology. Without question USRPT generates tangible results and should be considered by any swimmers and coaches looking to simulate the racing environment on a regular basis during training.
What is USRPT?
USRPT stands for "Ultra Short Race Pace Training" and includes high intensity swimming in sets that match the best achieved velocities of individuals' races. The overall goal is to simulate racing situations in training to better prepare an athlete's body for race day. Typical USRPT sets range from 10 to 30 repetitions of distances ranging from 25 to 100 yards or meters, all performed at race pace. Race pace is defined by your fastest time for a particular event. After each repetition, you'll want to take no more than 20 to 25 seconds rest before starting the next repetition.
The format of your USRPT set will depend on the event you are training for. To train for 100y/m events, you'll want to focus on repeat 25s -- for 200y/m events focus on repeat 50s -- and for 400y/m events or longer, focus on repeat 100s.
In example, let's say you want to focus on improving your 200 yard freestyle and your current best time is 2:00. First, we'll want to establish your target time per 50 by breaking down your best time of 2:00 into the pace per 50. Since there are 4 x 50's in a 200, we'll divide your 2:00 by 4 -- giving us a target time of :30 per 50. Your goal for each 50 repeat is to swim it in 30 seconds or less. Now to get your interval, just add :15 to :20 seconds to your target time.
USRPT set: 20 x 50 Free (:30) @ :50
While the goal is to complete all repetitions at the target time, most swimmers will fail to hit their target time before the end of the set. If you fail before the set is over, this is actually a good thing and an intended result. USRPT sets are designed to push your body to the limit so that 1) your body knows where the limit is and 2) your body can adapt to the increased pressure you are subjecting it to and push that limit higher (i.e. swimming faster!).
What to do if you fail to make an target time
During a USRPT set, if you fail to make your target time, you should sit out one repetition then 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 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.
Here are a few workouts for you to try:
How to create USRPT swim workouts with VSC
Since all VSC workouts are based on a swimmers base pace, you'll need to make an adjustment to that pace for 25s, 50s, and 100s in order to get the appropriate amount of rest. We'll be simplifying this process in the future, but for now use these values to give the correct rest for your sets regardless of your or your swimmer's base pace.
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Use these in the Base ∆ field to set your intervals for USRPT sets:
25s: +45 to 50
50s: +5 to 15
100s: -5 to 0