Difference in adaptation to USRPT between men and women

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  • This topic has 11 replies, 5 voices, and was last updated 8 years ago by doc.
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  • #3029

    I am new to the forum, though I have been playing with my own form of USRPT for the past 3 years, while I attempted to change my team over from full OS (5-8k per session) to full USRPT. 3 months a go I finally got to the stage where I could make the full change.
    I have 3 international level swimmers that I have fully converted to USRPT, 2 males and a female. While the males are handling the training very well, though as yet have not quite converted the training pace to in race time, the girl is struggling. She is a breaststroke swimmer primarily, though she is also very much an all rounder, so varying stroke to rest muscle groups is not a problem in training. However she cannot do race pace day after day.
    Currently we are doing 2 days of 400 race distance (so in the day she can do 200 x2 or 4×100 or 200+ 2×100 etc). We have 2 sessions available each day so she can split the 400 up how she feels. After this she has 1 day either off or 200 total. Then 2 days 400 again and then 1 day race prep (usually we will do a timed race set of 6 x50 or 3 x100 etc with a lot of rest between each)
    So a training week looks like this
    Mon, Tue 400 set
    Wed off or 200
    Thu, Fri 400 set
    Sat race simulation
    Sun off
    I am finding that the girl is great Mon morning and smashes out amazing sets. Mon afternoon she can be very good or little tired but times are still awesome. Then Tuesday she is like a sinking brick and cant do anything. On average she needs 2 to 3 days to recover from Monday. I have found no correlation to her monthly cycle in her set results, she just seems unable to perform USRPT more than 2x a week unlike the boys who soak it up. This is a total reversal to how things were with OS or hybrid, where she was an animal lapping up the pain day after day while the boys drowned.
    Sorry about the wall of text, but have any of you found anything similar or do you have any suggestions. I have actually had a long chat by video with Peter and Michael Andrews about this and they both said it is a period of adaptation, which is obvious but any ideas or help you guys have would be appreciated.

    lefthanded swimmer

    My son is pubertal 14 and he can’t do more than 3 days in a row. We also have moved away from straight USRPT every single day. On non-USRPT days we do practices like or similar to what Dave Salo does where we can push the legs or arms to get us more practices volume. We train for mostly 100s with 25 or 50 intervals. We get in about 700 on average of race pace yardage. If you are moving up your targets, you won’t get a lot of days with more than this. On days we do Salo type practices with average 500-700 of race pace work. We had trouble with 50 sets. Hopefully a coach with more experience with females and distance swimmers can answer you. I personally don’t think USRPT should work for distance swimmers but I have nothing to substantiate that opinion.

    My son is bigger build than average. On days, we fail..we fail badly. Doc is one of the few on here to provide data or info. He says his sprinters and muscular swimmers need more rest (paraphrasing). Usually day 3 is off about 20% of the time. He can do doubles as long as he takes day 3 or 4 off.

    Good luck!


    Thanks for your reply. My swimmers are all sprinters, the way I wrote my post may have been slightly misleading. When I say we do 400 race pace I mean in the day we will do 4 sets of 100 RPT (ie ??x25, where ??= 3 times failure, max reps would be 30 if they do not fail 3 times).
    My largest male is 6ft 5 and very muscular as we used to do a lot of gym work and very surprisingly he has maintained the majority of his muscle despite not having done any gym or dry land work, except for core, for just over 3 months now. He struggled a lot with OS and Salo sets but he is thriving on USRPT, he is just having trouble converting his training to the race but it is getting better every race, though he has yet to break his PB. The other boy is smaller in stature and is a 200 flyer, he used to die badly with OS training but since starting USRPT he is a different swimmer and has improved his 200 fly by 5sec, though his 100 fly is still very much in flux, it can be good or it can be a disaster.
    Unfortunately only the girl is struggling, partly it is stroke as we have changed her strokes to fit in with the USRPT and when she is feeling good she is crazy fast operating well below her RP with ease. But then she will feel tired the next day, her strokes will be off and her times more what her RP should be or worse. It is very hard to know what to do with her. Unfortunately this has all cost her a place in Rio so I want to get it sorted for next season as it is the World shorts.
    Maybe I should have said but the boys are 19 and 20 and the girl is just 18.

    Gary P

    Maybe I’m not understanding, but those sets don’t sound like USRPT to me. Seems like you forgot the “Ultra-Short” part. You should be doing some combination of 25’s and 50’s…..at most maybe some 75’s if you’re training in a short course pool for 200M Breast Long Course.

    If I misunderstood and you are doing USRPT as prescribed in Rushall’s bulletins, some of us have found that the short rest intervals he prescribes lead to accumulated fatigue over a number of practices, or are just too aggressive to get sufficient race pace exposure, and are increasing the rest intervals accordingly.


    Ok so I am still not explaining it well but I thought those who read both my posts would grasp what I mean, so I will break my sets down again for you guys.

    When I say 400rp in a day that means it can be split up as follows,

    2x200rp (can both be done in the morning or afternoon in which case only 1 swim session in the day, or it can be 200rp set morning and another 200rp set in the evening).
    1×200, 2×100 ( again this can all be done morning or split however the swimmer feels best on the day)
    4×100 rp set ( again this could potentially all be done in the morning depending how the swimmer feels and their other commitments at university etc. Though for this I prefer they do 2 sets morning and 2 sets afternoon).

    For an example Monday morning is usually 200rp set morning, 2×100 rp set in the afternoon. The 200 and 1 of the 100s are always main and the other 100rp is choice stroke.

    The 200 sets are to a max of 30x50m (in a 25m pool) the 100 sets are to a max of 30x25m. Obviously after 3 failures we stop a set or if there are 2 consecutive failures. Rest periods are 15-18sec for 100rp sets and 20 to 23sec for 200rp sets. The swimmers splits and stroke counts are all recorded and logged daily.

    I hope this explains things better for you all.

    I have been a coach for just over 30yrs the last 10 of which have been with international standard swimmers. I can assure you I have studied pretty much all the science behind USRPT and never go into anything bilndly. The method I am using at the moment has come from my own experience, reviewing of the science and contact and discussion with Peter Andrews following Michael Andrews plateau for the last 6 months and how they came through it to see him finally now achieving his sub 1min 100 breast in the USA Olympic qualifiers currently going on.

    Please I am very interested in every ones finding in regard to USRPT as I need to sort out where my program is going for next season in prep for the world shorts and then the world longs, but dont assume I do not understand USRPT as I can assure you I do and a lot more. I work closely with a sports physiologist (my girlfriend) and performance nutritionist and we are working together to adjust the training to the best possible for my swimmers. This includes not only the full monitoring of physiological adaptation, but also the adjustment of diet to maintain body weight and muscle mass with the reduced distance in training.

    Gary P

    Sorry, I think your reply which detailed your set structures overlapped mine. Now I understand what you meant with your descriptions.

    You seem to be dealing with some pretty high quality athletes. On this forum, be aware that you’re conversing mostly with a handful of self-coached Masters swimmers and age-group and high school team coaches. I fit into the former column.

    Doc’s the one you want to get in contact with. He’s the one here using a USRPT-like system with a large sample size of athletes who may be somewhere close in caliber to the athletes you are coaching, and has also collected a trove of statistical data. I could give you my personal perspective, but my capacity is so far below that of the swimmers you are coaching, it wouldn’t be particularly valuable to you.


    Thanks for the reply Gary. Please don’t knock yourself, I am interested in any findings that coaches using USRPT have had with their swimmers, especially in regard to the title of my post ‘Difference in adaptation to USRPT between men and women’

    It has been my experience in the last 30yrs that it is not just top coaches who have valuable insights and knowledge and to some extent age group, masters and high school/club coaches actually have a larger subject pool to comment on and are less elitist about discussing a topic sensibly. Especially a topic that many top coaches dismiss too readily in favour of OS out dated methods that tend to use the principle of ruin 1000 swimmers in order to find 1 champion.

    Any way I am interested in any comments with regard to any possible differences between male and female swimmers and their adaptation to USRPT, that any of you have noticed. Hopefully Doc may decide to check out the forums as it would obviously be good to get his take on things and for me to hear what he has found on the physiological side of things.

    Gary P

    Skim through here looking for doc’s missives on training to race correlations, and how they tend not to fit neatly with Rushall’s suggested whole-race average for a target time. Say your 200 breaststroker has a best time of 2:28.0. Rushall has you training 50’s at :37.0. What doc seems to have found, and I’m starting to see as well as I accumulate more personal performance data, is that the practice:race correlation for a set of 50’s on ~20 seconds rest is to the average of the back three 50’s of a 200, which, in the case of our hypothetical 2:28 200 breaststroker, is probably something more like a :38.0. If on Monday your swimmer guts out a set at :37.0 (or faster, as you mentioned she sometimes outswims her race pace when she’s feeling good), it’s not entirely surprising to me that she can’t maintain that all week.

    Its hard to coach a swimmer to go slower, but when she’s busting race pace on a USRPT set because she feels good, I’d be inclined to throttle her back. You’re looking for sustainable consistency. When she can hit race pace all week, then advance it incrementally.


    Hello Andy1,
    it has been discussed a lot and I think all here would agree there’s no magic rest time. There’s nothing wrong with 30s or 40s rest if it allows your swimmer to swim more meters in race pace.


    Thanks guys for your replies. I have been reading through the old posts especially Docs as Gary suggested. The variation in rest time while maintaining RP seems to be a very valuable point and one I will be including in my weekly program from now on.

    However out of interest as I asked in the title of my post ‘Difference in adaptation to USRPT between men and women’ Have any of you noticed this at all, or do you find there is no particular difference between the sexes. I am asking not only because of my top girl but also out of my junior elites I am noticing that the boys are adapting to the USRPT sessions faster than the girls.

    I am interested in knowing if any of you have found the same or not, especially those of you who have been working with USRPT over a prolonged period and may have a larger group of mixed sex swimmers from which to base your observations on.


    Hello Andy1,
    I think every person adapts to training stimulus differently. Your female swimmer might require more meters at a slower pace than your target race pace that’s my conclusion from your original post.
    I.e. you might add more Nx50@200 pace if you target 100m etc.


    I’m the Director of Performance for a DI program in the US. I write all workouts for Spr/MD/Dist. We have swimmers that have been 3rd at World Juniors, are their countries national record holders from the 50 to 200, conference record holders, World Champion qualifiers and Olympians. Just so you have an idea of the level of athlete I deal with.

    If you follow the “once they can no longer hold pace they can stop”. I’ve seen no diference between male and female. If you don’t then you will see differences as the males will struggle espicially the heavily muscle massed. You would need to adjust rest accordingly.

    Just a note. I read where you at least to me had an extensive dryland program. We did something last semester using an app called the “tap test”, it test CNS activation. The thought process was “if they test low, then why do heavy lifting or exhaustive type work?” If they tested low they would do a recovery type workout for wts. If they tested high then go for it. The feedback we got from the kids was that they really enjoyed being able to adjust. I will tell you this that the majority tested low because they were exhausted!

    Hope this helps

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