Is anyone else tired of the superficial USRPT comments on swim news sites? The oddest opinions are that USRPT is only useful for sprint distances even though the “P” stands for “pace” and every other sport understands that going all out for 10-20 seconds in practice is called “sprint training” not “race pace training”. No such thing as pacing a sprint. Oh, and the first priority in USRPT is technical proficiency (biomechanics), not conditioning. Anyway…
Let’s talk about manipulating a USRPT set early in the season when we need more technical volume and swim conditioning is low. [here we use “conditioning” as the inflection point where most failures are due to respiratory muscle fatigue instead of peripheral local-muscle fatigue. Generally, it takes 8-12 sessions to build the peripheral energy-delivery architecture past “unconditioned” and 2 months of consistent training (3-4 sessions a week) to consistently produce respiratory muscle failure.]
Using a 200 yard swim at 2:00 as a baseline we program a USRPT set of N x 50 @ :30 target on a :50 interval. A swimmer completes 12 reps to failure. We would like the swimmer to get more stroke reps with less fatigue but we don’t want to slow the pace. Also, USRPT doesn’t like to break up sets due to race-specific energy provisioning. However, we are at the beginning of the cycle without any meets coming up – we can ignore that for a sec.
Theoretically, we can break the set into blocks of 4-6 reps. This is literally interval-ing the intervals. Double interval-ed. 4 reps on a :50 then an extra :20-:30 rest. Respiration is still constant for about 3.5 minutes within the block (which is an important concept in USRPT). A swimmer at 12 reps to failure should get about 5 blocks in for 20 reps. 20 minutes total time.
Again, this only matters if you are heavily focused on a technical feature. Transition to N reps to failure after a few sessions. Maybe program this for the first session when the microcycle focus is on the power and initiation phases as those are the most peripherally demanding. If a swimmer changes a variable and is struggling, ex. lower target and only getting 8-10 reps, this can be an alternative as well. While in a group just have the swimmer skip every 5th rep.