Rest Interval & Results

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    lefthanded swimmer

    My son has been training USRPT for 2 months after 4 years of traditional training. We have doing 3 sets most days. The mix of sets for this time period are roughly (10% 15 yards, 70% 25 yards, 20% 50 yard intervals). We have primarily done 1:1 work/rest ratio. As a result, our repeats are usually pretty low for 25’s (around 16-20) before a 3rd and final fail and for 50’s (5-7). We just did some test sets that weren’t what he was expecting. The more I read, many of you are doing 25’s on the 40 or 50 which means more of a 1:2 ratio. On the test sets the first 25 is faster but the other 3 are a bit slower. Example: Personal Best 100 Fly is 58. Sets are usually done at 14.50 pace. Test set today was 1:01! Do I need more 1:2 sets? We have noticed at our current training, we have trouble doing this every day. I am well read on USRPT but not experienced. My son is a muscular 14 year old with good underwaters, 5’9″ and in the middle of growth sport-late bloomer. Any help appreciated!!!


    an idea. look at his race splits and see if they line up with 100 divided in to 4th’s or 50s pace is 100 divided in half and that equals 100 pace. I know it sounds good. But it’s not that simple and most of the time not even close.

    A very simple way is to use 1st 50 split and divided in 1/2 becomes 25s pace and 2nd 50 becomes 50s pace. Now you have real race numbers and how he actually swims the race and design your training speeds off those numbers. Not some WAG or SWAG.

    Example using the above and a 58 LTB. 1st 50 is roughly 27.51 and 2nd 50 is roughly 30.25. Divide 1st 50 in half 13.75, now 25s speed and the 30.25, becomes 50s speed. This is mimicking the race.

    Set your rest interval to whatever you think is going to allow him to achieve those times.

    Technique and energy are delivered at the velocity it is swum.

    Curious, how do you know that 16-20, 25s made is “pretty low”? Based on?

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    lefthanded swimmer

    Thanks for your reply. Your suggested pace calculations are pretty close to what he is doing. I will admit he goes faster than that pace at times (maybe 4 times per set). I also admit I like seeing him enjoy going faster than the true desired pace! How do you tell a kid to slow down?

    I don’t really know that 16-20 of 25’s is low. I played with USRPT sets with his older brother at times in the past and noted two differences: the brother stayed tighter within the prescribed time range and typically cranked out mid 20’s before 3rd fail. I have no knowledge base to say 16-20 is low other than after 2 months we haven’t seen a real change in time improvement for 100 times which leaves me wondering if our training output should be increased by: 1. sticking closer to the prescribed calculated interval (not blowing past it) 2. doing more sets of 1:2 rest.

    Despite the lack of time improvement there has been an adaptation period of improvement of stroke pace. From doing long (traditional) training, he had a lot of “glide” to his strokes. He really had around a 1.5 second pace for his 100’s pace. Most data shows that good swimmers swim 1.1-1.2 seconds per stroke for 100’s. He now can at least swim at that pace. He just didn’t hold it during the recent test set.


    Don’t increasing conditioning spent more time on technique. I find Dr. Havriluk’s method quite useful. My team (9-12y kids) is regularly swimming 9-12m sets with exact stroke instructions and instant feedback from me. Some stroke flaws vanished within 1 week.


    You don’t need to tell him to slow down. You need to tell him speed up. If he can actually hold faster than the pace time you need to make an adjustment to pace. All swimmers like to have that “cushion” E.g. pace time 14.0, but they constantly go 13.6. I even see it in college swimmers. I have a couple of theories why that is. But that’s for another time.

    Your “wondering” is correct and I would add adjustment to pace also. The 16-20 x 25 is 400 to 500 of 100 pace and that is the rough beginning of loss of power. True, great aerobic capacity. But not so on power. That’s been a problem with USRPT and Parametric System training. Coaches get “focused or locked in” on making high number of repeats and forget or don’t understand that they still have to address the power issue. May times early when I started using the systems I had kids say ” I can hold pace, I just can’t get up and go” and that’s where the long rest intervals come in 1:2 or >> with a set number of reps e.g. 6-8 x 25, or it may have to be 20s a distance they can cover in 8-10 seconds. Power = W/t and ATP-PC energy roughly lasts 6-10 seconds depending on which exercise physiology book you read.

    The “glide” is a “survival stroke” They will make adjustments to their stroke to survive the distance. They create a platform to balance off of to breathe. Fit the breath in the rhythm of the stroke, not the stroke around the breath. Get the platform out and tempo will increase. Just a SWAG

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    lefthanded swimmer

    Thank you guys for your insight! I will also add that for 2 months we have almost exclusively done 25’s and a few 15s. The reason behind this has been to develop tempo (again..coming from survival swimming sets). We have achieved this goal. His tempo now is great for the 25 repeats and I’ll add that at sprint pace he has very good technique for all strokes. He is sound. HOWEVER, we just added back 50 sets and he failed on the 5th or 6th with a 1 minute rest! I just need an experienced coach to tell me “this is expected. Add the 50’s back to the sets you are doing and he will be fine!”. He and I are a little bit in panic mode. He was swimming first 50 pace of a 200. The stroke was fly and the fails look like he had a stroke (pun intended).


    Here’s what I will tell you. I’d stay away from 50s fly for an age grouper as the first thing that fails is stroke technique and now you are practicing a crappy stroke. Stay with the 25s and great technical skill i.e. underwater work, perfect breakouts with “line” moving forward and great surface skill. You’ll both be OK 🙂

    I’ll give you one example of a swimmer I coach that’s a 1/2 flyer. Best times are 46.34 and 1:42.78 (conference record holder).

    50s on 1:00, training pace was 26.66, he did 144 at pace with an average of 7.2 per set (he did it 20 times over 22 weeks) Race split average for 50s 2, 3, & 4 of the 200 was 26.61 with a stdev of .23.

    50s on 2:00, training pace was 24.74, he did 138 at pace with an average of 6.2 per set(he did it 22 times over 22 weeks) I adjusted his pace twice during season, Race splits for 2nd 50 of 100 was 24.51 and his first 50 of 200 fly was 23.89. FASTER IS NEVER A BAD THING 🙂

    Just a side note: This is just one of 48 swimmers we have data on. It can be done.

    Hint: once we have swimmers that can make 12-14 of any set in a row. We adjust pace. The idea of going to 30 or 40, you’ll run them right out of speed. But again great aerobic capacity. Dr. Rushall’s numbers to achieve are a SWAG and nothing more. Neither he nor MA’s dad Peter has posted anything that coaches can use with regards to results of USRPT.

    I’m on my soapbox here and this is NOT directed at you.

    It honestly is not that hard. We as coach just have to pay attention to the numbers and “let them talk to you”. The “weak” link in the process is coaches. I posted this at the beginning of this forum and it’s pretty much held true (having recorded data for over 20+ years) If you do a search on the forum and see how much objective data is posted other than by doc/oldschool. Coaches just won’t do it. We are great at following the “flavor of the month” we go to a clinic and some big name coach posts a couple of workouts, gives us a bunch of anecdotal information (anecdotes are not data) and we’re all in, not stopping to think what the hell was the objective of the workout, where it was in the season and what were the results. Just that it sounded neat. I know I was that coach a long time ago. Couldn’t tell you how to avoid my failures and duplicate my successes if I tried. But it sure was entertaining.

    Again this was NOT directed at you.

    And for those that read this and disagree. Prove me wrong.

    Just don’t going hunting elephant with a BB gun.

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    lefthanded swimmer

    Well the data part is easy as I am an accountant armed with a spreadsheet (I’m not a real coach). We wanted to do USRPT so here I am coaching! 🙂 Just so I understand your data above: Are you saying your above swimmer averaged 6.2 repeats per this 50 fly set? I thought this didn’t comply with the 3 to 5 times race distance per set. Your numbers are more in line with what my son is doing (6 repeats on a 50 but I thought we were woefully below the expected volume).

    Also, you are saying a 12-14 (no fails) made of a 25 set with 1:1 rest/work, you adjust pace? My son wasn’t able to hold the same time he could do on the above set when performing a test set (pushing off the wall).

    These questions are the kind of things I am struggling!

    Your breakout and reply was SUPER helpful! Especially the breakdown of the components.

    Thanks for your help!!!


    The 6.2 is what his average was per set over the course of the season. He did have days that were great he’d make 8 to 10 and then we’d have bad days and make 3 or 4. But on average 6ish. This is something I was tracking during the season just to see what it really was. I have some thoughts. But it could be just another rabbit hole and been down a few of those before.

    What it shows is real data done with a group of swimmers and not one of them was able to go the “double or triple” the distance. Again when they reached the 12-16 in a row we adjusted pace so that prevents that from happening. Oh you can OFFER 30 x 25 on :30. But if you track the number they make you’ll see they aren’t even close. So, if you’re working off “I wrote a 4K or 6k workout” and you track the numbers I believe you’ll see they aren’t even close if you add up what they MADE.

    “but I thought we were woefully below the expected volume”. Whose volume? What some scientist states was a guess (he even admitted that it was in one of the bulletins)?. Again, where is the data to prove or disprove? It’s what he can make. Are you going to force him to do 20 x 50, even if he can’t hold pace? You want slow, you’ll get slow and you’re really right back to traditional type training. YOU HAVE TO LET THEM STOP (addresses neural fatigue and decay of skills) WHEN THEY CAN’T HOLD PACE!, end of set and move on to the next skill session/recovery and then next set. I’ve written about this on the forum before. IT’S MESSY! IT LOOKS LIKE A ZOO! But actually is very structured once the athlete understands what it is they are trying to accomplish. YOU HAVE TO TEACH THE SYSTEM long with recording the data and making adjustments.

    Yes. They make 12-14 of any set in a row “no misses” then pace is adjusted. You also have to take into consideration total numbers with different groups i.e. Mid-Dist., Sprint and Distance kids.

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    Lefthanded swimmer,

    I don’t think there is a magic number of reps that translates to the race time. Although, I think the minimum needed would be about 10 before the first fail on the 25’s. 10-15 reps may or may not translate, but 15 is more likely than 10. Anything 16 or more will almost certainly translate though. Going to 30 is excessive and you may be waiting forever to get there. Cut it off at 20 and move the pace down once he makes 14-16 reps before the first fail. I think the first fail point is more important than the total of all 3. For example I think failing on rep 13,15,17 is better than 10,14,18.

    As far as the rest interval goes, I think it depends on the stroke and the swimmer. I think the ideal rest can vary from swimmer to swimmer. I’ve been doing USRPT for 1.75 years. I have done the strict Rushall intervals on 15 and 20 seconds and I have also done more rest for both 100’s and 200 pace work. I started improving on the 100’s when I adding more rest, especially on the breaststroke. With a 1:1 work rest ratio on breast I just couldn’t generate the power I needed to stay on pace. I wouldn’t even be breathing hard on the fails, I just didn’t have the strength to stay on speed. I got stuck doing around 6-10 reps before the first fail for a while. I switched to a 1:2 rest ratio and improved quickly. At the time, I wasn’t doing any 200 pace work but I was still able to translate my 100 breast practice pace into the meet even though I had a ton of rest.

    Right now, I am doing sets for 100 fr/fl/br and 200 br/fl. For the rest I am doing 100 fr-24.7 fl-20.6 br-36.0, 200- br-21.48 fl-24.0. I took off 5 months from fly to train other events and have only been doing fly sets for a couple of months. I have never done 200 fly sets until these past couple of months. I am still struggling doing 5-8 before the first fail on the 200 sets. I think it is helping my 100 pace sets though. I have been steadily improving on the 100 set. I’ve seen on this forum that someone went to USRPT clinic and Peter Andrew said that after some time off, MA gets back up to his 100 pace faster when he does 200 sets. If you have followed his career, you know that when he is in his top 200 form, his 100’s are also at their best.

    For your son, I would add a little more rest. 14.5 seconds is probably too short for him. Keep the 14.5 pace but do it on 35. He should be able to breeze through that in a week or two. The difference between 15 and 20 seconds rest is big. Once he gets to 14-16 reps before the first fail move the pace down to 14.0 on 35 seconds. If he still struggles with 20 seconds at the beginning than add some more rest. I don’t think the extra rest will hurt his 100 but the lower you can keep it without sacrificing speed the better. I’m not experienced enough to offer an opinion on the rest for 200 fly sets. I did 33-34 seconds rest for 200 free sets for a while and it was brutal. It wore me down and I swam awful towards the end of the week. Switching to 23-25 seconds rest, I was able to go a whole week without wearing down too much. That’s why I went with 24 seconds rest for my 200 fly set.

    Another way to look at the USRPT sets is that you are training yourself to go a certain time at near exhaustion. When doing a set of 20×25’s you are actually training more for the back half of the race. If you break down the splits for the 100’s you will find that your USRPT pace on the first, second, and probably third lap when you adjust for the turn time is actually faster than the time you hold in practice. The fourth lap timed from when the swimmers feet leave the wall to when his hand touches at the finish will be right at or just above his USRPT pace. It’s a big misconception that USRPT swimmers hold a consistent pace throughout the 100. If you break it down, you will find that the last lap of a 100 or the last 50 of a 200 will be pretty much dead on the pace that you hold in practice. I read that the day before MA went 46.95 in the 100 fly he made 20 25’s holding 11.7 and did a 100 breast set holding 13.5 and failed on 13 and 14. If you breakdown the splits on that 46.95 video and time it from when his feet leave the wall to when his hand touches just like it’s timed in a USRPT set, his first 3 laps are faster than 11.7 and his last lap was 11.6-11.8. When he went 54.04 in the 100 breast his third and fourth lap adjusted for turn time were dead on 13.5. When Josh Davis was training 50 frees on a minute holding 25.0’s his last 50 from when his feet left the 150 wall was dead on 25 flat. Another masters swimmer who wrote on his website that he was holding 32 highs on 20 seconds rest for 200 breast was dead on the money for his last 50 and faster on the first 3 50’s. When I was training 17.5’s scm for 100 breast my last 50 was 33.97 in scy. A breast turn takes 1-1.2 seconds. I’m probably on the slower end so 33.97-2.4= 31.57. 31.57/2= 15.785 which would be the average for the last 2 laps. The conversion to meters is 15.785*1.11= 17.52 which is exactly the pace I was training at. So a variety of rest intervals produced the same result.

    Whatever pace you are going right before failure is what you are going to go in a meet. Going to failure is crucial. Doing a certain number a reps on the best average is a terrible idea. I see a lot people say that people aren’t robots you can’t just do the same sets all the time. In a way, people are a little bit like robots when it comes to training. Going race pace to failure is like writing code on a cpu. There is so much evident that the pace you hold near exhausted will be almost exactly what you go in the back half of a race. Like Doc said, it is really not that hard.

    lefthanded swimmer

    Thanks Marlin and Doc. So great to get numbers from you both and real data on what works! Thanks for confirming about the 50’s. 3-5 x race distance just didn’t make sense for those and we thought we were doing something wrong!

    Doc…when we fail, we fail…no junk yardage. I get your point. I’ve painfully watched all the junk yards I can stand from the stands for years! 🙂 Watching my son with 22″ thighs and weighing 30 pounds or more than any lane mate not do a single dolphin in practice to survive (when he dolphins as far as possible in a meet) and the coach wondering if he is giving it his all. (It’s been my observation that the kids that struggle or even quit the high yardage program are more muscular sprinter types).

    We retrenched a bit with times on sets to make sure we weren’t pie in the skying too much. Example: Sunday, he kept time at 14.75 for 25 fly with 30 second rest to begin, modified to 20 seconds rest as he progressed. He cranked out 28. Today, we kept the same time with 20 second rest to begin, modified to 15 seconds as he progressed. Failed 24 and 28. Thursday when he repeats this set, we will keep 14.75 with 15 second rest, if he gets > 14 without fail, I’ll drop the time the following time.

    How often do your kids do test sets? Are they before a regular practice? Being that it is long course season we won’t have many meets to track progress. (We are focusing more on short course and replicating short course racing because of being bigger build and good off the walls and no plans for the Olympics!).

    Thanks again!

    I try to alternate sets since he is still 14.


    You are dialed in! You come at from a different angle. But get the results and that’s really all that matters. Many different ways to skin the cat. Sorry cat lovers 🙁

    Something I find interesting is that lately the posts have just been master swimmers or parents that are coaching their own kids asking questions. Yet in the beginning coaches were all over this forum and now “crickets”.

    Master swimmers are more willing to post what their training pace is and what the rest interval is and have no problem playing with the rest interval in order to GO FASTER! Something coaches might learn from! Most master swimmers can’t devote 2.5 hours to training every day. The serious ones have maybe an hour, hour and half (damn families and life :)) So they need to make their time as productive as possible and the “thinkers” KISS 🙂

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ready to start coaching master swimmers :). I’m just not ready to do “battle” with people that get their training information from some “one shot wonder” that posts on the internet.

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    We don’t do “test sets”. I’m the Director of Performance for a division I college program and am responsible for the performance of 48 swimmers, 24 women and 24 men. I’d spend all week ever week just testing different swimmers. Like my response to Marlin was KISS.

    Having been a club coach for 35 years,the last 23 years as CEO/Head Coach. I get what is happening and understand the frustration.

    Now with a little more information about your son. You might want to consider dropping the maximum number to 10-12 especially the 50s. I have very heavily muscled massed sprinters and I have to adjust max. number for and keep a close watch over. I can tell you that there is NOTHING worse than a slow sprinter. They make your life miserable 🙂 I’ve coached and worked as a consultant for World Record Worlders, World Champions and men ranked in the top 50 in the world and SLOW is not in their vocabulary and any time they went slow in practice and didn’t achieve the objective it was miserable.

    Sorry, I have to go eat dinner. You know the routine “orders from headquarters”

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    lefthanded swimmer

    I wish there was a program that offered anything remotely sprint training here, but there isn’t. I coached my son when he was 6-9 so he could do soccer too. We never did a lot of yardage and it was all technique work, lots of fins with fly (obviously short yardage). Top 5 in state at the time. We then moved to the vaulted club team that was distance oriented. He worked so hard, struggled and had very little to show for it (part of it was being a late bloomer). He did well the first year with the club team but fell off the last 3 years. He wanted a change himself. He is getting to present USRPT as a school project actually so he understands it better than the average swimmer and has actually studied it a good deal himself.

    Doc…thanks for your insight from a collegiate You wouldn’t happen to have a list of colleagues that have low yardage high intensity sprint programs would you? 😉 My hometown team isn’t an option!

    Best regards,

    Athens, GA



    I think the reason why coaches are not posting on here anymore is because not that many coaches are attempting USRPT with their teams compared to the past few years. I do a google search for USRPT every couple of weeks and filter by past week or past month. I have been doing this for a while and I’m seeing less and less stuff pop up. A lot of the stuff that I see is master’s related or generic training articles that briefly mention USRPT. I don’t know if the coaches that adopted USRPT are moving away from it or if they are just not posting anywhere about it. USRPT has to be really hard to implement with a team there are lots of things that can go wrong. Parents frustrated that their kid is sitting out while other kids continue to swim, kids not giving a full effort, continuing the repetitions even though they are off pace because they don’t want to sit out, and failing on purpose because they don’t feel like going 100%. A one on one coach and swimmer is great but with large group it forcing the kids to have self-accountability. That’s asking a lot. Doc, I think you said something on here like making big changes is really difficult because peoples jobs are on the line and it is really risky to change something if it has been working okay in the past.

    Garrett McCaffery just did a pretty good interview on Chris Ritters Podcast the title is USRPT 2.0 but really he does more of the parametric system. He said that they do mostly 25’s and 50’s at race pace and the goal of the training is to get in as many yards at race pace as possible. He said that the biggest mistake that he made as a coach was telling parents about the type of training that they were doing and the philosophy behind it. There was backlash and people left the club because they were moving away from traditional training. Parents were asking questions about lack of endurance training.

    I think a lot of coaches believe that race pace training is the way to go. At the end of the day coaching is a job and job security is important. Implementing a mostly all race pace training program is going to be met with resistance and skepticism if that is not what the swimmers are used to. I think fear of rocking the boat prevents coaches from trying new things.

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