Roadblocks to Adoption

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    I am switching my college program from a TT program to (mostly) USPRT training this season. After reading the USRPT Swimming Science Bulletin papers I was smitten and went in search of why this junk can’t work. I like playing devil’s advocate with nice shiny new ideas to sort out where the holes are. I read all the comments in the Becca Mann posts on SwimSwam. I’ve read everything in this forum.

    I have not seen any compelling criticism (with one exception noted below). I think it’s interesting how the criticism is taking shape and deconstructing it is kinda fun, but that’s another topic.

    I have two criticisms. First, the one I share with several others: No strength training is too far off the reservation. I find the science for all the pool-based stuff compelling so I’m not being consistent as I reject the science related to strength training. I’m willing to believe I’m wrong, but I also believe my team will gather pitchforks and torches if I try to eliminate strength training. Let’s set this aside and avoid inciting riots for now.

    My second criticism begins with Rushall’s tone in his writing which is a little – just a tad – abrasive. I don’t need to have my head stroked and the path to understanding/adopting USRPT strewn with rose petals. It’s not like that. It’s the assertion that TT doesn’t produce results. The constant assertion. The ceaseless drumbeat of “traditional training methods can’t do blah blah blah”. This forces a reader – and especially the skeptical reader – to eventually ask: Ok smarty pants, if I am to accept what you’re saying then why do we see results with traditional training at all?

    Perhaps it’s a matter of degree: USPRT methods are optimal and TT is not. I feel like that’s what is meant, but it’s framed as a binary thing: Slow-swimming has zero effect on race swimming. There are infrequent references in Rushall’s papers to gains in TT programs being coincidental. Even if I accept that the science bears out these statements how can one explain what really really really looks like non-random gains being made by TT programs?

    Examine the implications: Does this mean that all the gains in a TT program are due to whatever small percentage of training is race-pace (or otherwise USPRPT in nature)? If 25% of my TT program was USPRT-relevant could I have cut our 2 hour pool practices down to 30 mins and seen the same results? If I did zero USPRT-relevant work in training would all gains be due to racing at meets before championships?

    This is all kinda abstract. And long. Thanks for sticking around. To be clear: I have bought in. My season this year will look more like USRPT than not by a large margin. I am very excited to see what happens. My practical concern right now is adoption and education. It’s tricky to present the underpinning principles of USRPT to college swimmers and toss in, “well this dude also says 90% of our training last season had literally zero effect on our Championship times.” I’m struggling with how to present a radical departure in how we train, set it all on the foundation of the science and get the swimmers to buy in without undermining the good stuff with the crazier (or less nuanced) stuff.

    I’d appreciate any reaction or thoughts you forum-folk might have. Thanks!


    Good for you for going with USRPT! I have been doing USRPT almost a year with excellent results. I am not a coach.

    I am a 65 year old Masters swimmer who has been swimming Masters for 35 years. In March I broke the 65-69 400free (4:54.45 SCM) World Record, then broke it again in May. I recently tied my best 100 free (LCM) time (1:03.01) of ten years ago.

    At an age when I am supposed to be getting slower, I am getting faster!

    I have also been in contact with Dr. Rushall many times. I understand what you are saying about how he might come across to you, however, he believes in USRPT. I can also say that now when I watch the Masters team workout as well as the age group workout, I just cringe! The mindless repeats and utter silliness of what they do totally baffles me. I just don’t see the point of it anymore.

    So what I am saying is, once you are TOTALLY convinced that this is the right path, you will see that the TT stuff just doesn’t add up.

    That said, there are certainly many ways to train swimmers. Many of them work very well. There have been and will continue to be Olympic Champions trained in traditional ways. But the question becomes, of those who do TT, how many would be even better if they had trained with USRPT?

    Glenn Gruber


    Coach Matt,

    As a club coach for over 35 years and 130+ athletes that swam or are swimming in college. We use the Parametric System and USRPT. The problem of changing over I don’t think will be that hard on selling the idea. I have had over the years numerous college swimmers come for Christmas break and train, also during the summer months that were not previously my club swimmers and to a swimmer they find the workouts challenging and most of all race relevant. Every set has a purpose and a reason for being done.

    With regards to the strength training it reads as not that you don’t believe the science; it has to do more with explaining why you no longer lift and fighting that battle in combination with a change over in training. I get the dilemma. It’s a “catch 22” as it may impact the results from your USRPT sets and then are you getting a fair assessment of the training due to the fact you have this supplemental work out there i.e. lifting/dryland. I think as long as you keep that in mind you’ll be OK and can fight that battle later. I remember when we stopped lifting/dryland that commotion lasted about a month then it was over. For us in the real world it’s not an easy call.

    In regards to TT vs. race pace type training I’ve attached a chart showing in the 90s to 2000, our rates of improvement in the TT approach. We went 9-11 workouts per week, did the 55K to 60k on average, lifted, ran and dryland. The whole enchilada! You can see they improved but man where they tired, sore, sick and just downright nasty a good portion of the time. But again it did work. But at what cost? Since moving to more race pace specific systems you can see the improvement rates increased with the greater increases when we dropped all supplemental work .i.e. lifting, dryland, running etc.

    I had a college coach ask me “what was the biggest difference I’ve seen between the two approaches?” My response was when I was doing the TT I really had no clue as to how they were going to perform. I thought I knew but not really. Now having used the more race-specific approaches and having data I can with a high degree of certainty know who is going to swim well and also who is going to struggle.

    Just some thoughts.

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    "Only in America. Dream in red, white and blue"


    @oldscoolc: I can’t download the attachment 🙁


    Coach Kevin,
    I hate this site for attachements. If you give me an email address I send the file to you.

    "Only in America. Dream in red, white and blue"


    Glen: Thanks for the reply. Congrats on your performances. That is some awesome stuff. Do the other swimmers/coaches there while you train ever ask you about what you’re doing? If I saw some dude in his 60s crushing 25 over and over I’d be a crappy coach if I didn’t stroll over and see what’s up.

    Oldschoolc: Couldn’t see the file either…I know the forum hates attachments, but give it a shot without the ‘%’ in the filename. I think that mucking with the URL for the file. But no matter: I’m happy to take you at your word. I’m sold on all the important principles, really. To the point that if I don’t see legit results I’ll look at how I’m implementing things first, second and third before I conclude the USRPT style isn’t for real. Too much of the underlying science is rock-solid.

    With the strength training it’s a little bit about not believing the science. Which is a difficult bit of mental acrobatics on my part because science is pretty sweet stuff. I take Rushall at his word with the dryland: he’s putting primacy on the requirement to train at race pace. If it’s in the way of operating at race-pace: get rid of it. Ok, I understand that. How about all the undersized swimmers or those with a 6 foot plus frame who don’t naturally weigh in at 200+ pounds? At the fastest meets we all see that size matters. It’s not everything, to be sure, but all else being equal everyone picks the 6’4” 230 pound greek god in lane 4, right? If you have a fast 5’10” breaststroker do you want the 150 pound version or the 175 pound version?

    So for an undersized swimmer (or one who is still “filling out”) is there legit justification to hit the weight room? Is this something that should only be done in the off-season? It seems there must be room for nuance with respect to the dryland/strength training. Perhaps it hasn’t been fleshed out yet and I’m just being impatient.


    We’ll try this.
    When we were lifting/dryland early 90s. I had Dr. Tudor Bompa one of the foremost authorities on periodization and weight training in the world helping me and he would even say that he wasn’t at all sure that wt trng helped with swimming. He would compare us to weight lifters and wrestlers being that in those sports you want to be as strong as you can get without moving up to the next weight class. The dilemma then became how do I create a bigger engine without changing the size of the boat? We went to max strength protocols very high % of 1RM and low reps, then low wt high reps and both just shot the crap out of their CNS and they swam slow in practice. We did get stronger and swam fast. But at what cost?

    I get college guys all the time training with me and all they talk about is gettting bigger. This past year had a kid come in and trained that couldn’t complete a workout without throwing up and couldn’t hold pace if his life depended on it, 3 years ago he was one of the top high school 50 freestylers in the country, went off to college, GOT BIG and swam like crap. Two top schools in 3 years and never went faster.

    I showed him a picture of a greyhound and a bulldog and asked him which one did he want to be? Short story got him to quit lifting, he dropped 13 pounds, started swimming fast in practice and at one meet mid season went best times in the 50 and 100 3 times and made his US Open cuts. I guess he wanted to be the greyhound.

    I’d take the fast 150 🙂

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    "Only in America. Dream in red, white and blue"


    Good stuff oldschoolc. Several things come to mind.

    “Arizona Swimming Gauchos” is a superb team name. Well done.

    The link to the PDF worked. Awesome. Can you provide some insight into what’s behind the data? How many swimmers? Did you filter your athletes to remove those who are obviously invalid or poor data points? For example those who were hurt, sick, missed significant/critical training or trained completely improperly.

    I hear you on getting the CNS torched and compromising water work. As far as I can tell that is Rushall’s point as well and I agree that sort of thing will happen. I do not see how this fact demands a yes/no decision about dryland (which I interchange equally with the term “strength training”). Rather I ask how much quality water work is acceptable to sacrifice for a given gain in strength? Or turning it around and accepting no dryland how do we address the implication that strength is not a major asset in swimming?

    I’ve seen things similar to your sprinter a couple of times and, yes, there certainly is some level of mass gain that goes too far, but these are extremes. All other things being equal 6’4” 200 beats 6’4” 160, right? Now 6’4” 280 is probably much closer to Not Good. It boils down to extremes at either end that no coach would advocate as desirable and the range of what’s “best” is somewhere in between. Which implies that for a given swimmer too close to the extremes we should be shifting them toward a better range.

    Come at this from what we see in the sport. Consider all the 6’4” Olympic/elite males out there. How many are under 200 pounds (~91 kilos for our non-US friends)? Would you believe even 25%? At the championship level – club, HS, college, national, world – do we see enough larger/stronger swimmers performing “better” to believe there is probably a lot of causation behind the correlation? We all have seen outliers who buck the trend, but nobody is arguing that size/strength are not, generally, a good thing, right?

    In the end I’m looking for a more nuanced and/or more compelling framework for the prohibition against dryland in USRPT. This facet of the program is, in my experience, dismissed out of hand almost immediately by those who are learning about Dr. Rushall’s program. Right or wrong it points to the need for something different and/or more nuanced than: Don’t do it.



    No filtering. We take the good with the bad.

    On average there are 6 to 14 per event, does vary by year (right now I’m loaded with girl 100/200 Breaststrokers and boy 100/200 Freestylers, just the cycle?) they have to swim that event at least 4 times in a season. Minimum number of swimmers in an event is 4; have to have at least that to be included in the data. I don’t included events that have an “N” of only one or two as it’s not really valid like 400IM or mile. It would make the stats look better with improvement rates of 15% or better with an “N” of one. That’s why I posted no data on 400IMs/miles.

    The total number would be 110ish. Figure a group turns over on average every 5 years with 22-24 in the group.

    The reason I started tracking it was when we stopped lifting I want to see if it had any impact on performance and as you can see no real impact, actually better rates of improvement. My question would be “where’s the advantage to lifting?”

    The 6’4” 200 beating the 6’4” 160 is a little simplistic saying the 40 lbs somehow makes him faster. I’ve watched the evolution of size from 1988 and yes guys are taller, a lot taller. To put a percentage on how many race under 200 is probably out there just accessing their race weight would be hard. I know Cesar Cielo races at under 200 lbs and was under 200 when he set the WR. Just last year he tried racing at 205 thinking that he need to be bigger and couldn’t get it going, dropped back to under 200 and is swimming well. Roland Schoeman also races under 200. (Personal communication with their coaches)

    They are the pinnacle of the performance pyramid “cream rises to the top” with genetics, technical skill, ability to generate power in the water and a boat load of fast twitch muscle fiber. They train powerfully in the water i.e. explosive underwater work, 12.5s, 25s and 50s which is going to create a degree of muscle hypertrophy regardless whether they lift or not.

    The issue of strength training in swimming has been well researched and the majority of the conclusions are that it’s not a determining factor for increasing speed. In a side note there has been research into strength and running i.e.sleds, wt. vests and the like and they found not much of a correlation to increasing running speed. My take away from the research was been if you want to run/swim faster, then run/swim faster.

    just thoughts,

    "Only in America. Dream in red, white and blue"

    Greg Tucker


    You know anything about the study that showed a correlation between power rack and speed? Our HC quotes it. We use it. Rushall scoffed when we brought it up at his seminar.

    Greg Tucker


    There is some work from H.M.Toussaint & K. Vervoorn and a system they developed (MAD) that did have some promise. It’s built along the lines of a power rack. But not the same. I can’t find the original study (I have it just can’t seem to locate it).

    Kinda funny because the first attached abstract came from Rushall’s website.

    The second attached review is from Dr. Mullen and doesn’t’ specifically talk about use of power racks. But what he does discuss can be said for them and also for anything that you tie to a swimmer.

    With that said. I’m not total againist them (the old ones with plate weights because you can determine 1RM) The ones you fill with water are just about useless as all I’ve seen is coaches/swimmers fill them with an unknow amount of water and swim. Maybe it would be better to say HOW they are used is useless. If you know anything about development of power (F x D /T) then you know that opening the testosterone valve and pulling the thing to the other of the pool ain’t it. It is weight training and needs to be controlled and from what I’ve seen with programs is the lack of perimeters using it and lack of gathered data. i.e. wt. used, timed, distance traveled at race tempos and cycles. Cyles are critical, just as in wt. training shorten the length and you will actually lose power development. So if they shorten the stroke to achieve the max amount of weight. Then you may not be working on what you think. (Just about every study states the loss of d/S)

    Years ago we used them VERY time consuming gathering data on 4 to 5 kids that may truly need them 3 times a week and with one coach it becomes a nightmare. I may still have the data but it could take awhile to find it.

    my 2 cents

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    "Only in America. Dream in red, white and blue"


    Thanks for the reply oldschoolc and the breakdown on your numbers. It’s interesting stuff.

    With the filtering I didn’t mean “bad” as in get rid of results for those who didn’t swim well. I meant cases where the swimmer’s results – fast, slow, anything – would not be viable for use in judging the efficacy of the training: a non-data-point. If a swimmer missed 40% of the practices there is nothing that could be legitimately concluded about the training program from those results. Same with an injured swimmer. Or someone with a nasty flu 1 week out from champs. You know your swimmers: do you think your numbers would take a significant jump if the non-data-point results were removed?

    Regarding the 200 vs 160 pound swimmer. First: 200 is arbitrarily larger than 160. Make it 190 if that fits better. I personally think even 15 pounds would equate to a distinct increase in speed, however, this is a thought experiment and I wanted to present a difference large enough to create a conclusion without being absurd. To wit: all else being equal it is patently obvious the 200 pounder is faster than the 160 pounder, therefore, size matters. I don’t see this as a contentious statement.

    I think I am using “size” and “strength training” too interchangeably. I’d agree that strength training is not determinant, but size absolutely is. Genetics largely control size and coaches can’t control genetics (I can’t at any rate) thus I’m looking at how size can/should be best controlled. When considering a swimmer with genetics that wrap things up at the smaller end the spectrum (whether it’s short, scrawny or both) do we conclude there is no rationale for them to improve their size? That doesn’t make sense, so, how does one effectively address size if strength training –nominally the most effective way to build size – has no effect?

    Understand that I *still* take the science at face value and do not doubt what you’ve documented in your program. Science has a solid track record for, say, a few hundred years so I’ll buy in and I’m sure you’re seeing what you’re seeing in your program. I’m trying to reconcile that science with what is patently obvious in the thought experiment and what is easily observed in champs meets across a wide range of levels (i.e. size matters). It doesn’t fit together, therefore, there are pieces missing to the narrative that “strength training doesn’t help.”

    This goes directly back to the notion of adoption. There is not enough information or nuance to explain away strength training. Everything about the in-water portion of USRPT flows intuitively and its implications hang together well despite the large departure from what we’re all used to. The gaps in the strength training narrative change the nature of how the in-water portion is viewed. Skepticism and doubt flood in. Adoption becomes more difficult.

    I’ve seen this repeatedly when presenting USRPT ideals to both swimmers and other coaches. I’m aware of how difficult change of this magnitude is. Anyone who’s read Rushall’s papers knows just how acutely aware he is given the repeated directive to “let go of what we think we know.” That’s all well and good, but people are only capable of those mental gymnastics to a point. From what I’ve seen the dryland/strength training end of it is a leap too far. If the dryland part of the narrative can be fleshed out to bridge the gap then the bar for adoption will be significantly easier to clear.

    Thanks for your thoughts and replies.



    I did a breakdown of attendance and numbers made on a post in the ‘Results” section. I think the date was sometime in late July. There is a significant difference in percent improvement when you factor out those outliers.

    I agree that taller is better “longer boats are faster” just not sure “bigger is better” We’ll just agree to disagree

    You are right there is going to be a huge shift in the paradigm for the dryland/strength issue. It’s probably the biggest hurdle to overcome especially in selling it to your kids because they come from so many different club programs and regardless of what the research may say they swam fast or fast enough to get recruited. I was lucky. They were remodeling our weight room and so we couldn’t lift for about a month and we just didn’t go back.

    I enjoy the conversations. Makes me think.

    "Only in America. Dream in red, white and blue"


    Thanks old school. I’m enjoying this too. Wouldn’t be nearly as confident going into this season with this scale of change to the program without the experiences from this forum. Looking forward to posting data in the next few weeks!


    Enjoyed reading all the posts!

    A couple things:

    Anthony Ervin–6’3″ 170lbs
    Vlad Morozov–5’11” 160lbs
    Nikita Lobintsev–6’4″ 180lbs
    Danila Izotov–6’4″ 180lbs
    Tom Jager–6’3″ 180lbs
    Matt Biondi–6’7″ 209lbs (20 less than Grevers)
    Popov–6’6″ 192lbs

    Those are from a quick google search. I think the heavier they are the better their kick must be–and Russians (who rely on more science and less of a talent pool) tend to stay light.

    TT vs USRPT–

    All great coaches/programs work on technique, and they do speed work at some point to practice or rehearse this speed. Some catch on, some don’t. USRPT perhaps provides the other 2/3 of swimmers the added exposure they need to train the technique. At the same time, Dr. Rushall has recommended athletes train above and below their desired race distances. After reading some excerpts from Swim Coach Bible Vol II where Bob Bowman shares some of his speed work for butterfly…I start to see some of the parallels. Basically, he likes to fatigue them x amount aerobically and then asks for an anaerobic technically sound burst and repeats it several times. Keep in mind Michael Phelps (and Lochte) have lead on that they have horrible diets in order to fuel the training. Maybe their coaches–like so many–are also trying to fight the effects of poor nutrition by adding cardio.

    USRPT & Weights–

    I see it all the time. The college kid goes home, doesn’t want to swim garbage yardage with younger, more ambitious age-groupers, so he just lifts all summer on a carb-rich swimmer diet and gets fat-strong. When he returns to school, you ask him what position he is going out for on the football team. You suggest he stretch some, which he forgot to include in his plan.

    I’d do my homework before installing a 1-ton motor onto my cigarette boat. I’d also be very cautious of how I distributed any extra weight on my boat.

    Possible advantages to weights–
    Neuro-muscular awareness–applicable to technique awareness/modification
    Vertical leap–applicable to starts and turns
    Healthy joints–stability can help prevent overuse injuries.

    Possible costs–
    No valid data indicating where the athlete is in his season
    Use your best guess as to what paces should be in relation to season goal times
    Individual differences/needs may not be accounted for–some will benefit some may suffer
    Headaches of blending USRPT/WEIGHT philosophies

    I'm proud of what we've done, but I know 5, 10, 20 years from now I'll wonder what we'd done had we done it 'right'

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