Macro planning/periodization

Home Forums General USRPT Topics Macro planning/periodization

Viewing 14 posts - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
  • Author
  • #2708

    Hi all,

    I’ve been doing USRPT since march/april 2014 with swimmers ranging from 13 to 18. After a year now, I have some issues and questions I’d like feedback on.

    The big one is: How do you(!) do periodization/macro planning in USRPT? And can you do it at all?

    There are basically 3 variables you can play with: volume, target time and rest.
    As I understand Rushall, you don’t vary them at all for the sake of periodization. It just happens more organically:
    – volume: increases as the swimmer adapts to a training impulse
    – target time: lowers when you swim a PR or make the set a few times
    – rest: pretty much fixed (15s – 20s)

    I have trouble with understanding whether there is a need for periodization or not. E.g., you don’t plan “more intense/overload weeks”, since that wouldn’t match pure USRPT.

    In his DVD’s and papers Rushall mentions the overload and supercompensation cycle. But as I understand it, he doesn’t doctor practices as such to artifically introduce load and supercompensation (as opposed to traditional training).

    So, basically what I experience as a coach is that I feel less in control of what happens as with “traditional training” where I got to decide when we would train hard and when we would have more recovery.

    I’ll sketch the way we’ve been doing it the past year, please do comment/criticize this!

    We have 6 sessions/week of 2 hours. We mainly focus on 50, 100, 200 and 400m events. So, say a USRPT set lasts 15m and recovery also 15m, this gives me 4 “blocks” per session. Usually, I set up a practice as 1 block skills + 3 blocks USRPT sets. The exception is a set for 400m. Since that is usually 30 to 40×50, which takes longer (~1,5 to 2 blocks).

    Step 1:
    The first step is usually selecting which events to train for and spreading events over these blocks. I.e., set up a base microcycle that we will repeat for a few weeks. Since we have younger swimmers and for the sake of variety we usually train 50, 100, 200 for all strokes + 400 free. In the attached Excel-file you can find one of our microcycles.

    For what concerns planning: we usually start out training for all strokes/events. But before big competitions (say 4 to 6 weeks in advance), we cut out some events (that a swimmer won’t compete in) and increase the number of sets for a target event. Usually we drop the number of total sets/week in this period. The goal is to have more specialization, but at the same time less work so quality increases.
    For example: say we did 15 sets/week on all 100m for all strokes. In this period, for a flyer, we might cut out all 100m’s breaststroke but add in 1 exta set of 100 fly. So we go from 15 sets to 13 per week, but also from 3 sets 100 fly to 4 sets fly per week.

    Step 2:
    Second, derived from Rushall’s examples in bulletin 47 ( our goal would be to first build volume. And after volume has increased enough, we lower the target times. We’ve been trying to achieve this in 2 different ways:

    From the start of training period, a set is e.g. 20×25 for 100 free and the set remains the same for a number of weeks. Volume should increase automtically since a swimmer might make only 8 at the start, but reach 20 after 8 weeks of adaptation.

    We control max volume of the set. We start with max 8×25 for weeks 1-2, then go to max 12×25 for weeks 3-4, then to max 16×25 for weeks 5-6 and allow to go to 20×25 for weeks 7-8.

    We tried the second approach more as a mental aid. Not because we thought this would make them physically better. On the mental side: starting with a lower number of max reps means less failed reps. (If you only make 6 of 20×25, that feels worse than making 6 of 8).

    I do know that Rushall mentions “incrementally adjusting performance criteria in a set to stimulate improvement”. The big question is how do you plan this, and do/can you plan this at all? Rushall mentions to only spend 2 to 3 weeks repeating the same set. However, what is a “different set”? If a swimmer has been completing 20×25 free making 15s and I tell him to go 20×25 trying to make 14.5s, to the swimmer the set remains the same. There is a difference in perceived variation for the swimmer vs variation at conditioning level.

    Step 3: peaking
    For meets I’ve been trying several variations: 2 weeks of unloading, 1 week of unloading. One mistake I feel I’ve made is adding slow swimming when the sets decreasing in length (adding too much recovery). Say we end up the last week doing sets of 5×25 for 100m events. And we do 3 of those in a practice. I’ve been tempted to fill up the remaining time with recovery swimming (slow swimming) to fill practice time. I feel I shouldn’t do that, yet just make practices shorter. Another mistake I’ve made is adding too much skills. E.g. adding a set of 16 turns at race pace. This is basically adding another set, I noticed it wore swimmers out more than I thought.

    Our season ends with nationals in July. After that we have a break until september (which I find too long btw). I’ll take that time to evaluate the season and make adjustments for next season and would appreciate any suggestions or remarks from you guys. How do you plan/integrate periodization? Can you share example Excel sheets? … I’ve attached the Excel-file we use to plan, it contains examples of macro and micro cycles.

    Looking forward your answers!

    I was very much interested in the parametric system/3S. I regret that it’s so closed. I find it hard to read up on things.


    Note on the attachment:

    Upload Errors:
    planning.xlsx: File exceeds allowed file size.

    So here it is externally linked:


    There is mentioned anywhere in the USRPT documents the priorities for swimmers.

    1. Technique
    2. Mental skills
    3. Conditioning

    All your concerns with planning and periodization circle around the least important part. If 16×25 intervals are enough for conditioning then the question should be what can I do to improve technique and mental skills.


    @dmuecke: I’m not sure I follow, I’m aware of the order of priorities. But, my questions concern conditioning specifically.


    According to Rushall 10 weeks conditioning are required to reach final VO2max the rest of conditioning does only hold the state.
    Another aspect is the stimulus swimmers get from workouts. Is the stimulus high enough swimmers adapt and get better next time (super compensation).
    If you stop swimming before physical exhaustion swimmers time to recover is very fast and they should be able to compete at any time.


    I understand that part, but that doesn’t answer my questions. What I miss is guidelines/suggestions on how to plan sets and progression throughout a a season. Instead of the rough examples in bulletin 47.

    For example, he mentions only repeating the same set 2-3 weeks. After that you either keep distance constant and make the pace faster. Or you keep the pace but increase distance. Planning defines when to vary a certain variable or when NOT to vary a certain variable.

    E.g. I’d like to see what Michael Andrew does throughout a season. I imagine he doesn’t do the same microcycle over and over again. He probably focuses on certain strokes/distances/paces depending on the period of the season. How do they plan that?


    I’d be interested in seeing MA’s seasonal plan as well and what he did for the 100 breast in particular. Rushall says that eventually you have to improve technique to get faster and that looks like what happened. His distance per stroke improved tremendously. In his 1:01.67 in January he took like 4 or 5 less strokes than he did the previous summer on the first 50 and still took it out around the same speed but it allowed him to come home so much faster. He took even fewer strokes last weekend -15/19 which is crazy low. I wonder how he improved his dps within the USRPT set. Did he have a stroke limit in the set, for example if he didn’t make the interval in 7 strokes then it’s a fail? If that were the case, and in reality he could have made the interval in 8 strokes, is that really going to exhaustion or neural fatigue? Whatever he did worked because his breaststroke is looking fantastic right now.

    Btw, a lot of people hate on his technique but I tried it the other day and I think it’s a good stroke for when exhaustion is setting in. I did it at the end of 100 breast USRPT set the other day. Sometimes I know I am going to fail based on the rep before. Whenever I’m reaching failure and the next rep is a slim chance whether I make it or not and really have to dig deep to make it and I make it, I always fail on the next rep. This happened to me approaching the third fail and I knew it was my last lap so I tried my best to imitate MA’s breast just to see what it felt like and I almost made the interval. It was closer than usual when in that circumstance.


    That’s a very interesting take @marlin. I never thought of using stroke count as a criterion for failure in a set. I knew it should be monitored, but just never approached it in that way. That’s also a good habit to develop for the end of the race to maintain quality.

    ? P2Life - Performance Nutrition


    Interesting question, your controlled example is Parametric System Strategy I with “speed constant, distance increasing”.

    Your question regarding periodization within the USRPT/Parametric Systems is also interesting. If you are coming from a more traditional approach say Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky’s “Programming and Organization of Training” or Dr. Tudor Bompa’s “Theory and Methodology of Training” You will struggle big time. I know I was there. It’s a totally different paradigm and one that takes constant attention to.

    In the Parametric System (PS) development of the energy systems really happens in unison with each set (there are defined sets in the PS) and as you move through they will roughly progress together over the course of the season. We call “it climbing the mountain”. There is no singular emphasis on early season aerobic phase followed by anaerobic threshold, then Vo2 and on and on.

    If you understand energy systems (I know bad words for the USRPT purists) both systems utilize endurance through speed. If you think about it low numbers with high speed to start, whether you control them or they are uncontrolled, as the athlete makes adaptation defined by increasing numbers made it becomes more endurance e.g. 4-6 x 25 (hurts like a 100) at the start of the season but is not the same as 20 x 25 later on (hurts like a 500). I hope that makes sense.

    I think you are right with the mental approach in it’s a lot easier to face in a controlled approach of 8 x distance then may be 12 x distance then constantly seeing 20 x distance. We’ve done it both ways and the input from the kids is they like stating out with small numbers and build throughout season. “Climbing the mountain”

    Thoughts on your “note” “incrementally adjusting performance criteria in a set to stimulate improvement” “The big question is how do you plan this, and do/can you plan this at all? Any and all adjustments we make are based off the athlete’s improvement in numbers when they can achieve “maxing out” twice in a row. e.g. 12 for 12 then may be later in the week 12 for 12 again. We will either adjust speed/pace or increase numbers never both at the same time. This gets REAL messy if you have say 20 plus kids in a group all adapting at different rates and at different times in the season. I guess short answer is no 

    Thoughts on peaking/unloading question. We use 3-4 days much like Salo, time to drop the bottom out then drop the bottom out. Day 1 a 25% reduction in set volumes or number of sets, Day 2 another 25% Day 3 is an extended meet warm-up and Day 4 is meet warm-up. There is nothing you can do in those 4 days that going to change the outcome of their performances. Years ago Ernie Maglischo told me “when in doubt error on the side of REST.
    Just another idea and does work well for an in-season meet that you would like to swim fast at without too much disruption to the cycle.

    Parametric System, I’m afraid that boat has sailed unless you want to pay 3S. Over 17 plus years ago it was the “flavor of the month” and the guys doing it had very good results even with a little knowledge of how the whole system worked. But you have to be diligent in your record keeping and I’m afraid to say that for the majority of swim coaches that’s not a strong skill and most went on to something else. I know of only two coaches that still use the PS (not thru 3S)and they mainly stick to teaching it to their staffs and may be do an occasional clinic.

    Soapbox here. I see the same thing happening with USRPT. Sounds great “let the kids’ record numbers and time themselves” and all you have to do is stand back and watch technique. RRRRRight. I think there is a post just recently that talked about the kids started out recording numbers and it’s become hit and miss. My question is how do coaches make adjustments if they have no data? Just because you wrote down 20 x’s something doesn’t mean that’s what they made.

    Just thoughts.

    ? All that is not shared... is lost.


    Like your spreadsheets.Well thought out.

    ? All that is not shared... is lost.


    Hi doc, thanks for the informative reply!
    Also related to this topic is some of the content in Rushall’s response to Beliaev in the most recent issue of “Swimming Technique”:


    Thanks for the article!

    After having read both articles from Beliaev and Rushall I’ve come to the conclusion that neither knows what the other is really talking about. My guess, neither wants to.

    One is selling a program so they can make money and one I think their ego has eaten their brain. Always has to be right and sends that signal anytime I’ve heard him speak.

    Here comes the rant.

    If one truly understood the Parametric System they would know that they never mention periodization and then would know it’s far from “traditional training”. Yes, they use energy system terminology and who cares! If it helps coaches’ better understand or visualize that something is occurring then so be it. Because something is occurring 6 x 50 on 50 holding 30 sec. and 40 x 50 on 50 holding 30 sec. are not the same thing whether you call it shift in energy systems or whatever, again who cares!.

    If one knew about what they were speaking they would know that technique is also a huge part of the system. In fact they have used the metrics of d/S and tempo in set construction along with pace. So is the mental aspect and fatigue is also addressed with some pretty damn interesting computer software.

    The attitude of it took USRPT to enlighten everyone about the importance of technique and the mental approach because never before in swimming did anyone think of that before USRPT. Really interesting.

    I’ll ask some questions: where did the number of repeats recommended in USRPT come from? What are they based off of? I have my guess. How does USRPT address the issue of development of power? It is also a concern in the Parametric System if you’re not paying attention.

    The use of references to backup “claims” of what it does. When the Parametric System was being developed in the USSR at that time it was considered a state secret. They didn’t have independent research where it belonged to the team that worked to develop it. It belonged to the state. One doesn’t just go around publishing those things and expect to not piss off the higher ups which had very serious consequences. When it first came to the US, I want to say late 80s to early 90s it caused all kinds on commotion within the sports community in Russia and believe it or not still does. Funny thing about those Russians, they appear to hold a grudge for a very long time.

    In the article Rushall uses 17 references 8 of which are his? Does make you think.

    USRPT is well researched, down and dirty with minimal effort or any detailed understanding to implement it. Nothing wrong with that what so ever. It has gotten more coaches to think about what it is they are doing and that’s a positive, every time.

    If each would just stop and think about it I think that there are more similarities than differences.

    Looked at the European Championships and seen what the Russian are doing?

    Doc aka oldschool

    ? All that is not shared... is lost.



    So I’ll try to tackle your periodization question. I personally use USRPT during the winter. I use a derivative during the summer for water polo for my own training and the college club I coach. I also use a derivative for weight lifting. I use USRPT exactly as described for running (1 and 2 mile race times).

    I’ve noticed that a block of time (maybe 2 weeks?) before a race event should lock in the pace and capacity and slowly reduce the rest leading into the event to get closer to the constant work of the race. This is critical for my running. However, with running and lifting I can reduce intervals by 1 second at a time with my timer app. In the pool I use a watch and with a group this would be difficult. But, I also use “replay” sets that add 5 seconds to the session. ex: New interval of @25seconds going into a meet (miss/failure on 12 and 16) go for the next miss using a 35sec interval.

    Second, if I hit a plateau one week by not improving a set within a session I know that I haven’t recovered enough so I add an extra day of rest. The nice thing about USRPT is that recovery identifiers are built in. If I don’t improve a set (especially if I do worse) I know that my daily recovery was not enough. This might be an instance where the group is working a new target for 2 weeks and starting to struggle and you just program a day off for individuals or the group. The periodization is a bit fluid and organic and hard to plan on a calendar. Identifying that is why us coaches make the big bucks.




    Awesome info. If possible, could you email me?



Viewing 14 posts - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.