When to abandon a set

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    I have been trying to find a specific way to determine when a swimmer should abandon a set and recover. One thing I read mentioned when a certain number of “failures” is met, and the other mentions only to abandon when you get 2 “failures” in a row. Has anybody had any experience using one method over the other. I never count the first 6 as a “failure” even if they are slightly off the target time. Thanks


    Here is my confusion. It seems like 2 conflicting suggestions.

    Brent S. Rushall, PhD
    September 1, 2013

    “In the USRPT format, when a repetition is slower than the desired race-pace, the
    swimmer misses the next repetition and enjoys more recovery than is possible in the
    usual 20-second rest period. When sufficient fatigue has occurred to thwart the desired
    level of performance, that level of performance disruption is known as a “training effect”
    (Rushall & Pyke, 1991). In the practical implementation of USRPT, a swimmer is
    allowed to fail two more times after extra recovery is allowed before the set is abandoned.”

    Number 47©
    Produced, edited, and copyrighted by
    Professor Emeritus Brent S. Rushall, San Diego State University

    “Two failures in a row. Set abandoned.”

    • This reply was modified 10 years, 2 months ago by Denaj.

    There is no conflict as far As I can judge. Or you have 2 failures in a row or 3 misses before the end of the set. So let’s say the set is 30×25. As example: Swimmer misses rep 8, rests rep 9 then again misses rep 15 rests rep 16 then he misses rep 24 and leaves the set for recovery as this is his 3rd failure in this set. On the other hand there is the 2 in a row failure rule. Swimmer misses rep 15 and rests rep 16 and then he misses rep 17. This is 2 failures in a row. Swimmer is no longer able after rest to swim the target race pace so has to leave the set and start recovery.

    Hope this helps.


    Ok, thanks. So there are 2 different parameters (3rd failure or 2 failures in a row), and either one would lead to abandoning the set and recovery. I just never saw either one of them mentioned together in any of the bulletins. Not that I might not have missed it, though 😉


    Okay, I’m somewhat new to this and I’m working on adapting my swimmers to it but is it ever ok to do more than 3 failures? I just starting using ursp sets about two/three weeks ago and just started to get my swimmers to get their own times and even pick a pace they want to go. They get so excited trying to keep up with the pace they picked they actually don’t want to do the recovery set when they reach the 3rd failure.


    To reply to Rick. The failure concept is not either/or. If the swimmer has done e.g. 12 at the target time without a failure and then misses the target time on # 13, that is a failure. If after the required “skip if missed”, the swimmer fails again (i.e. 2 failures in a row), the set is over, done, stop!

    If however in this same set, the swimmer fails at # 13, takes the required next repeat off and then makes the next one, the swimmer continues. If then the swimmer gets to #17 and misses again, that is failure # 2. So again the swimmer sits out the next repeat. If on the next send-off the swimmer makes the target time, they continue, but if they miss the target time that is two failures in a row and it is also (in this case) the third failure of the set, so the set is stopped.

    Regarding the first 6 not counting as a failure, I believe Dr. Rushall suggests the first 5 not counting any failures.



    Great to hear the excitement from the kids. I wouldn’t let them continue the set. As Dr. Rushall points out, once they have reached neural fatigue and can no longer hold technique, they will start missing the rep (or failing, we call it missing). I see this with my kids now (and we too are new to it). I can see where if they miss a rep & just swim harder the next one they could make it but I don’t want them to swim harder necessarily, esp with bad technique.

    During our sets, I am constantly pointing out what they need to do technique wise to keep it up. My goal & hopes is they figure this out on their own!!


    What would be the problem with just following the 2 failures in a row rule? I find I can do more reps at race pace if I follow this rule. The extra rest allows me to basically make every other one for some time. Ending the set at three total failures seems premature. Why not end when you for sure can not match the goal time? What is the science behind three total?


    Many people seem to “adjust” USRPT sets. You shouldn’t be adjusting them. Total rest for 50s and above is 20 seconds, except of course if you miss a target time. However if you miss a target time then rest till the next sendoff, you are getting almost a minute rest. If you keep doing this i.e. make one, fail one, make one, fail one, you are not really doing a USRPT set anymore. Now you are doing a set with 1:00 rest between repeats! That is defeating the purpose of USRPT. You are not getting the training effect.

    If your target time is challenging (as it should be) when you start to fail you are nearly done anyway – or should be.

    How many are you able to do in the set before your first failure?

    Glenn Gruber


    I usually come close on the first 5, miss 6, and then start alternating between making one and missing one. So generally I complete 10 total. Does this mean my goal time is too fast? It seems consistent with my race speed, but maybe I am a slower workout swimmer. Your thoughts?


    Couple of thoughts here.

    1. It might be good to make your target time a little slower. That gives you the opportunity to get used to how the set should go. If you are just starting USRPT I do not suggest using your ultimate target time from the get go. When I started USRPT ten months ago my target time (I am training for the 400 SCM) was :32 per 50y. However, I started with a target time of :35. I was able to do 20 at that speed so I moved down to :34. I was also able to do close to 20 at :34 so moved down to :33. I spent about two months at :33 before I moved to :32. I spent 4 months at :32 and when I could do 20 in a row and 27 with three failures, I moved to :31. I’ve been at :31 for about two months and I can occasionally do 10 in a row before my first failure.

    Had I started doing USRPT trying to do my :32 target time, I might have gotten frustrated and quit. But easing into it proved to be a very good strategy.

    2. When you are alternating between make one fail one, make one fail one, you are not doing USRPT anymore. Now you are doing a traditional set with a minute rest between each repeat!

    3. USRPT is NOT about finishing the set as is the case with traditional training. Instead it is about doing as many repeats at RACE PACE as possible. When you can no longer do that you are then not practicing at race speed – and there is no point to practicing at anything but race speed.

    If you are counting yardage per workout, stop doing that. It is not important. If you are dead set on working out for 90 minutes, stop that, it is not important. The only thing that is important is doing as many repeats as possible at your race pace. Every thing else is a waste of your time.

    4.I don’t buy the “I’m a slower workout swimmer” stuff. Do as I have suppested in #1 above regarding your target time, be patient and determined and you will get there.

    5. I’m 65 years old and yesterday I swam my fastest 100 free LCM since 2004 (1:03.01), that’s ten years ago! And we old folks are supposed to be getting slower as we age.

    Glenn Gruber


    Yes I am late to the conversation but I need some clarification. Basically most coaches agree that if pace is missed then the swimmer rest and takes additional rest sitting out the next repitition. If there are two misses consecutively the set is abandoned (i.e. miss/extra rest, miss/extra rest). Also if there are three misses through a set it is abandoned. Looking at Rushall’s bulletin # 47 http://coachsci.sdsu.edu/swim/bullets/47GUIDE.pdf
    there is an example of 24X 25. In the example the swimmer fails/misses on # 17 rest and sits out # 18 as the additional rest. Makes 19, fails 20 takes no additional rest goes for 21 and fails (two consecutive fails) abandons the set. Why was the additional rest not taken between the fail on 20?


    If the swimmer thinks he/she can make the interval, they should go for it. If they are truly out of gas they will fail the next one anyway.

    Maybe they had a bad turn or hit the lane line with their hand or swallowed a little water, but still wanted to see if they could get the next one.

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