Bang for your buck training?

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Guest post by Jez Birds, originally posted on SwimPath

There has been much debate recently regarding principles of training, with short, high intensity intervals gaining lots of momentum as the modality of choice for fitness enthusiasts around the globe. Safe to say the debate reaches far in to the swimming world also with the publicity surrounding USRPT (Ultra Short Race Pace Training) and its scientific standing within the realms of performance enhancement.

Its back drop is based on the notion of specificity – that is training the specific demands required for a racing situation and not entertaining metres for metres sake.

As advocates of all training parameters that herald a minimum dose response and subsequent performance enhancing effect, or in other words, training that will give you the most bang for your buck – we believe that there are intelligent training methodologies out there that are all too often untapped. Certainly in lite of historic and contemporary trends regarding the manipulation of volume above all else as a pre-requisite for improved performance, there is everyday an evolving plethora of scientific evidence for training efforts that can be termed – to use a current buzz phrase – as Ultra Short.

The premise of ultra short work is by no means a new one and its very foundations lay in the popular form of training known as intervals. This is where a bulk of work is divided into manageable sections with a manipulated work:rest relationship to yield desired results.

A traditional example of this might be that if an aerobic result is required, the coach may want a group of swimmers to swim for 1 hour with their heart rates between 130 and 150 beats per minute. One way is to just swim for an hour – although tedium could play its part here and if the swimmer disengages then their heart rate may drop to 120 or below and the desired outcome at the end of the hour may not be achieved. So an interval set is created, that may look like:

30×100 fs @ 1.30 (45 minutes) followed by 15×50 @ 60 (15 minutes; total 1 hour!)

And within this set the coach may ask for different intensities (every 4th 100 the middle 50 is fast etc) in order to make sure the heart rate doesn’t become too static or again start to fall.

In essence this is fine, but in terms of swim training for competitive reasons, the argument against this type of interval training is that it has zero relation (except 1 repetition is the same distance as a 100m race!!!!!!!) to the specific demands of racing. So instead of using intervals to break up a timescale, ultra short work focuses on breaking up a race swim and dictates that all repetitions be swum at race intensity. It is therefore termed ultra short because at those speeds it is difficult to swim much further than 25 metres over multiple repetitions at 100 metre pace.

The very essence of ultra short work is, as previously mentioned, not a new one and coaches and athletes for many years have been prescribing multiple repetitions of 12.5 metre sprints, 25s at 100m pace or even 100s at 8/1500m pace.

More recently however, the evolution of the process into a structured format known as Ultra Short Race Pace Training (USRPT) has been made available to the world of swimming via its creator Dr Brent Rushall at San Diego State University in the USA. His research, findings and subsequent moulding into the USRPT format are supported by compelling scientific evidence as to the absolute benefit of this training modality and its requirement as a methodology for performance enhancement.

Within this format a set that might last only 10-15 minutes allows the athlete to swim over 4 times his or her race distance at the specific race velocity, thus training the body and the brain to adapt to endure the techniques required to maintain this speed. The premise of this, as with any type of interval training, is that the excess volume overloads the body’s systems and makes it more efficient at performing the reduced amount come race day. However, compared to traditional work that would prescribe an hour of aerobic work, then a 30 minute anaerobic set to cover all bases, with USRPT we cover them all in just 15 minutes!!!

That is what we call bang for your buck training and some!!!!!

We’ll be looking a bit more in depth at Ultra Short training techniques in future posts – including USRPT; its wider foundations in the fitness world with regard to training phenomenons such as Tabata protocol and other HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) modalities – so keep an eye out for some programming tips that could revolutionise the swimming world!!

Photo by JoshDobson

About Author

Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for covering this. People who actually read the research and supporting documentation realize that more isn’t always better.

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