Ultra Short Training, and in particular Ultra Short Race Pace Training (USRPT) is something that has gained much momentum since Dr Brent Rushall’s 2013 paper ‘Swimming Energy Training in the 21st Century’. The concept, however, is not something that is brand new or perhaps as revolutionary as it may seem. Ultra Short Training has, in some form or other, been quite widely used – predominantly in sprint training – for many years, perhaps as early as the late 1950s. Its purpose being to elicit a high volume of maximal intensity work, whilst attempting to eliminate fatigue as a limiting factor. Research work from Astrand and Rodahl (1977) showed how small bouts of high intensity work (10 seconds duration) paired with 20 seconds of rest, and with repeated efforts for 30 minutes, allowed the body to maintain a steadily low level of blood lactate throughout, ensuring that the quality of the repeats were maintained. These tests were done on a cycle ergometer – but the implication taken into the swimming world was that sprint swimmers could potentially increase the volume of full speed swimming within a session, so long as the repeats were short enough to not cause undue fatigue i.e 12.5m, and that therefore the rest could be kept low (15-20 seconds) so as to induce a specific conditioning effect. The proposed result being that the swimmer would in fact have completed (assuming 30×12.5s were swum) over three and a half times race distance (for 100m swimmers) or nearly 8 times race distance for 50m swimmers – in 15 minutes. Attempting to do the same with 25s or 50s would mean sets for example of 15×25 off 60 at full speed (tough) or 8×50 full speed off 2 minutes (ouch!!!). The bottom line being that in the latter 2 sets there is very little possibility that many swimmers would be able to swim the 15th or 8th repetition with the same quality (race speed or faster) as the 1st repetition.
In the years since these initial studies Dr Brent Rushall has produced many papers on Ultra Short Training and its potential implications for the swimming world, with the culmination of this work commencing with the Swimming Energy Training paper. Here Rushall takes the science of swimming to another level and shows how USRPT should in fact be the training modality of choice for ALL events and distances, not just for sprinters – and that the pace and intensity of each repetition can provide a specific and direct form of conditioning that is not apparent in more traditional (high volume – low intensity) forms of training.
A fuller discussion on USRPT deserves a different post (and many more to boot!!) but in essence the very concept of minimum dose response (bang for your buck, maximal results in minimal time) is the determining factor behind the VB Race Club philosophy. Based on the research of Rushall, Costill, Anderson, Astrand et al and culminating in the much debated recent papers on the very subject, we adapt, tweak and mould the Ultra Short format to provide individualised training and more importantly individually specific training!
We will post back with sets and ideas – for a taster check out this post on how to utilise short work for fast results!!