I would like to take the mystique out of what coaches are calling Ultra Short Race Pace Training (USRPT) or for short High-Intensity Training (HIT). HIT is not a new idea and in fact is a concept that exercise physiologists have used for decades, even before the Doc Councilman era.

HIT, requires following the same truisms that are at the core of all successful sports training. These sports training maxims have and will always revolve around specificity, recovery, regularity and progressive overload. The difference of HIT from past and current training is the laser focus it has on specificity. The way coaches habitually train swimmers is the way their swimmers will perform. HIT coach’s habitually train their swimmers to acquire speed. The most important measuring parameter is a twenty-five sprint push-off time (25 SPOT).

Every season should begin with goal setting and every swimmer should have a set of short-term, seasonal and long-term goals. Once these goals are established and written down, swimmers should know what their twenty-five yard, sprint push-off time is for every stroke and at every distance.

HIT does not ignore the importance of skill sets that improve, endurance, pace, pain tolerance (lactate tolerance), strength/flexibility (becoming a better athlete), pulling pattern and stroke efficiency, mental acuity, as well as other nuances. With that said, improving SPOT is the primary focus. Until SPOT times are acquired, skill sets like lactate tolerance sets, endurance sets and pace sets take a back seat to training (not to be ignored but to be emphasized much much less). Until a swimmer’s twenty-five yard time is fast enough to reach their end-goal, everything else is a mute issue. To solidify this point, a swimmer who has a SPOT time of 15.3 seconds cannot break a five-minute five hundred until they that time becomes a 14.9 ( very little room for debate, right?).

Speed is an elusive skill set a swimmer can only improve upon by specifically training to get it. Here is the mystery, during the age of Mark Spitz, coaches espoused specificity training but did just the opposite and trained their athletes around “yardage” and more was always better. Today, a majority of great coaches still train swimmers and most of them will swim less that one minute per event, with miles of swimming and much of it at threshold race pace times. Training swimmers to drop times by adding recreational yardage sets throws speed specificity training out the window.

On the other hand the yardage using USRPT / HIT or speed specificity training is likely to cut yardage in half or more because it all but eliminates redundant or recreational swimming (long monotonous and arduous sets with little relevance). At a Michigan Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association Clinic, head Coach David Salo from USC, talked about “6 points to a Meaningful Practice” and I associate them with specificity speed training, they are: 1.) Race Pace
2.) Varied Stimuli 3.) Hard 4.) Fun 5.) Faster-Faster – More Faster 6.) Relevance. Specificity speed training uses all of the six points he emphasized in his talk.

Dropping times using specificity speed training is the most effective way to train and I hope you use it. Good luck swimmers and coaches.