You have to be able to start, stop and control the motion – that’s why power and endurance training are a vital component of rowing programming. However, one of the questions we often get asked is do I need to work on power training, if I’m training for a marathon distance?
Well here is the Dark Horse guide to understanding why you need a little bit of everything, if you’re truly going to master any rowing distance.
Creating a performance-based conditioning program can be akin to building a car when it comes to what you need the car to do. Most people consider a car solely as a vehicle to get from point A to B. As much as this is true, you also want a car that can accelerate away, move efficiently and, importantly, be able to have enough gas in the tank to get you there. Training programs need to also do the same when it comes to how we challenge the body. Starting motion may not be an issue for most, it’s how we generate brute force power and also have the capacity to continue going over the distance we chose to compete for.
There are a couple of ways to view power when it comes to movement. One way is to look at it as the eccentric lengthening of the muscle. This is the point during the muscle contraction spectrum that precedes the concentric shortening. It’s the transition or amortization phase between the eccentric and the concentric where the muscle transforms energy from the lengthened and energy “loaded” position to the quickly shortened “explosive” contraction. The other way to look at deceleration is the actual slowing of motion, as in the slowing of the arm as it releases a ball in a throw. It has to slow down and stop after all the effort to speed the arm through the throwing motion. In both of these examples of deceleration, the inability to slow down efficiently is where excess joint stress can occur and may eventually lead to increased opportunity for injury.
To consider how important both power and endurance are to the body you don’t have to look further than our anatomy. The direction of the fibers of the gluteus maximus run in an oblique direction, down and away from the iliac crest and sacrum as it connects to the femur and the IT band. This structure helps generate a whole heap of the power we produce as rowers during the drive phase of the movement, as well as working with the rest of the glute complex, hamstrings, etc.to decelerate the body when returning on the recovery phase. Having control in all these motions is crucial for hip, knee and ankle integrity when it comes to repeated movement that requires a rapid change of direction over a sustained period of time.
You can also look beyond structure and observe synergies that are assembled or work together for deceleration. One example is the shoulder rotator cuff which is made up of the subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus and the teres minor. Location of the muscles alone situates these four muscles so that there is one anterior with three posterior. If the term “safety in numbers” can be applied to human anatomy this is it, especially when you consider what is required at the rotator cuff to throw at a target or more typically hold, carry, or move something in front of you.
Exercises that strengthen the hips (i.e., glute bridges) and exercises that strengthen the rotator cuff (i.e., shoulder scaptions) are typically seen in the rehabilitation environment. If it’s effective enough to use these types of exercise under slow tempos and light intensities to rehabilitate an injured area, then it’s worth strong consideration for stability level training in a deconditioned client or athlete that has shown weakness in their ability to control deceleration. Once the client can better eccentrically load a given area they will be better able to concentrically unload/explode the body into different directions or motions with better managed stresses on the joints.
The fitness professionals role is to create a plan or strategy that addresses the “brakes” before the “engine” is built. The best starting point for this is to do an assessment to identify muscle imbalances. By identifying these first, the fitness professional can remove the road blocks that can get in the way of using the muscular system efficiently. Once this is done, the programming can begin with exercise and intensity selections applicable to the assessment results. You can use the NASM Edge app to track the results of the assessment, and you will also receive recommended corrective exercise. Novice or deconditioned clients will most likely need stability level training.Even highly conditioned athletes are candidates for power and endurance training.