Part of being efficient is using your energy wisely. To reach your potential you need to have perfect technique, understand the machine, and utilize your energy by executing the best strategy designed to your physical and mental capabilities. While different strategies work for different athletes, only looking at energy usage can athletes benefit from one that is well designed.

Everyone Has a Plan

Despite the fact that almost everyone has their own strategies, there always seems to be that person who attacks every workout resulting in an effective “crash and burn”. While sometimes it’s good to test your limits and push beyond them it has no room when it comes to a rowing test.

Then there are the athletes with the analytic mind who know their numbers and are able to pace every part of a workout with a set target. While this can pay off at the end, not utilizing the advantages given by the different dominant energy systems throughout a workout can cause unnecessary loss of energy and requires way more mental toughness than a well-designed strategy.

The DHR Strategy

When we design our strategy we dissect the test by analyzing energy systems, mental attitude, and other physiological standpoints. If you are an experienced rower you know how important having the right strategy designed for YOU can give you a huge advantage versus just winging it.

Choosing the right strategy doesn’t necessarily make you the fastest.

Take 3 athletes. Shane, Andrew, and Rob (Any resemblance between the characters in this article and the hard working coaches of Dark Horse Rowing is purely coincidence) all participate in a 2000m test. All have the same rowing technique, same settings on the machine, their weight and height is the same, and the only difference is their strategy throughout the piece.

Shane chooses the Dark Horse Strategy with his 500m Split times broken down every 100m. Andrew paces every part of the 2000m with the same 500m split. Rob will start out faster than about halfway through he realizes he made a huge mistake going too hard early on and he crashes and burns by the end.

The interesting thing is that although they used a different strategy they all end up with the same result; 6 minutes and 36 seconds.

Energy Usage and Efficiency

Just by looking at the energy usage during the 2000m you can see that Andrew used the less energy. To be exact 0.6% less than Shane and almost 3% less than Rob. That makes Andrew the most efficient looking at pure numbers. But, what happens if we look at the utilization of different energy systems?

The First 15-20 seconds, which is about 100m we primarily use the phosphagen energy system, technically named ATP-CP energy system before transitioning into the glycolytic system and fast glycolysis. In a nutshell, this energy system gives you immediate access to instantaneous energy that can sustain for upwards 20 seconds. During the first 100m you can work explosively and with maximum effort, which your body can handle without sustained fatigue because it has the ability to produce energy fast.

By excluding the first 100m and looking only at the last 1900m you can see that all suddenly Shane used the least amount of energy and he was 0.86% better than Andrew and 2.65% better than Rob.

rowing strategy


The Science of Rowing

This is all observation at this point. But how can this can benefit any of the rowers? It seems like just a small enough difference that we tend to neglect it. However, if Andrew can use that 0.86% energy by choosing a better strategy it would have totaled 2.4 seconds and he would have finished with the time of 6:33.6 beating Shane in the race.

Based on the same analogy Rob not only would have felt great instead of defeated but he could have beat both Shane and Andrew by gaining 7.3 seconds with a final time of 6:28.7.

This is not all. The Dark Horse Strategy has an advantage. Andrew spent the entirety of the workout at or below his finished 500m Split. Even though Rob crashed and burned he still pushed his split below his final 500m Split for half of the workout while Shane only spent a quarter of the workout there. This gave Shane the mental edge over Rob and Andrew.

With a little adjustment and finding out what strategy will work best for Andrew and Rob, they can increase their 2k numbers easily while Shane needs to put in a lot of energy to increase his strength and endurance for the same result.


Application of Data

In all of this, our goal is to help you understand that data alone doesn’t mean much. We want you to utilize and apply the knowledge to your training considering your own strengths and weaknesses. Choosing a strategy mainly depends on the athlete.

If you think you have the perfect 2k strategy share it with us in the comments below broken out into 100m pieces like in the chart above and we will calculate your energy expense.

Special Thanks to Vincenzo Triunfo for the inspiration for this article.

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