It is impossible to describe the typical rower, so training is bound to differ from one athlete to the next. However, there are some key principles that all rowers will adhere to.
Here at DH we always want to keep things simple so this week the name of the game is to give you the THREE biggest returns on investment when it comes to structuring a training plan. So here it is, the basics of STRENGTH, SPEED & CONDITIONING.
With all three of those elements remember the goal is always to be able to push start to be fast and powerful to get the rower moving before you can rely on rhythm to maintain that drive up and down the rail. Therefore, the bulk of rowing training is focused on speed and strength.
STRENGTH IN ROWING
Leg power is a key metric for pushing. When pushing on the drive phase, the athlete’s arms and upper body should be locked in place making the transfer of power from the legs to the erg as efficient as possible. So, provided the upper body of the athlete is able to take that strain, the focus of their training needs to be on leg strength and speed.
Most athletes will have a very strong squat because this is key to getting the boat off the start line. An 8 man boat weighs in excess of 95kg, so being able to move similar weight to that in the gym is a good metric for being able to move the boat on the water. Some teams will require a 100kg squat as an entry standard for all male athletes for example.
Squatting is of course not the only leg workout an athlete will do, and others can be equally as important, but it is a good example of the movement which rowers require. Again, when supplemented with a stable and efficient core and upper body.
SPEED IN BOAT
Along with a base strength level, Rowers must have sprinter like speed. When a boat gets moving down the water it can be reaching speeds of around 15.5mph (24.9kph). For this reason it doesn’t matter how strong an athlete is, if they can’t keep up with the boat, and keep propelling it forward, then they are by definition going to slow it down.
Being able to put one’s power into the stroke at speed is the crux of what a rower does. Therefore, sprint training can often take up the bulk of an athletes training time. It is relatively easy to increase strength, as the methods for doing so are well versed and gyms are easy to access. However increasing speed can vary hugely from one athlete to another, depending on many factors like their height, leg length, fast/slow twitch muscle density etc. Therefore, a more tailored, concerted, and ultimately time-consuming approach is required.
Regardless, maintaining a fast set of legs that can keep up and keep contributing to the boat is imperative to training for rowing.
Conditioning is also key for rowing. Although there is no weight limit for an entire boat and its athletes, this in itself can pose a number of challenges. It means that the athletes need to be able to both fulfill the strength and speed criteria whilst doing all of this at the required weight. It wouldn’t matter if the athlete can meet all of the requirements but weighing 60kg or 150kg and they simply would not work in the boat.
Therefore, most rowers will need to watch their weight, either gaining or losing weight to remain in the acceptable bracket. In a 8-man boat, the average weight of an athlete will be 99kg (219lbs) at an average height of 6 ft 6.3 in (1.98 m). If you are above or below those metrics then its a safe bet to say work on gaining or losing a little weight to make the most of your frame and size.
Trifecta complete!! Time to get back into training and add that next level of focus to your training.
Yours in fitness, education and the trifecta of rowing!