Plyometric exercises are common in training programs to develop muscular power. Power will develop together with strength in beginner strength training, but more experienced athletes may need specific training for power development. Power, or rate of force development, is important for rowers who want to get the most out of each stroke, especially those rowing eights with an emphasis on early drive force. Using plyometrics for rowers requires an understanding of what physical qualities we’re trying to train, which plyometric exercises are most appropriate for the level of athlete, and how to add challenge to match athlete progression. In this article, I will review the rowing-specific plyometric research, apply general research on plyometrics from other training resources, and provide practical recommendations on plyometric teaching progression, exercise selection, and training for rowers of different levels and ages.

Key Points: Plyometrics for rowers can be safe and effective for improving rowing performance, as long as they are properly planned, instructed, and programmed with the rest of rowing training and strength training. Rowing research indicates that plyometrics can improve peak power in a short-duration erg test, 500-meter time, and detailed power characteristics like drive speed. In order to use plyometrics for rowers, we must have a safe landing space (ie. not concrete), good landing technique to absorb impact safely, an understanding of why plyometrics exist to train power (not endurance), and ideas of what plyometric exercises we can use for rowers of different strengths, competitive levels, and ages.

Table of Contents

plyometrics for rowers


About Plyometric Exercise

The goal of plyometric exercise is training power, or rate of force development. Plyometrics train the fast muscle fibers, the nervous system activating the muscle fibers, and the reflexes and physical skills involved in rapid full-body force development. The goal of plyometrics for rowers is improving this deep neuromuscular ability to more rapidly develop lower body force and minimize the time between blade entry and full stroke power. This introduces a rower-specific training factor: those rowing a faster stroke (ie. eights) or with a greater emphasis on early drive force may have more to gain from plyometrics than those rowing a slower stroke (ie. single scull) or with a greater emphasis on later drive force.

Plyometrics offer an advantage for power development over traditional free-weight strength training by training maximal acceleration with lighter loads and no deceleration phase. An athlete doing a front squat with full explosive intent will have to decelerate before completion of the lift to avoid leaving the ground or having the barbell leave contact with the shoulders. Athletes doing plyometric exercises can give maximum effort through the entire concentric phase without having to decelerate before the movement is complete. Despite the lower loading, plyometrics are a very high intensity training method due to the maximum acceleration and landing component. As a general rule, athletes may only jump as much and as well as they can land, because all of the power they develop on the concentric phase has to be absorbed upon landing. Landing mechanics must be mastered before athletes can safely and effectively increase variety, volume, intensity of jumping exercises.

Plyometrics are not for every athlete. If an individual has recently recovered from an injury, are they cleared by a medical professional and have they regained enough strength to safely do plyometric exercise? If the athlete is a beginner, they may benefit more from focusing on strength training for the early phase of their training before incorporating plyometric exercises. Remember that power and strength will develop together in beginner trainees, just by improving overall muscular coordination and force, and conventional strength training offers benefits to maximum strength and muscular development that plyometric training does not necessarily. Advanced plyometric exercises involve high forces on landing and acceleration, and strength training resources typically recommend that athletes be able to squat at least bodyweight for a one-rep maximum, or 60% of bodyweight five times in five seconds as a prerequisite (Davies, Riemann, & Manske, 2015). I have more on this in the “exercise progression” section, as well as specific research and recommendations for youth and masters rowers.

Plyometrics in Rowing Research

In rowing-specific research, Egan-Shuttler et al. (2017) compared outcomes in 500-meter erg performance from a plyometric intervention versus an aerobic cycling intervention in 18 competitive male high school rowers. The researchers used matched groups based on pre-training 500-meter erg times. All athletes completed the plyometric or cycling training three times per week in 30 minutes, then completed identical on-water rowing training as a team immediately after. There was no additional strength training component, and none of the athletes had prior experience with plyometric training. The researchers performed the study in the fall early season phase when rowers were not doing on-water sprint training or racing. Athletes in the plyometric group performed 30 minutes of plyometric training, including single and double-leg jumps, vertical and broad jumps, and medicine ball throws, programmed to increase from 100-150 ground contacts to 125-170 ground contacts over the four weeks. Athletes in the aerobic group did 30 minutes of stationary cycling below ventilatory threshold, measured by the “talk test.” The researchers conducted pre-and-post-intervention testing for unrestricted rate 500-meter time, rowing economy as measured by an eight-minute incremental step test with oxygen consumption analysis, and 15-second peak power test, all on Concept2 Model D ergs. 

The plyometric group significantly improved in 500-meter time from 1:39.8 to 1:34.6, and they were significantly faster than the cycling group at post-test as well. The cycling group was essentially unchanged, going from a 500-meter time of 1:38.8 to 1:38.7. The plyometric group significantly increased power output within the 500-meter test to make this improvement, and stroke rates were not significantly different between groups or tests. Neither group significantly changed 15-second peak power or rowing economy, although the plyometrics group trended up slightly in peak power. This research suggests that a plyometric intervention alone, without additional strength training or high intensity rowing training, may improve short duration erging performance.

However, the researchers were puzzled by how the plyometric group could significantly improve 500-meter performance but not 15-second peak power performance. The plyometric group improved from a single-highest peak stroke of 585 Watts (W) to 629W, an increase of +44W, while the cycling group went from 566W to 569W. Most rowers and coaches would look at an increase of 44W over four weeks and say that that’s a significant improvement, which is why it’s important to read more than the abstract of a study! But, this finding was not statistically significant, which led the researchers to evaluate the findings more specifically.

In 2019, Egan-Shuttler et al. returned to the original data and evaluated the 15-second test using the free ErgData app produced by Concept2 to look at the data by individual stroke, as well as detailed power characteristics of drive length, drive time, on which stroke the rower achieved peak power, and overall force from the entire test. Looking beyond just the single-highest peak stroke revealed significantly greater changes in plyometric group power production. After the four weeks of plyometric training, the plyometric group produced more power over the entire 15-second test, achieved their single-highest peak power stroke earlier in the test, and increased drive speed. These detailed findings are all highly relevant when we think about physical demands of starting a race: more power, produced earlier in the 15-seconds, with faster drive speeds. These detailed findings combined with the earlier finding of five-second improvement in 500-meter time and the +44W peak power increase indicate significant improvement from plyometrics for rowers.

Note: I reviewed this study in the April 2021 issue of Science of Rowing.

plyometrics for rowers improved peak power, total power produced over 15 seconds, stroke number on which the rowers produced peak power, and drive speed. this is an infographic demonstrating the change in plyo versus cycling adapted from egan-shuttler et al. 2019.

In an early research study, Kramer, Morrow, and Leger (1993) evaluated longer term training adaptations from strength training only vs. strength and plyometric training. The researchers studied 28 female rowers, 13 novice and 15 experienced, in a nine-week training program, assessing improvement via a 2,500-meter test and 90-second distance test on Concept2 Model B ergometers, as well as strength and power indicators. They found that 20 minutes of additional plyometric bilateral jump exercises did not significantly improve any performance metrics compared to strength and erging training only. It’s not an exciting finding, but the methods the researchers used offer us insight into how to (and how not to) use plyometrics for rowers.

After pre-testing, all participants did the same erging training and the same strength training program, with the plyometrics group doing an additional 20 minutes of plyometric training after each strength training session. I’ve replicated the study design below. On weeks 1-4 of the program, athletes did the clean pull for 4 sets of 8 reps, half squat, bench pull, and leg press for 6×5, and seated row for 10×10. On weeks 5-9, athletes did 4×10 on all exercises, except the seated row, on which they did 5×20. The plyometrics group did an additional 20 minutes of bilateral jumping–squat jumps, stair jumps, hurdle jumps, and drop jumps–beginning with 1-3 sets of 5-12 jumps and progressing to a weeks 4-9 volume of to 3-5 sets of 10-20 jumps. I’ve created the graphic below to illustrate the study methods.

1993 plyometrics for rowers

It is possible that the null finding is influenced by the testing parameters: 2,500 meters, and even 90 seconds, is a longer test distance than we might expect to be significantly influenced by plyometric power. However, that the strength group improved equivalently in the vertical jump test suggests that maybe the plyometric training just wasn’t that effective. For one, the researchers used plyometric exercises for more of a muscular endurance focus, trending up to 10-20 reps per set. It’s possible that a greater emphasis on peak power, not volume, would have improved plyometric results. Additionally, the plyometrics group performed the plyometrics after the strength training, in a fatigued state. Perhaps performing plyometrics before the strength training also would have improved results. Finally, if the athletes completed the plyometric sessions in approximately 20 minutes, there’s no way they were getting enough rest between sets to achieve maximum muscular output. As I’ll explain further in the programming section, work-to-rest ratios for plyometric exercises are at least 1:5, up to 1:10. In weeks 4-9, the plyo group did five sets of squat jumps, 10 sets of stairs jumps (bilateral jumping up a flight of 12 steps), three sets of hurdle jumps, and three sets of depth jumps. This is 21 sets total, which would not even be one minute of rest per set if completed in approximately 20 minutes.

How NOT to Use Plyometrics for Rowers

The Kramer, Morrow, and Leger (1993) study provides a good example of why “rower plyometrics” don’t work: too many reps with too little rest and too much fatigue.

If we agree that plyometric exercises exist to teach and train the skills and physical abilities of rapid force development, then doing high-rep plyometrics under fatigue with diminished power output makes little sense. As soon as jump height, throw distance, or power per effort decreases, we are training muscular endurance, not power. If we’re training muscular endurance, we don’t need to use plyometric exercises with their increased joint forces and risky landing impacts. We can train muscular endurance and general strength more effectively with traditional grounded strength training exercises performed for higher sets and reps with lower rest intervals.

Another common pitfall is variety for the sake of variety, resulting in exercise selection that is too challenging for athlete ability. If the exercise is too challenging at a coordination level, the athlete will be focusing too much on the mechanics and will not be able to give full power to the movement. Given that the athletes in the Egan-Shuttler et al. (2017) study had no prior plyometric training experience, the exercise menu from the study suggests to me that they used excessive training variety for the level of athlete. I would be concerned with a coach reading this study and incorporating a similar protocol. The use of depth jumps and multiple box-to-box jumps with novice athletes is also questionable. These are advanced plyometric exercises due to the greatly increased forces as the athlete absorbs and immediately redirects energy from landing to jumping.

“Low frequency (2-3 sessions per week) and low volume (3-6 sets of 2-5 repetitions) are most appropriate. It is not necessary to perform myriad plyometric exercises. Getting the most out of a program requires mastering the movements of the exercises themselves. For most athletes, two or three plyometric exercises at any one time is sufficient for attaining movement mastery and obtaining considerable benefit.” From NSCA “Developing Power”

Plyometric Exercise Progression

Strength and power will increase together through basic strength training alone in novice athletes. Novice athletes are not limited by rate of force development as much as strength, coordination, and technique. We can still teach plyometrics and power training alongside basic strength training, and the advantage of doing so is that those skills and methods will be ready when the athlete needs to focus more on them. However, we should not emphasize or rely solely on plyometrics and power training with athletes who still have more benefit to gain in the basic strength domain. In this section, I’ll present the plyometric exercises I use most with rowers and the developmental progression, and then discuss more programming recommendations in the next section.

Short on time? Jump ahead to the wrap-up section for a table of plyometric exercises and the progression I use, then come back later for the additional explanation.

Note: Joe DeLeo reviewed the 2017 Egan-Shuttler et al. plyo study in the November, 2020 issue of “Science of Rowing” and filmed the following demonstrations.

First stage: Landing

Athletes can only jump as well as they can land. Landing mechanics must be taught and mastered before more including more advanced plyometrics. Key points in landing mechanics are: pressure on the forefoot, knees in line with toes (minimal valgus or varus knee position), and consistently landing in the hinge position (slight torso incline, back flat, chest/head up). I will usually begin plyometric introduction with three or four short sessions only working on landing mechanics, before introducing actual jumping.

We must be aware of the landing surface with all jump-based exercises. A soft surface is generally preferable for minimizing impact and joint forces on the athlete. This allows the athlete to get the most work out of the concentric phase with the least amount of lower body stress upon landing. Gymnastics or wrestling mats are great. Grass or turf is good. Gym flooring is acceptable, but volume should be gradually progressed and athletes closely monitored for shin splints or other aches and pains. Athletes landing on concrete should be even more gradually progressed, closely monitored, and frequently deloaded due to the high impact forces from landing. Do not use advanced plyometric exercises with high impact forces if concrete is the only available landing surface. Athletes should step down, not jump down, from boxes when doing box jumps. Box tops should ideally be padded, to minimize landing impact and reduce risk of injury from a slip. Additionally, don’t use unstable landing surfaces, and make sure the area around the athlete is safe and clear of obstacles as well. A Youtube search for “box jump fail” can provide abundant examples of unsafe jumping, landing, and dismounting environments for plyometric training.

Second stage: Skipping, Bilateral Jumping, and Throwing

There is great value in skipping, skipping for height, and bounding for early stage power training and comprehensive athletic development. Athletes need not go for maximum height or large range-of-motion right away. Just teaching and training the basic mechanics of jumping, landing, and arm swing (opposite the leg) in a dynamic and unilateral environment is a great early training achievement.

Skipping and bounding may not work for all rowers. The landing forces from the entire bodyweight through one leg may be too great for masters rowers with joint impact concerns, rowers with a history of lower body injury, or rowers who only have a concrete surface available for training. We may go instead to bilateral exercises with greater concentric force but lower landing forces. The goal of these jumping or throwing exercises is development of maximal bilateral triple extension, or the simultaneous rapid extension of the ankles, knees, and hips. Continue to emphasize landing mechanics as athletes progress to these exercises, important to reducing risk of joint pain and overuse injuries, and seeing the technical development from the earlier stages “stick.”

While we do not want rowers hanging at the catch and starting the drive from a total dead-stop, we also do not want lunging or seat slippage into the catch to increase stretch reflex and get more early drive power. The standard countermovement vertical jump or broad jump trains a stretch-shortening cycle that does not exist in the rowing stroke. The countermovement jump is a more natural athletic movement than the dead-start or paused jump, and new trainees will typically pick it up more quickly. However, given that the rowing stroke is all-concentric and does not include this stretch-shortening cycle, we will also train the dead-start plyometric variations, in which the athlete pauses at the bottom position before beginning the propulsive phase of the exercise. We can use this with vertical and horizontal (broad) jumps and throwing exercises to train more specific power application.

Throwing exercises involve the upper body, but I don’t refer to these as “upper body plyometrics” because the power in a plyometric exercise always comes from the lower body and hips. Throwing exercises like the overhead throw, chest throw, or rotational throw can be beneficial for rowers to teach “long stroke” power application. Novice throwers will make similar errors to novice rowers with early arm bend and excessive shoulder involvement, failing to maximize lower body power. Plyometric exercises offer another way to teach and develop the general athletic skill of power sequencing, aiming for carryover to the rowing stroke. Rotational throws offer the opportunity to train rotation to the non-stroke side for sweep rowers (and train rotation at all for scullers), and can be valuable in preventing and correcting movement imbalances.

Third stage: Single-Leg Variants and Box Jumps

Single-leg jumps can be more challenging because 100% of the athlete’s bodyweight is going through one leg versus distributed across two. The increased load reduces the jump height, but may increase the landing forces. One way to get around this is to use a single-leg jump with a double-leg landing. This increases challenge on the concentric, then decreases it on the eccentric, and provides a valuable way to train single-leg power without increased risk of injury from single-leg landing. Once the athletes are comfortable in this environment and sufficiently strong in single-leg movements, we may progress to a single-leg jump and single-leg land. Variations like the RFESS jump are very challenging due to the increased ROM, and are reserved for advanced athletes.

Box jumps increase the landing demands of the athlete, and therefore also the challenge level of the exercise. One major error in box jumps is a lazy jump down from the box after completion of the jump. Either step down from the box or consider the jump down from the box part of the exercise and execute the landing with good technique. A second major error is using such a high box height that the athlete is developing explosive hip flexion more than explosive hip extension. This might be fine when you’re an NFL athlete showing off on social media, but it’s counterproductive and needlessly risky for any other training goal. I’ve taken screenshots below of peak hip extension (left), the point at which hip flexion begins (middle), and peak hip flexion (right). Notice how hip height changes little between hip flexion beginning and ending. The majority of the movement occurs from hip flexion, bringing the knees toward the chest and posterior pelvic tilt to land on the box. It’s an impressive athletic feat, but the value of the exercise as a plyometric is limited after he reaches maximum hip extension. I coach that the box jump is over when maximal hip extension is achieved, and to land softly on the box in a good landing position, with minimal added hip flexion. This lets us use lower box heights, which reduces setup time, equipment cost, and risk of injury from a slip or failed landing, while still achieving the goal of developing rapid triple extension and improving rate of force development in the lower body.

box jump flexion extension

An additional layer of challenge beyond the bottom position paused jump is the seated vertical jump or seated box jump. These offer great utility to rowers to train rapid extension power from a starting position of deep flexion and no momentum, more similar to the starting position of the rowing stroke. This maximally challenges propulsive hip and leg power. Seated jumps usually require attention and coaching to begin the jump from a braced position with minimal upper body momentum, minimizing “rolling in” to the jump with momentum that we won’t get in the stroke.

Plyos I Don’t Use: Multiple Efforts, Flexion Throws, and Ladders

Multiple efforts like triple broad jumps, multiple depth jumps, jumping to multiple boxes or over multiple hurdles, and tuck jumps are very advanced plyometrics due to the increased demands on athlete strength, coordination, and power to absorb force on landing and immediately redirect it into propulsive movement. These exercises also have essentially no application to rowing, since the rowing stroke does not incorporate rapid force absorption, a stretch-shortening cycle, or rapid sequential force application, due to the recovery mechanics of the rowing stroke. I have not yet needed to use this level of plyometrics for rowers. There has always been another training factor for our time and energy offering greater performance benefit.

“Jumpies” and “burpees” are memes, not plyometric exercises. These are good ways to make people tired, which is useful for very general “conditioning,” but does nothing to increase plyometric power due to the low propulsive effort and high-fatigue training environment. If you’ve been following along so far, you’ll understand why I’m against high repetition low effort jumps on concrete landing surfaces. These have reached bench pull levels on my “never use” list.

Medicine ball slams, trunk flexion plyometrics like the sit-up throw, and upper body isolation plyometrics like the supine chest throw don’t offer enough utility for rowers to be worth the training time and energy. Similar to the jumpies or burpees, I most often see these used for repetition effort or “conditioning,” rather than explosive power development. In a sport with limited training time and already high stress on the spine, ribs, and shoulders, explosive flexion exercises in a sport without a forceful flexion component don’t rank for me as a valuable use of effort compared to all the other plyometrics we can choose from with greater application to rowing development.

Finally, ladder training is another form of general force production and reactivity training that I don’t use with rowers. The range of motion is too small and the movements are too different to carry over to rowing or erging ability. However, unlike jumpies or burpees, I can see a place for ladders only as a general warmup activity and athletic coordination exercise. Rowers, especially those who specialize and only row, often lose athletic coordination of single-leg, reactive, multiple movement plane movements. Including 5-10 minutes of low intensity ladder drills may offer a way to maintain some of these general athletic qualities. They should not be done with low rest or high intensity as “conditioning,” due to the impact and risk of injury from movement degrading under fatigue. Ladder drills should also not be done on concrete. Grass or turf is ideal, gym flooring is acceptable with caution and gradual progression, but concrete is a firm no, not worth the risk of shin splints and other aches, pains, or injuries to the lower leg.

Plyometric Programming and Progressing

As long as a safe environment and suitable landing surface is available, we can use plyometrics for rowers at the boathouse or weight-room in short doses with gradually increasing volume and/or challenge. Begin with just one or two plyometric exercises per session to provide a more instructive environment for coaches and athletes to get the most out of each exercise and stage of progression. Increase volume and/or challenge as determined by athlete ability, training environment, and overall priorities.

Work-to-rest ratio is an important consideration for plyometric programming. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) recommends (here, and also in the “Essentials” textbook) at least a 1:5 work-to-rest ratio, up to 1:10. That means that if one set of plyos takes five seconds, the rest interval should be at least 25 seconds, and up to 50 seconds. Remember, plyos require maximal effort to improve specific power output, and we cannot have maximal effort without adequate rest for physiological recovery and mental focus.

A strategy I use for achieving adequate rest per set for each athlete is to group athletes into groups of four or five, and then do one set each in sequence. Athlete A does one set and goes to the back of the line, then Athlete B does one set and goes to the back of the line, then Athlete C does one set, and so on. A rotation of four or five athletes ensures at least a 1:5 work-to-rest ratio, without having to use stopwatches and careful monitoring. Do not add in extra work during the rest time, eg. holding planks, doing pushups, erging, etc., all of which I’ve seen in rowing programs. Use plyometrics to train explosive force for a short amount of time, then move on to other training methods to achieve other training goals.

Start with 3-5 sets of 1-2 reps on each exercise. One progression option is to add one set per week, until athletes are doing 7-10 sets of 1-2 reps, while working to maintain or increase jump height and maintaining at least a 1:5 work:rest ratio. If you notice jump height declining, technique degrading, or athletes struggling to produce explosive effort, the volume is too high, the rest is too low, and/or the challenge of the exercise is too great, and the athletes are no longer training power. Once athletes are doing 7-10 sets, reduce volume back to 3-5 sets and either repeat the exercise aiming for greater power outputs, or select a different exercise variation to increase the challenge for the next block of training.

We also might stick to 3-5 sets of 1-2 reps and add challenge through plyometric exercise selection, rather than through added volume. This my go-to strategy for in-season plyometric training, sparing volume and greater efforts for rowing training and other activities, especially if rowers are doing added load training in rowing or erging (eg. boat weights, bungees, high fan resistance, etc.) or doing a greater amount of racing start practice.

Session order for strength training is first power, then strength, then hypertrophy training. The best time for plyometric exercises is after a full-body warmup and before the strength work. Explosive force degrades rapidly under fatigue, so we want to do power work when athletes are fresh, not after heavy squats or multiple sets of assistance work when fatigue is high, and certainly not after an entire training session like our 1993 study.

We can apply a similar strategy for boathouse-based plyometric work. Do the full-body warmup, then the brief bout of plyometric training, then get on the water or on the ergs. Doing plyometric training after rowing or erging will not be as productive, due to the fatigue remaining from prior training.

Should you use plyometrics year-round, or only during power phases?

It depends on the athletes and program context. If you’re using plyometrics as a “post-warmup” activity, then maybe you can keep one or two plyometrics in this slot of the weightroom or boathouse training year-round. Include a deload week every 6-10 weeks of reduced or eliminated plyometric training, and make small variations on the exercises at least every 2-3 weeks. Perhaps one day will be one bilateral jump, another day will be one throwing exercise, and the third day will be one unilateral jump, 5-10 minutes total per session, with exercises rotated within that structure to keep athletes engaged and physical response fresh. More advanced athletes following a more periodized training program will often not do plyometrics in the preparation blocks of training, then focus on them in the power-focused pre-competitive and early competitive block training. Remember that plyometrics are stressful due to the high concentric forces developed and high eccentric forces absorbed, and that focusing on plyometric exercises means deprioritizing another training quality to avoid overtraining.

Plyometrics for Junior and Masters Rowers

In the NSCA position statement on strength training for youth athletes, the authors cite research indicating that plyometrics can be safe and effective for young athletes as long as they are instructed thoroughly, coached continuously, programmed carefully, and are part of a comprehensive strength and sport training program. The International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) similarly endorses the use of plyometric exercises for youth athletes, and provides their recommended teaching and programming progression.

If we just throw plyometric variations at young athletes without regard for movement quality or progression and without other strength training activities included as well, we should expect injuries and poor training outcomes. For example, just doing some jumpies after practice or on a windy day to waste time, or using burpees to punish athletes, is not a safe and effective plyometric training strategy. If you’re going to use plyometric exercises, use them well. Teach landing mechanics, employ exercise variations in limited doses with an emphasis on movement quality and peak power, and progress gradually while also developing strength through other full-body movements. If you want to train general strength or muscular endurance, use other non-plyometric exercises and methods.

In the NSCA’s position statement on strength training for older adults, the authors focus on the role of strength training in mitigating age-related loss of strength, muscularity, and muscular power, and making progress for sport performance and general quality of life. Masters rowers racing the 1km sprint distance with a greater priority on anaerobic energy system performance will want to pay even more attention here. Similarly, the NSCA’s “Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd ed.)” textbook states that plyometric exercise is safe and effective for masters athletes, given professional consideration to pre-training evaluation (ie. injury history, training status, and other risks), thorough instruction, and appropriate exercise selection.

I’ve found that many masters rowers are hesitant to incorporate plyometric training out of concern for joint impact. This is a valid concern, especially when the common example of plyometric training in rowing is high-rep bilateral jumps with heavy lower body impacts and no instruction on landing, ie. the now thoroughly beaten dead horse of jumpies. As I hope you’ve learned in this article, there are many forms of plyometric exercises available, and we can often find at least one that works for the individual to reap the rewards of power training. For example, doing low box jumps with a soft-topped box can minimize joint impact on landing and provide a safe and effective way to train lower body power. Perhaps jump-based plyometrics truly are too risky or painful. Can the athlete use a throwing plyometric to train lower body explosive force with minimal landing impact? If injuries or other concerns preclude all jumping or throwing plyometric training, we can at least do peak power training with loaded exercises, maximizing full explosive intent without leaving the ground and creating an impact force.

Read More: Strength Training for Masters Rowers

Wrap Up: Plyometrics for Rowers

Rowers from youths to masters can follow the same general principles of plyometric training. Keep explosive power the goal, and incorporate small doses of plyometric exercise after a full-body warmup but before beginning a strength, rowing, or erging session. Begin with limited volume and frequency: 2-3 sessions per week of 1-3 exercises per session, 3-5 sets of 1-3 reps per exercise, with at least a 1:5 work-to-rest ratio. Begin by teaching and mastering landing. Select more challenging jumping and throwing exercises as appropriate for the individual’s ability, training goals, and available equipment. Progress by increasing distance or height of jump or throw, increasing challenge of exercise, and/or making small increases in volume while at least maintaining jump or throw height or distance. Remember that plyometric power is not among the most important factors in rowing performance, and train it in balance with other training for strength, muscularity, mobility, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, rowing technique, and more.

Last updated April, 2021

Stage 1 Stage 2 (unilateral) Stage 2 (bilateral) Stage 2 (throws) Stage 3
Landing Mechanics Skipping Countermovement Jump Overhead Throw UL Jump, BL Land
Skip-for-Height Dead-Start Jump Chest Throw RFESS Jump
Bounding Broad Jump Rotational Throw Box Jump
Dead-Start Broad Jump Seated Box Jump


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