Page 2 of 8

rowing ltad article cover graphic

Rowing LTAD: Long-Term Athlete Development

Long-term athlete development (LTAD) describes the habitual development of general athletic qualities to improve health, fitness, sport performance, reduce risk of injury, and improve confidence and competence in the physical domain. Rowing LTAD begins with general LTAD and gradually progresses through stages of development to improve rowing performance over many years, not just weeks, months, and seasons.

Key Points: Rowing LTAD means building capacity for long-term improvement in rowing, as well as other athletic skills for well-rounded, holistic development. Rather than focusing on short-term performance improvement, an LTAD view can still improve performance, plus reduce risk of injury, increase engagement in sport training, and help athletes be physically active for life. LTAD practices look different at different chronological ages, stages of development, and for athletes with different motivations. I presented on strength training for rowing LTAD at a USRowing event, and you can watch the replay at the link below.

Table of Contents:

rowing ltad article cover graphic

Continue reading → Rowing LTAD: Long-Term Athlete Development

The Nordic Hamstring Curl Exercise for Rowers

The Nordic hamstring curl is a popular exercise in the strength training for other sports, but has not reached widespread use in rowing. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know to begin using the Nordic hamstring curl in your strength training for rowing.

Key Points: The Nordic hamstring curl (NHC) is an exercise with good application for rowers, training the glutes and back muscles for hip stability and taking the hamstrings through a underdeveloped movement of eccentric knee flexion. The NHC requires minimal equipment, so rowers and coaches can incorporate it into training just about anywhere. It is a challenging exercise that all rowers may not be ready for right away, so use variations in range-of-motion, tempo, and set-and-rep scheme to gradually progress up to full training.

Table of Contents:

nordic hamstring curl for rowers, an exercise for posterior chain strengthening requiring minimal external load or equipment
Illustration from Bahr and Mæhlum (2002), “Scandinavian Textbook of Sports Medicine”

Continue reading → The Nordic Hamstring Curl Exercise for Rowers

muscle soreness rowing article title graphic. picture of deadlifting with muscle soreness and rowing title.

Muscle Soreness and Rowing

Muscle soreness is an issue of both reverence and avoidance in rowers. Pain-chasing rowers love muscle soreness and don’t feel like they got a good workout without it. Others hate it and do everything they can to avoid it out of a desire to maximize immediate performance or not make rowing any harder or more painful than it already is. Rowing coaches often both want strength coaches to “test” rowers and “train their grit” with challenging and painful workouts, but can also get mad when athletes are sore for rowing or don’t perform well immediately after intense strength training. Whether you love it or hate it, this article is about muscle soreness and rowing: what it means, what it is NOT, how it affects rowers, and how we can reduce and avoid it.

Key Points: Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the kind of low-grade muscular stiffness or tightness that people feel in the 24-72 hours following exercise. DOMS tends to happen more with strength training than with rowing, due to the greater movement diversity of strength training, higher force muscular work in strength training, and eccentric muscle actions. DOMS doesn’t mean much beyond your muscles saying, “Hi, that was new.” Whether you are sore or not sore is no real indication as to whether your training is working or not working. Rowing research indicates that muscle soreness itself has little negative effect on rowing performance at or slower than 2km pace. The best way to reduce DOMS is to avoid getting so much DOMS in the first place by gradually introducing yourself or athletes to new, unfamiliar training stimuli.

Table of Contents:

muscle soreness rowing article title graphic. picture of deadlifting with muscle soreness and rowing title.

Continue reading → Muscle Soreness and Rowing

all about rowing power testing cover photo graphic

All About Rowing Power Testing

In this article, you’ll learn all about rowing power testing: why power tests offer important information, basic testing principles, rowing power testing protocols, and how to collect, analyze and use this information in your training. We will discuss important physiology knowledge for power testing, best practices for erg testing, the different protocols of counting strokes or seconds, apps that you can use to collect power testing data, and how often to test peak power to inform your training.

Key Points: Rowing power testing tells us if the rower is improving in maximum power output (duh), the effect of strength training on rowing performance, and offers a way to estimate race pace. My favorite power tests are the 7-stroke max or 10-second test to stay within the phosphagen energy system, responsible for producing very high outputs over short durations. Whichever power test you choose, testing protocols need to be standardized and kept consistent in order to accurately reflect results as changes from training. Use full slide, good technique, recorded drag factor, similar motivation and testing environment, and same rest between individual attempts.

Table of Contents

all about rowing power testing cover photo graphic

Continue reading → All About Rowing Power Testing

rowing physical therapists are a valuable resource for rowers experiencing injury

Rowing Physical Therapists for Rowing Injuries

No one wants injuries. There are many things that rowers and coaches can do better to reduce risks, but we can never fully prevent injuries, so it’s important to have a plan in place for when one occurs. This article covers my general approach to rowing injuries, how rowers and coaches can work with rowing physical therapists for best results, and my go-to list of all-star rowing physical therapists for resources and appointments (virtual and in-person).

DISCLAIMER: While we are discussing injuries and the medical field very generally in this article, nothing ahead constitutes individual medical advice or specific information on injuries or other health problems. The whole point of this article is the value of consulting appropriate medical professionals when confronted with medical or health-related problems. I will discuss my approach to rowing injuries at a general level, and encourage you to apply the information as you personally choose to based on your knowledge, comfort level, and available medical resources, doing so in a way that does not render me personally responsible for your actions.

Table of Contents:

rowing physical therapists are a valuable resource for rowers experiencing injury

Continue reading → Rowing Physical Therapists for Rowing Injuries

strength training for sculling

Strength Training for Sculling

Strength training for sculling necessitates an understanding of what makes sculling different from sweep rowing and erging, knowledge of the different types of scullers, and management of the different physiological demands between different boat classes and racing priorities. In this article, I will cover some relevant research for scullers, identify a few adjustments that I make specifically for scullers versus other rowers, and discuss how plans change for scullers of different types and priorities.

I also presented on this topic via the Craftsbury Sculling Center Free Weekly Webinar series on August 12th, 2020. This webinar is available for free linked at the end of this article.

Key Points: Strength training for sculling is mostly the same in the lower body as those who erg or sweep row. However, the action around the rib cage and shoulders is very different between the three modalities, and top athletes in each discipline will have specific strengths and techniques to achieve maximum performance. Exercise variations of the squat, hinge, and pulling categories train the relevant muscles for stroke power and performance. We can also use strength training to teach and reinforce specific muscular skills for sculling performance. Finally, we use other exercises to develop muscles and movements neglected by rowing alone, including upper body pushing, lateral, rotational, and shoulder external rotation exercises.

Table of Contents:

Continue reading → Strength Training for Sculling

Using Sleds for Rowing Strength Training

By Alex Walters, USRowing Level 3

Note from Will: “Using Sleds for Rowing Strength Training” is a guest article by Alex Walters, coach of the Gem City Crew juniors program. Alex and I have corresponded for a few years now via my email list. He wrote me earlier this year to tell me about the kind of strength training he was doing with his junior program. He felt inspired, motivated, and informed by my resources to make strength training a part of the team’s development, but lacked the funding for equipment, the space to store and use that equipment, and the ability to instruct a conventional strength training program or hire a strength training professional to do so. Enter the sleds. Alex described these warhorses of plywood to me and showed me some pictures of the movements he used in their training. I loved it and asked if he’d like to share this with the broader rowing world, and this article is the result of his efforts. I think it’s a great example of a coach figuring out how to work with what they’ve got and being willing to start with SOMETHING and improve from there. I hope you enjoy this creative approach to strength training for rowing.

Continue reading → Using Sleds for Rowing Strength Training

plyometrics for rowers

Plyometrics for Rowers: The Complete Guide

We use plyometrics for rowers to improve general athleticism and increase rate of force production. Although rowing is not truly a plyometric sport, power and rate of force development is still important for strong early drive force with fast legs. General athleticism is harder to quantify, but helps rowers make technical changes and adjustments more easily. In this article, we’ll review some general plyometric exercise information, dig into some research on plyometrics for rowers, and provide practical recommendations for my favorite plyometrics and how I use them in my training programs with rowers of all ages, types, and levels.

Key Points: Plyometric exercise can be safe and effective for improving rowing performance with good planning, instruction, and programming with the rest of rowing 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: cover graphic showing the 1-leg and 2-leg jump, forwards and backwards overhead throw, and seated jump

Continue reading → Plyometrics for Rowers: The Complete Guide

nsca coach rowing

NSCA Coach: Strength Training Practices for Rowing

Fellow rowing strength coach Blake Gourley and I co-authored a three-part article series for the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s NSCA Coach online magazine in 2019-2020. These articles are available for free to NSCA members, and available for purchase for non-members below. NSCA Coach aims to provide practical, evidence-based training resources to strength coaches across sport specialties and athlete populations. The publications are reviewed by an editorial review board, and are written in a more conversational tone than peer-reviewed academic journals. We’ve included demonstration pictures, tables, and sample programs as relevant.

Our goal with this series is to move the worlds of rowing and strength training closer to each other. We want to inform strength coaches interested in learning more about rowing training and performance, as well as rowing coaches and rowers interested in learning about strength training practices. In Part 1, we break down injury research and identify methods in rowing and strength training for rowers and coaches to reduce risk of injury. In Part 2, we address strength training for rowing performance, with details for needs analysis, periodizing, and programming. In Part 3, we discuss energy system development and bring it all together with alignment of strength coach, rowing coach, and rowers.

nsca coach rowing

Continue reading → NSCA Coach: Strength Training Practices for Rowing

rowing return to train

Rowing Return-to-Train Considerations

The return-to-train phase is any time of resuming rigorous training following more than a week away or significantly reduced due to injury, illness, vacation, or anything else. We can think about returning to train in the general sense, such as resuming any training activities after time away, or the rowing return-to-train phase specifically of resuming rowing and erging following time away from sport-specific training. Athletes and coaches often just want to get back to their prior level of training and performance as quickly as possible. The better way to think of the return-to-train phase is how to use this time to set yourself up to go beyond your prior level.

Key Points: I wrote this article in May of 2020 during the most extreme example of a return-to-train phase, following a multi-week forced shutdown or restriction due to Covid-19 boathouse and gym closures. However, the rowing return-to-train phase includes any time of resuming rigorous training following more than a week or so away. Coaches and rowers can learn from the extreme example of Covid closures and apply it to common rowing return-to-train scenarios of beginning a new season, transitioning to rowing after a long phase of only erging, returning from vacation, rebuilding after an injury or illness, and more to reduce injury risks during this vulnerable time and improve athlete outcomes. Be aware of these phases in your training calendar, know the risks of trying to do too much too quickly, and use the strategies in this article to gradually reintroduce athletes to full training and beyond.

Prefer audio/video? I’ve presented on rowing return-to-train considerations twice to USRowing, with replays available at the links below. One webinar is from May 2020 for a general audience immediately following the Covid-19 closures, and another from April 2021 co-presenting with nutritionist Liz Fusco for a masters-specific audience.

Table of Contents:

  1. Rowing Research Review
  2. Planning the Return-to-Train Phase
  3. Return-to-Train Best Practices
  4. Wrapping Up
  5. My USRowing Return-to-Train Webinars

rowing return to train

Continue reading → Rowing Return-to-Train Considerations