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deload week for rowing

A Better Deload Week for Rowing

My strength training for rowing programs include a deload week for rowing every 4-12 weeks. Being natural pain-addicts and work-a-holics, most rowers resist this. Hey, I get it. I love lifting. Sometimes I have trouble falling asleep the night before a workout I’m really excited about. My dad bought me a used bench and concrete weight set when I was 12 and I’ve been lifting in some way ever since. I still take a deload every 6-10 weeks. I don’t always feel like I need the rest at the time, but I always feel better starting the next block of the program after the deload. Previously, when I’ve tried the “rest when you’re dead” method, I’ve always found myself burned out, injured, or my performance stagnant after about 12-14 weeks.

This doesn’t make for sexy hashtags, but if it’s a simple matter of taking a half-step back during the deload week in order to take three steps forward during the following training block and train with better energy, less risk of injury, and renewed focus, then those 5-8 weeks of reduced training load are well worth it over a 52-week annual training plan.

In this article, we’ll cover the importance of the deload week for rowing training from both a strength and rowing training approach. I’ll lay out four different options for training to achieve the goal of rest and recovery to build for more effective future training with better performance and less risk of injury.deload week for rowing

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Rowing Warmup: The Complete Guide

The warmup is an important time to set you up for the best rowing, erging, or strength training session with the lowest risk of injury. You can do a solid full-body rowing warmup in 10 minutes, or 15 minutes if you include the light aerobic time. In this article, we’ll cover my go-to rowing warmup movement sequences so you can start making this a part of your training right away.

Key Points: The rowing warmup prepares the body to generate and transmit force from good positions in rowing, erging, or strength training. Rowing is a long range-of-motion sport requiring performance from challenging physical positions  at high outputs, for long durations, and under high fatigue. To make this harder, rowers are often rolling out of bed 30 minutes before an early morning practice or sitting down all day at work or school before an afternoon or evening practice. Use these movement sequences for 10 minutes of physical preparation to get more out of your training with less risk of injury.

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Why I Hate the Bench Pull for Rowing

I hate the bench pull for rowing strength training. I can see a justification for most other exercises, but the bench pull is one of the few exercises I’ll do everything I can to avoid using in my strength training for rowers. This is a controversial opinion in rowing, especially among more “old school” coaches and rowers who remember the lift with mythical status of the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s. I’ll use this article to state my case for why the bench pull should be left behind in the modern era of rowing, what exercises I use instead of the bench pull, as well as how to modify the bench pull to be a more effective, safer exercise for those who must bench pull.

Key Points: Bench pull rowing enthusiasts usually tout the exercise’s specificity to the rowing stroke, but I see it as anything but specific. Rowers rowing on the water or on ergs do not lie facedown on a solid object and pull with their arms in a straight line against a static object. Rowers execute a refined movement to place the blade in the water (a dynamic target), initiate force with the lower body, transfer it through a torso in the hinge position, and complete the stroke in a dynamic, smooth motion with the upper body muscles. My biggest problem with the bench pull is the direct pressure on the ribcage as a known risk factor for the common and costly rib stress injury. Rowers should use other horizontal pull exercises like bodyweight rows, single-arm rows, and a few more variations rather than take on such risk for such little benefit as the bench pull for rowing performance.

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10 best exercises for rowing cover image, barbell and text

The 10 Best Strength Training Exercises for Rowing

This is what I would do if I could only do 10 exercises for rowing strength training. In reality, I use more variations of our basic exercises of the squat, hinge, push, and pull movements, plus exercises for the core, shoulder, and hip muscles. However, these 10 exercises are a great starting point for strength training for rowing. In this article, we’ll go through each one with how it improves rowing performance, reduces risk of common rowing injuries, and how I use it in my rowing strength training programs.

Here’s a brief overview on my rowing strength training philosophy to set up these exercises. Rowers need strength training for the muscles that contribute to rowing performance to increase force output in the rowing movement. Rowers also need strength training for the non-rowing muscles that are underdeveloped by the rowing stroke to improve muscle balance and reduce risk of injury. We do some form of strength training year-round in my coaching with rowers of all ages, types, and levels. We build strength, power, and muscle mass during “off-seasons” or times of decreased rowing training and racing. We then train to maintain strength, power, and muscle mass when we focus on rowing performance during “in-season” or race prep training.

We’ll stick to the exercise details in this article, but I’ve written a lot about how to combine the exercises in a strength training program elsewhere on my website. Start with “The Basics of Strength Training for Rowing” and read on from there.

10 best exercises for rowing cover image, barbell and text

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Mastering the Hip Hinge for Rowing

hip hinge for rowingThe hip hinge for rowing is a key basic athletic movement that must be mastered to perform many strength training exercises in the weight-room to improve rowing performance. Squat, deadlift, push press, and Olympic lift variations all rely on the fundamental ability to hip hinge. Plus, a rock-solid hip hinge for rowing is the key to achieving reach in the stroke and power on the drive through the hips, rather than through the spine. The hip hinge is key to improving rowing performance as well as reducing low back pain injury, and it can even help reduce risk of rib stress injury. But more on that later! The hip hinge is the basis of the fundamental athletic position, but many rowers miss this part of early training and have to learn it for the first time later in their career.

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Fixing Rowing Imbalances in Off-Season Training

The general preparation block is one of the most productive training times to set up the rest of the year of training and performance. This is generally the off-season phase of training furthest away from the main competitive season. For 2km-focused rowers racing in the spring season, the general preparation block would be the summer season. This is a crucial time of training to build the aerobic base and muscular foundation that the rower will draw on for the rest of the year. Fixing rowing imbalances is also a major goal of this block. The main goals of the general preparation block are:

  1. Rest, recover, and heal
  2. Build a foundation of strength and aerobic fitness
  3. Fix rowing imbalances
  4. Enjoy the off-season and maintain your enthusiasm for future hard training

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core training for rowing

Core Training for Rowing: Research and Practice

Rowers love “the core,” but what exactly is the purpose of this muscle group in rowing performance and how can we train it most effectively for faster times, better technique, and reduced risk of injuries? The purpose of this article is not to convince you to do core training for rowing, because you probably already are! Instead, we’ll discuss some key features of core anatomy and training, explore some relevant rowing research, and I hope to introduce you to a few exercises beyond planks and crunches to add to your core training for rowing.

Key Points: “The core” includes more than just the “six-pack” rectus abdominis muscle and core training for rowing should include movements for the other abdominal muscles and the posterior trunk muscles around the lumbar spine. Static plank holds are fine for an entry point into basic strength training, but the core muscles do not act statically in the rowing stroke. Rowers need to progress to exercises involving more movement at the extremities and hips with a stable spine for core strength to carry over to improved performance and reduced risk of injuries. Watch detailed video demonstrations of the TRX/gymnastics ring suspension trainer core exercises and my favorite core exercise for rowers, the seated rockback. These exercises offer many different variations and progressions to keep core strength training engaging and effective for rowers of all ages, types, and levels.

Table of Contents

core training for rowing

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Rowing Injury Prevention: Snapping Hip Syndrome

Snapping hip syndrome (SHS) is a common injury in rowing. The most noticeable characteristic of SHS is a palpable or audible “snapping” sensation around the hip joint that may be painful or not painful. There is Internal SHS, felt more toward the groin and associated with the iliopsoas tendon, and External SHS, felt on the outside of the hip around the head of the femur and associated with IT band tendon or gluteus maximus tendon. Both forms of snapping hip syndrome in rowing are common, uncomfortable, often painful, and are usually a chronic injury, not a traumatic injury (Cheatham, Cain, Ernst, 2015). Snapping hip syndrome in rowing is common due to the seated and bilateral nature of the sport, which can result in chronically tight hip flexors, increasing risk of SHS. Prevention of snapping hip syndrome in rowing revolves around care of the hip flexors and muscles involved at the pelvis, as well as strengthening the antagonist muscle groups to prevent chronic hip flexor tightness and move through a full range of motion (Hannafin, 2011).

Originally posted as a guest post on Rowperfect UK.

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All About Overtraining

Overtraining comes in two main forms, chronic and acute. Chronic overtraining is fairly rare and traumatic, but acute overtraining has broader symptoms and affects many athletes. Acute overtraining can be caused by training with too high frequency, intensity, and/or volume, or by failing to recover sufficiently from training via sleep, diet, and lifestyle. Overtraining is not to be feared, but recognizing overtraining symptoms is key to better managing your training, recovery, performance, and mental state.

The Internet pendulum swings rapidly on the subject of overtraining, and a brief survey on the topic will reveal attitudes both of constant fear of overtraining even in the lowest volume training situations and macho “there’s no such thing as overtraining” attitudes. The reality lies somewhere in the middle and the polarity of opinion is mostly the result of a lack of understanding of what overtraining actually is.

First, let’s clear up what overtraining is not. Overtraining is not overreaching. Overreaching is a strategic training period as part of a taper cycle when fatigue will be incurred past a recoverable level. Many athletes will experience this as a natural part of a training traincycle. This period is strategic, intentional, and should be carefully monitored by the coach and athlete. The athlete overreaches for a short period of time (2-3 weeks) during which time fatigue is very high and performance is diminished, then training is scaled back for another short period of time (1-2 weeks) to allow for recovery before a peak performance. This is the strategy of tapering to produce an immediate short-term spike in performance for a peak event.

Overtraining is different from overreaching in that it is not strategic, does not have a performance purpose, and is the result of a mistake or error on behalf of the coach or athlete.

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ankles rowing mobility

Ankle Mobility for Rowers

This is the final installment of mobility for rowers, where we’ll cover the importance of ankle mobility for rowers and how you can improve flexibility and strength in the calf and shin muscles for better compression, cleaner catches, and stronger drives. In Part 1, we discussed what “tightness” really is (and what it isn’t), why mobility is so much more than just flexibility alone, and how to address mobility restrictions in the thoracic spine. In Part 2, we broke down the big bad hip flexor muscles. In Part 3, we went to the posterior hip and dug deep into the glute muscles. The goal of mobility training is to improve flexibility, strength, and stability in major muscle areas to improve rowing performance and reduce risk of common rowing injuries. Knee, hip, and low back pain often happens as a result of something going on at the start of the kinetic chain. Ankle mobility for rowers is crucial to set the rest of the body up for great performance and to minimize excess force on other structures.

ankle mobility rowers

Restriction: Calf muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus), shin (tibialis anterior), bottom of the foot

Location: Calf area, shin area, feet

Test: Power Rack Test

Rowing fault: Poor compression, splayed legs at the catch, poor leg drive at the catch from being in an unstable position

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