A Better Deload Week for Rowing

My rowing programs always have a deload week 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 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 or injured 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 reduced load training weeks are well worth it over a 52-week annual training plan.

Most programs just block out a week out of the gym for the deload week. Rest and time away from training is fine and a necessary part of any program. If you enjoy lifting or time out of the gym causes you more stress than it’s worth, we can design the deload week to still achieve the same goal of rest and recovery while still getting after it in the gym.

Why Deload?

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Bundle: Winter Rowing Training

As the fall head racing season wraps up in the US, many teams and rowers are looking to avoid the ice and frostbite by ditching the oars and moving into the weightroom and onto the ergs. Here’s a bundle of articles that will be useful to you as you plan your winter training.

If you’re a spring 2k rower following the block periodization system, the winter training block will be about half specific preparation and half pre-competitive, depending on when exactly your fall season ends and your spring season begins. The typical rowing team will conclude fall in mid-November and resume water training in mid-February. In between the seasons is a great time to restore bilateral (left/right) balance and make great gains to set up the spring competitive training block. Cerg1heck out “The Basics of Strength Training for Rowing” for an overview of annual periodization and how all of these blocks fit together with the goal of peak spring 2k performance, then read the other articles for how to accomplish it!


Learn the Lifts

Improve Your Mobility

The Strength Coach Roundtable

Keep in touch over winter training

Subscribe to my email list so you can stay tuned for the next Strength Coach Roundtable episode and hear about some of the techniques I’ll be experimenting with over winter season. Email subscribers get exclusive content about training, coaching, and my studies that doesn’t necessarily make an official blog post.

Strength Training for Masters Rowers

The previous excerpt from “Rowing Stronger” discussed training and strength training at a broad level for masters rowers with topics of recovery, exercise progression, and injury prevention. After I got a shout-out from renowned masters coach Marlene Royle on a recent Rowing Chat podcast, I received several questions from masters rowers about specifics of strength training and how to start training if you are 50+ years old and have never really lifted before. Here’s my advice for how to start strength training for a male or female masters rower.

I think that Marlene’s opinion of strength training in her podcast was spot on. Strength training is a vitally important part of masters training, especially for injury prevention, but it is small in comparison to technique, aerobic endurance, and ability on the water and on the ergometer. If you aren’t technically sound on the water or on the erg, you won’t be able to display the full potential of your strength. However, if you’re a masters athlete who has spent a lot of time in the sport, developed great technique and aerobic base, but hasn’t been seeing improvement, strength training could be the missing ingredient. Read the first chapter of Rowing Stronger for free to see why training endurance from the top-down with strength work is so effective.

Technique is the first thing I emphasize with an athlete of any age. Technique is important to develop the movement patterns that will help you both in and out of the boat. I’d suggest working with a personal trainer or qualified coach on lifting technique, because it isn’t intuitive or natural to a lot of people and there are many ways to go wrong when learning a new skill. You can take this article to a personal trainer or qualified coach so they can teach you the proper technique on these simple exercises.

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Rowing Faster After 50

Will RuthRowing Stronger RP COVER

The following is an excerpt of the Masters Rowers chapter from my e-book, Rowing Stronger: Strength Training to Maximize Rowing Performance, available now published by Rowperfect. This is the only comprehensive strength training resource just for competitive rowers. Learn basics of strength training programming, how to taper for peak performance on race day, specific injury-prevention exercises for rowers, and how to make boats go fast! This isn’t a “print-and-go” program to be accepted blindly. You’ll learn how to program for yourself and maximize your own training for performance on the water.

Main Takeaways

  1. Record your training
  2. Master the lifts and use exercise variations if a conventional lift causes pain
  3. Keep an eye on the big picture plan of rowing faster and staying healthy on the water

Masters Rowers

Regardless of age, experience, and gender, strength training can improve performance and all-around fitness beyond a chosen sport or activity. Intelligently designed, consistent, progressive strength training is one of the most powerful tools to slow and in some cases, reverse, the physical changes that are a natural, biological process of aging. Strength gains are still fully possible via central nervous system (CNS) improvements even after testosterone levels decline [5]. The central nervous system regulates the force produced by muscles. Strength training takes what was once a bumpy gravel road connecting the CNS to the muscle fibers and turns it into smooth pavement, capable of transmitting greater power to the muscles. Aerobic systems lose little with age, so the combination of the improved CNS, healthy muscular system, plus a robust aerobic base can power boats well into one’s masters years. In fact, if you have relied solely on technique and aerobic training to this point in your career, the addition of intelligent and progressive strength training could unlock the door to new personal bests and faster times.

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