in-season rowing strength training

In-Season Rowing Strength Training

I have found that rowers go wrong in one of two ways during in-season rowing strength training. Some rowers train hard in the off-season doing cross-training, strength training, improving rep-maxes, and putting on muscle mass, but when racing season starts, suddenly that’s all in the past. Rowers who stop strength training when their racing season begins are strongest for the early regattas when it matters the least, and weakest for the final regattas when it matters most! Other rowers increase strength training when the season starts, believing that they need to do more work and more reps to drive performance adaptation for rowing.

In my experience, there’s a better way to maintain your hard off-season work so you arrive at the championship podium at least as strong, muscular, and mobile as you were for the first race of the season. An in-season rowing strength training program makes use of lower fatigue baseline strength and power maintenance sessions, specific high intensity sessions planned ahead around the training and racing schedule, and muscular recovery sessions to improve mobility and reduce risk of injury through a hard racing season.

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in-season rowing strength training

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kettlebells for rowing

Kettlebells for Rowing Strength Training

Kettlebells can be a useful tool in your strength training for rowing toolbox to develop strength, power, and muscle, if you know what you’re doing with them! In this article, we’ll discuss some of the research on kettlebells in strength training, and methods for using kettlebells for rowing strength training. A fellow strength coach of rowers wrote me earlier this year with how she uses kettlebells for rowing training programs, and we’ll hear from her as well, plus some sample programs.

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resistance band rowing strength

Resistance Band Rowing Strength Training

Resistance bands are a versatile tool to have in your strength training for rowing toolbox. Resistance bands are fairly inexpensive compared to other strength training equipment, require little storage space, are portable, and are adaptable for use with a wide range of athletes. If you train out of a boathouse or a home gym, resistance bands can simulate dozens of exercises that you might need dumbbells or a cable machine for otherwise. Rowers can learn to how to maintain tension at different ranges and directions of motion, making resistance bands an effective strength training tool to provide a different stimulus than traditional free weight exercises alone. We’ll do resistance band rowing specific exercises, as well as exercises to develop non-rowing movements and muscles. Programmed and instructed thoughtfully, resistance bands can add another layer of challenge, flexibility, and stimulus to your rowing strength training.

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strength training circuits for rowing

Strength Training Circuits for Rowing

Strength training circuits for rowing can have a place in a training program, but they’re often overused or used for the wrong reasons. We can improve training with an understanding of when, how, and for what kind of rower we should use circuit training, clearer goals for circuit training, and methods beyond simply working stroke muscles in fatiguing conditions. In this article, I’ll suggest solutions to common problems in circuit training design and provide guidelines and examples of how I use strength training circuits for rowing under different goals and conditions.

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Strength Training for Masters Rowers: Periodization

Steady state, intervals, peak power, base endurance, base strength, max strength, technique, mental skills, mobility, nutrition, oh and of course, traveling and racing…There are a lot of skills required in rowing and a lot of athletic qualities required to be a great rower, but how is anyone other than a professional full-time athlete supposed to find the time to train all of those qualities? Strength training for masters rowers is a delicate balance of providing the right kind of training stimulus at the right time without taking time away from rowing or going overboard into overtraining.

The answer is periodization: an annual approach to programming in which focus is strategically shifted between developing certain qualities while maintaining others to gradually build to peak performance. Periodization for masters rowers is especially crucial. Perhaps in your early days of rowing you could do volume until you fell off the erg, get up and do intervals the next day, and hammer the weights in between sessions, but as recovery from training becomes more limited, strategic planning of workouts becomes more important. Here is an annual periodized plan for strength training for masters rowers to produce peak performance.

I’ve written a guide to each block of training in “The Basics of Strength Training for Rowing,” so the rest of this article will draw from that, informing the masters rower what adjustments I make when applying the concept of block periodization to the masters rower competitive schedule. I recommend reading “Basics” first to learn which exercises to use and what each block is all about, and then read this article for the adaptations to the masters training and schedule. 

Prefer audio/video? I discuss strength training for masters rowers and periodization systems in detail in webinars for USRowing, December 2021’s “Strength Training Difference-Makers for Masters Rowers,” and April 2022’s “Fundamentals of Strength Training for Masters.”

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fall rowing strength

Fall Rowing Strength Training

The Specific Preparation Block of fall rowing strength training can often get left behind in the overall hustle and bustle of fall rowing season. It’s an exciting time in the collegiate or junior rowing programs. Athletes return from summer break, enthusiasm for a new year high. New novice rowers join the program ranks. Coaches rush around like forest creatures using every last bit of daylight to make final preparations for the changing seasons, squeezing in extra meters to get athletes up to speed. Coxswains sweat out the twists and turns of upcoming head races. It is vital to have a solid plan for fall rowing strength training amid all the busyness so that athletes get the most out of the work they put in during the summer General Prep Block, and are ready to build their foundation for the upcoming year of training.

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Strength Training for Masters Rowers

The previous excerpt from “Rowing Stronger” discussed training and strength training for masters rowers at a broad level 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 about specifics of strength training for masters rowers and how to start training if you are 50+ years old and have minimal lifting experience. 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 peak power training cover picture words

Rowing Peak Power Training

Rowing peak power is the main training goal of the pre-season or pre-competitive block of training. This phase of training occurs between the off-season and race prep or the in-season phase of multiple races. We take the base of general strength, muscle mass, and aerobic fitness that the rower developed in the prior off-season training phases and turn it into boat-moving, flywheel-spinning peak power for fast starts, power moves, and sprints.

This article is Part 3 in my annual programming series. Read “The Basics of Strength Training for Rowing” for the general overview of the annual strength training plan, and then individual block-by-block articles for Part 1 Off-Season/General Prep, Part 2 Specific Prep, and Part 4 In-Season/Race Prep.

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