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.

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rowing ltad article cover graphic

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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.

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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”

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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.

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

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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.

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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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Off-Season Rowing Strength Training

The racing season has ended, the final races rowed, and you’re ready to start down the road of off-season training. The off-season is a crucial time to set yourself up for the rest of the year. In this article, we’ll cover the major goals of off-season rowing strength training, general program guidelines, and example strength training programs for openweight, lightweight, and masters rowers.

This article is Part 1 in my strength training for rowing 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 after this one for Part 2 Specific Prep, Part 3 Pre-Season/Pre-Competitive, and Part 4 In-Season/Race Prep.

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