Some rowers find themselves without the time, equipment, ability, or desire to make dedicated strength training a regular part of their rowing training program, due to external circumstances or personal choices by the coach or rower. Sometimes this can be a temporary situation, as in during a time of very heavy rowing training, travel, or increased time demands outside of rowing. The minimum rowing strength training plan often focuses on the performance work and discards the supporting work and training to reduce injury risk. In this article, I hope to convince you that it should be the other way around. Your performance work can be better replicated by rowing and erging than the assistance work for the non-rowing muscles and movements, and it is here that you will find the greater benefit to overall performance and reducing risk of injury.
The common minimum rowing strength training program tends to involve a lot of muscular endurance work in the off-season or pre-season, usually focusing only on the muscles that produce stroke motion, and then only rowing during the racing season. The result of this is rowers strengthening the muscles that are already strong from rowing, which misses development of muscles neglected by rowing training and increases risk of overuse injuries and muscular imbalances. The lack of an in-season approach means that these rowers are strongest at the start of the season when it matters least, and weakest at the end of racing season when it matters most. Instead, coaches and rowers seeking the bare minimum rowing strength training should strength train for the goal of reducing risk of common rowing injuries by building movements and muscles that rowing alone neglects. I call this “rowing mitigation work,” and it’s the most important part of rowing strength training, and the easiest to implement in a rowing training program.