strength training for rowing basic training template. movements arranged by category with corresponding set and rep ranges.

I shared a version of this training template first in the April 2, 2022 USRowing Masters Conference. See the replay here with the rest of my USRowing webinars. I have since used this template in several presentations and added it to my “Basics of Strength Training for Rowing” article.

Use my Exercise Index for videos and examples of all exercises.

I used this for the masters conference, but this is mostly what my strength training programs look like with junior or collegiate rowers as well. Those with greater recovery abilities can be on the higher side of the sets/reps, while those with lower recovery will be on the lower side. I start out on the lower side and progress to higher as needed, rather than the other way around, then individualize and periodize from there for the specific program, rower, and goals.

The sets and reps are intentionally broad. It’s a template, not a program. The specifics depend on the athlete: their strengths and weaknesses, goals in training or exercising, available and preferred equipment, and phase of development in the annual plan.

Two days per week is the vast majority of my strength training with rowers. I will go up to 3x/week in the off-seasons with rowers who are willing and able to reduce their erging/rowing training volume and need or want to prioritize strength training for 2-4 months.

Plyos: Train them for power and coordination. This means low reps and high outputs, not high reps and low outputs ala burpees/jumpies. More about plyos here.

Squat/Deadlift: Pick a variation that works for you and train it (or them) for strength and power with lower reps and around RPE7-9. More about squats, deadlifts, and RPE here.

A1-2 is a superset. A1, then A2, then 2-3 minutes of rest before repeating again or moving onto the B series. In my experience, the plyo for power has a “potentiating” effect on the squat and deadlift.

B1-3 is a circuit. Do B1, B2, and B3, then take 1-2 minutes of rest before repeating again or moving on, then do C1-3 in the same manner. It’s important that exercises in the same series overlap minimally so that the effort of one does not significantly affect the effort of the next. For example, I do not pair a bent-over row with a hinge and a squat exercise due to overlap on the low back. If the supersets or circuits don’t work for you, that’s OK. Split the same work up in the rest of the session as desired.

I use both bilateral (two-limb) and unilateral (single-limb) exercises in my upper body training for rowers. Using dumbbell and landmine exercises for overhead press and horizontal push and pull is a great way to challenge upper body coordination and develop both sides of the body more evenly than with bilateral barbell exercises. More about upper body training here.

More info here for the warm-up, lateral/rotational hip, core, and shoulder. We train these for movements and muscles that we can’t train with only rowing and erging. This helps maintain general athleticism and reduce risk of muscular imbalances and movement deficiencies.

Read my programming article series and my book for more information, as well as “Periodization for Masters Rowers” for how the strength training emphasis shifts through the phases for masters rowers specifically.

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“Rowing Stronger: Strength Training to Maximize Rowing Performance” is the comprehensive guide to strength training for rowing, from first practice of the off-season all the way to peak championship race performance, and for everyone from juniors to masters rowers. The second edition is available now in print and e-book.