Rowers: Six Areas to Focus on in the Fall and Winter

Now that rowing season is officially over, for most of us anyway, we must resort to off water training. We have the Fall and Winter months to work on our mental and physical strength, aerobic conditioning and endurance, flexibility, coordination, and our ability to apply power. What can we do in our basements, in the gym, in the great outdoors to improve our ability to row well on the water in the Spring and Summer?

Let’s see…

Note: I provided a few links to help you with the exercises that I mention below. You can also ask a local trainer or friend for help with the exercises or to put a routine together. Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.

One: Watch yourself! Erg in front of a mirror, video yourself, and/or work with a partner

Practice practice practice on the erg, but make sure you are practicing the right way and that you are not developing poor habits. A few options to improve your technique:

  • If you have a mirror you can watch yourself as you are rowing. Front and side mirrors are even better. Take note of your movements/mechanics, posture, and composure. Have a look out for extra movements and tension and adjust as you row.
  • If you have a phone with a camera (my iphone works really well), you can set it up on a bench and record yourself for a few minutes. Record, review, delete, incorporate the changes, repeat.
  • If you are working with a partner, check your timing to make sure that both of you have the same movements and that your timing is perfect.

If you are not comfortable in critiquing yourself, enlist a friend or a coach, or ask a question in the comments section.

See The Rowing Stroke section to find out what to look for during each phase of the stroke.

Two: Work on conditioning and endurance

Rowing on the erg, running, biking, skiing, exercise classes, swimming, skating, hiking, trail running, kayaking…

“Keep active, stay fit.”

Three: Strengthen your core

Rowers often overlook core strength but a strong core adds so much to your ability to stabilize yourself in the boat, connect the blade to the handle, and to finish the stroke strong. Rowers who have back problems should really focus on strengthening their core in the off-season. Here are a few exercises that you can add to a workout.

  • Medicine ball twists
  • In and out sit-ups
  • Planks – front and side
  • Supermans

https://www.rowperfect.co.uk/an-introduction-to-core-strength-for-rowing-static-exercises/

Four: Bend and stretch

Take your stretching seriously over the winter. Most of us have tight hamstrings, glutes, ankles, and shoulders, which will impact our range of motion when rowing. We also tend to be tense, which is a no no in rowing.

  • Take a yoga or flexibility class
  • Take time to stretch during your warmups and after your workout
  • Use a combination of static and dynamic stretching

http://www.concept2.com/indoor-rowers/training/tips-and-general-info/stretching

Five: Get strong

Rowing is demanding on the muscles and the repetitions are high so it is important to develop muscle strength and endurance. Create a balanced routine that works the muscles in your chest, back, shoulders, and legs. You can put together a workout using one exercise from each grouping below.

  • Incline chest press | overhead press
  • Squats | lunges
  • Seated or bent over rows | pullups
  • Deadlifts | hip thrusts

https://www.t-nation.com/training/6-best-exercises-for-strength

If you are working on muscle endurance, choose lower weight and higher number of reps; if you are working on muscle strength, choose higher weight and a lower number of reps.

Six: Explode!

Yup, you need to be strong but you also have to use that strength effectively. Work on your explosiveness with these moves:

  • Box jumps
  • Squat jumps
  • Power cleans – ask a trainer for help to get the form right
  • Kettle bell swings
  • High intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • Hill climbs or sprints – run or bike
  • Heavy tens on the erg: 10 strokes at a 10 damper setting at 10 SPM with perfect technique

https://www.t-nation.com/training/10-movements-for-explosive-power

Putting it together

A weekly routine that incorporates all six of the above could look something like this (adjust as needed):

Monday

  • 3-5 minutes dynamic stretching
  • 30 minutes on a stationary bike
  • 3 sets of chest presses, squats, bent over rows, hip thrusts – 8 to 10 reps each
  • static stretching between each set of weights

Tuesday:

  • 30-45 minute erg – the first 10 minutes will incorporate drills and stretching
  • 15 minutes stretching – especially the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back

Wednesday:

  • 3-5 minutes dynamic stretching
  • 30 minutes running on a treadmill or outdoors
  • 3 sets of overhead presses, lunges, pullups, deadlifts – 8 to 10 reps each
  • static stretching between each set of weights

Thursday:

  • 3-5 minutes dynamic stretching
  • 30 minutes on a stationary bike or erg
  • core routine
  • static stretching between core exercises

Friday:

  • 15 minute aerobic warm-up
  • A HIIT routine (maybe all body weight exercises) including box jumps and kettlebell swings

Saturday:

  • 30-45 minute erg – the first 10 minutes will incorporate drills and stretching
  • 15 minutes stretching – especially the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back

Sunday: Off

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