T Nation

any rowers out there?

have any of you guys ever rowed? I was on the crew team in college, I’m trying to get back into it, and I’m trying to find a rowing-specific lifting program. Any help would be really appreciated.

Yes, indeed. GT Crew, baby.

I’ll outline our program first, and then go into a few more specific tips.

We did 4-station circuit training, 15 minutes for each segment. The first was a 5 story parking deck, up and down. Immediately thereafter, interval training on the ergs, 1 minute sprint, 1 minute off. This transitioned to weight lifting, as many of reps as possible for 45 seconds, switch exercises in 15, and repeat. Lying row, bench press, beldens (rather like a power snatch), bench press, and curls. The last station was hill running, up and down for 15 minutes.

The entire workout lasted 1 hour, start to finish. Between land and water, we averaged 6 workouts/week.

Occasionally we’d spend the entire hour in the gym. Similar circuit style, 45 on, 15 off, over a wider range of exercises.

As the season progressed, on-the-water time increased dramatically. We’d steady-state at a 27-29 stroke-rate, practice 10 stroke sprints (‘POWER 10!’), or simply race to the end of the river and back, some 10,000 meters. 4 sets of obligatory pullups concluded many workouts.

That's what'd you'd do if you were prepping for a competition. Unfortunately, without prior cardio work, it'll kill you. To get started, do basic interval training on the ergometer, 1 minute on (90%), 2 minutes off (40%) for 40 minutes, 3 times a week, for two weeks.  

Weight training is an afterthought in this sport. Technique and endurance are infinitely more important. The team that can row as one at a consistently high stroke-rate nearly always wins. 

70% of your power is the initial leg drive. Another 15% as the back extends, and the final 15 from pulling the arms to the chest. They're all distinct movements. <I>There is very little overlap.</i> Erg technique is the difference between 6:40 and 7:05 over 2000 meters.  

I don't discount the value of a good physique, however. What exercises should you do? As a rule, the more of your body it uses, the better. Power snatch, pullups, horizontal high cable rows, and squats fit the bill. Do them with minimal rest in a circuit format. 

If I've missed anything, let me know.


Let’s hope you actually read that. It took far too long to proof.


yeah, thanks man, i certainly appreciate your response. I went to conn college, our practices weren’t too much fun either. however, a typical college crew practice isn’t what I’m hoping to find, but rather some good rowing specific lifts. I’ve been rockin the erg, pretending I’m a rower again, and I’m looking for some strengthening movements so I can get those splits back into the teens. if you have any more info/advice I’d appreciate it. Thanks!

Reread that section after the tildes.

If you’re in it for the long haul, mass training and maintenance cardio will ultimately push you to a higher bodyweight. From there, intense intervals will slim down splits more than it would have alone.


Is that 40 minute routine aimed toward higher sustained strokes rates? Thinking back to college, when we used to do our 2k erg tests, I’d be one of the top three or four, but my stroke rate was always low as hell, 24-26. If you have any advice specifically on sustaining higher spm, that’d be awesome. Thanks for your time, dude.

That was an acclimatization routine so you wouldn’t suffer cardiac arrest rowing sprints the first time out. But you appear to be farther along than my initial impression, so cut the 2 minute rest in half.

35 to 45 minutes is the optimal length of time for cardio work. Any more, and deleterious effects begin to outweigh cardiovascular improvement.

High stroke rates don’t help a rower that shoots the tail and rushes the slide. Either lapse in technique is a recipe for high splits. A low strokerate isn’t a major issue if the rower in question has a powerful leg drive. But challenge yourself anyway; if you’re used to a 26, erg at 27.

Rowing is the sum total of cardiovascular ability and technique. Improve either and your splits will fall.