T Nation

Discussion: Rowing


Been thinking it would be interesting to start a thread for rowing. A sport that treads the line between strength and stamina (and technique obviously).

A place to share any thoughts and experiences on balancing training for strength, size, aesthetics, ergs and endurance, as well as nutrition and recovery.

For me, the new university year is starting soon and after a summer of weight training and bulking I'm sure my increased size and strength will be advantageous.


A picture to make it official!


Nice to see the thread has bee started. It would be good if people shared training and nutrition ideas on here, maybe even cumulate a training and eating regime. Personally i feel the best way to improve rowing performance is improved body composition. To acheive this i have been training in two manners during season and off-season.

Personally if i were to design a training program over the course of a year at universirty this is what i would do. Based on 3 ten week terms with varied breaks between.

Term 1: Head season: Myofibrillated hypertrophy dominant with some high rep sets and complexes to build lactate tolerance, olympic lifts would be a good choice for the complexes. Include cardio either on the erg or other simulating the time of a race, (run at 3/4 pace for 20 minutes). Equally sprints over say 200m and 400m distance would be good for overall fitness. Dynamic and static stretching would be included after and before weights sessions with some foam rolling and prehab work on sholders, knees and ankles

Holiday 1 (3-4 weeks): Personally here i would continue with strength training but maybe decrease cardio to one or two days per week, ramping up the strength sessions and aiming to drop bodyfat% by manipulating diet. Include maybe 1-2 peices per week with 1 technical based session on ergs. Probably would include a deload the week before returning to uni

Term 2: Similar to term 1: Strength training: perhaps include some sarcoplasmic hypertrophy work on lagging bodyparts

Holiday 2 (3-4 weeks): Asses body comp, either diet or add some lower body size in prep for regatta season

Term 3: Similar training plan to term 1, include erg sprints and 100m running sprints.

In terms of nutrition i would eat carbs only around training and eat animal flesh and vegetables all other meals.


In my experience which has been that of a complete novice to a reasonable intermediate, hip mobility is key.

I think the dynamic flexibility drills that all athletes are encouraged to do can have a great carry over into rowing. Getting to front stops in a powerful position with a straight back is so much easier now after hip flexor work and of course learning to squat to depth.

For anyone who is rowing semi-seriously with outings 3-4 times a week and land training I think clean carbs are going to be essential. The calorific demand of that kind of training is just to high, and to protect muscle mass I thinks carbs are a must.

However in the off season any dieting and fat loss with a low carb diet would seem sensible for some.


I completely agree with the hip mobility. Loaded stretching (romanian deadlifts would help here). In fact any deadlift/power clean/snatch variation would have significant carry over, maybe including some rack pull work to shift emphasis and agreed squatting to depth would help develop the explosive power from front stops. Regarding the carbs, i agree that rowing creates large calorific demands, however, the amount of carbs you consume really depends on your body type and insulin sensitivity.

I would also say that carbs do nothing to protect muscle. The only times they are crucial are to generate a significant insulin spike and replenish glycogen stores (para-training). I feel that you can train and perform well with a combination of protein,fats and nutrients from vegetables in most meals and include a variety of carbs around training (using different G.I carbs depending on the time. This is how I would eat, the diet is based on a morning outing and an afternoon weights session:

Upon waking (before outing): protein shake, fish oil supplement, coffee
During training: Leucine and electrolyte mix in 1 litre of squash
After outing: 4 egg omelette, spinach, lean cuts of bacon, small amount of cheese, fish oil supplement
Mid morning/Lunch: Chicken breast, pile of steamed brocilli
Snack: Tin of tuna in spring water, cucumber, lettuce, olive oil
Dinner: red meat or fish with spinach, brocilli, mixed peppers, fish oil supplement
Before bed: casein protein powder or small tub of cottage cheese


carbs an absolute must.

Head season when I was at university consisted, initially, of a foundation in endurance- primarily distance work at first, then long rows; this followed by stairs, hills, ergs (at least one 10-k piece per week in addition to any water time) a great many pushups, 'jumpies' 2x-crunches, and more hills. Leg pressing/squats/pull-downs/pull-ups/rows (natch)/curls/deadlifts. Sprints - both on land and water- were sprinkled in for grins; so, yeah, stretching/mobility work was a requirement if you intend to sleep through the night without quad cramps.

CrewPierce is much more recent, however; give him a yell as he's usually more than willing to help out and I've no doubt he remembers regimen better than I.


cheers bookworm, what you have described is certainly the way head season training looks in england (assuming you rowed in the US).

I'm in a slightly different position to some who are committed to big university programs, I row with a student college club which gives me more freedom training wise. At the moment I'm making the most of this and feel great having gained 10kg of lean size by training with strength as my focus.

My goal is to continue with the 'tmuscle' style of training for the next few months, heavy compound movements, complexes and sprints. At some point over the winter I plan to add in the long steady state ergs, drop a few bf% and get fit for the big head races in the spring.

My point about carbs was just that I'm a tall guy with a high metabolism at the best of times, when training heavily I simply could not get enough calories to keep over maintenance (muscle loss as well as fat loss is still a risk when there's a calorie deficit) without carbs making up a portion of my diet.
If you can then more power to you, and with the diet above you're probably safe :slightly_smiling:


sorry- a liter of squash?


My personal best:

500m - 1:20.1 min
2k - 6:34 min

On the erg machine.


My friend was taking smack about his 5k time and how "No one will remember my name" if I don't try to beat him, so I maybe doing that soon too, lame.


squash, that fruity sweet stuff you dilute with water.

Maybe just a British thing.

Nice 2k time conan, how long did it take for you to recover after? :slight_smile:
Still rowing?

Mine's at 6.52, though I hope this doesn't turn into a my ergs bigger than yours.


Its looking that way, i havnt done a timed 2k recently enough to be an accurate portrayal, 500m is at 1.29, hoping that a second year of rowing experience will cause this to drop. Con@n, nice times, are you still row?


I actually only row for crossfit. I have only tried it a handful of times. But I would like to work on my 2k time at some point, I just wanted to beat my sister (she was a college rower) and her best was 6:53.


I'm curious if anyone on these boards has ever competed in the Crash-B series. I tried two years while in college but never qualified for the free trip. My best time was a 6:27 at the Texas regional competition which was almost 30! seconds too slow to qualify and there was definitely a victory bucket involved after that attempt.

It was the Rice University college club team which was pretty much self coached so my program, which was probably totally trash, was a sprint/rest interval session:
250m sprint @ 1:20-1:30ish
1000m @ 2:00
Repeat until I could no longer hold the 250m split I was aiming for.

On a different note, I doubt many people are aware that there is a marathon row held in Louisiana. I did it three times in an 8 and while an interesting race it's definitely not worth doing in the middle of a season. It tears apart your hands and destroys your energy levels for a couple weeks afterward. I think my best time was around 3.5 hours of continuous rowing.


Just wondering if anyone knows the difference between accuracy of times of a waterrower compared to a concept 2. On my waterrower my 500m time is about 1:18 and 2000m time is 6:24, but I'm not sure how accurate that is. Also when using a compact 2 what is the best setting on the resistance when trying to set a personal best?


I've never used a water rower so no idea on that one.

As far as resistance on a c2 it depends on what type of distance. Any sprints or intervals of less than a minute then 10 is what I would use.
For longer pieces something nearer 5 or 6 seems optimal. Use the drag factor display also for a little more accuracy, I think 135 is used for official 2k races.


My older son had to lose 30 pounds in 4 months, to make weight for the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. A clean diet and rowing ripped the fat right off of him. He made weight and now rows for Navy. His results inspired my younger son to take it up next year. This is a great albeit unknown and underappreciated sport in the USA!


I agree on rowing being good for burning fat. I have always found it easier to hold onto muscle when burning fat better when doing rowing over other forms of cardio.


Oh by the way not sure if anyone has ever tried this routine, but it is pretty intense. On the rowing machine do intevals of 50m up to 500m, increasing by 50m interval each time using maximal pace with a rest ratio of 1:1 for each interval. It is on the concept2 website and there are some good routines for rowing. I am tempted to start rowing when I go to university. How easy is it to learn the technique?


To get proper form you really need an experienced rower or coach to show you how and spend some time working with you. Everyone, especially strong men, really want to pull in hard with their back and arms which is the exact opposite of what you should be doing on the water. Most of the power comes from your legs while the finish (the end of the stroke) is a nice controlled and smooth motion where you need to easily lift the oar out of the water. Once you have an idea of what the motion should be, it will take a couple weeks before everything begins to feel natural. This includes the slow recovery up the slide, straight back, full extension and explosion through the heels at the catch (the beginning of the stroke.)

Just remember that ergs don't float. If you are planning on doing actual water work then as much of your time as you can should be spent there with the erg being used for conditioning and power training. An oar handle is much thicker than an erg handle and you need a lot of time to develop the necessary thick calluses. The motion is also different since you are now rotating the oar around a pivot point outside the shell and the run of the boat affects the motion of the slide.


I have started rowing at university now. Has anyone else competed in a competitive race before? I think my first race is in November so I will be grateful for any tips. Also would jump squats be useful in my leg session to help develop explosive power?

At the moment I do heavy back squats, romanian deadlifts, leg extensions, leg curls and calf raises. I am thinking about subbing in jump squats in place of the curls and extensions.