Strength Training Thoughts

I posted the following on the Rowing Illustrated forum.

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I got back a really great reply from a user SDSweep which I would like to share.

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So, my winter training plan will include:

  • 2 strength sessions a week.
  • These sessions will be tacked onto the end of a shortened endurance session (probably 40 minutes of endurance and 30 minutes of strength work)
  • The plan will be very simple including 4 exercises per session
    • A compound lift emphasizing the rowing muscle groups
      • squats
      • deadlifts,
      • power cleans
    • Something for upper body rowing muscles
      • Pull ups
      • Chin ups
      • Lat pull downs
    • Something for counter muscle groups
      • Push ups
      • Bench press
      • Standing press
      • Seated Press
    • Core
      • Ab roll outs
      • planks
      • leg lifts
  • In terms of reps and sets.  I will probably use some advice from some other folks to mix this up in blocks.  A couple weeks of lower reps, more sets.  Then a couple weeks of higher reps and less sets.  Generally, I will be going for 20 to 30 total reps.
  • Weight.  I will progressively increase weight, but follow the guideline that I will stop at least one rep before failure.

15 thoughts on “Strength Training Thoughts

  1. Richard says:

    I can look it up but if you go above a certain HR on the endurance before the weights it ruins the weight session.

    Also a lot say not to erg before weights, mainly because of back problems. So if your endurance could be treadmill running or bike?

    Please monitor your 7 Stoke max power whilst doing the weights. Don’t expect quick results but over 3 – 6 months would be good to see an increase in max power.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gregsmith01748 says:

      That’s interesting. I’ve read that the opposite is true. That doing endurance work right after weights basically undoes the training effect from the weight training session. But I think your point is a good one. The priority on strength days is the strength work. I should really do the upfront endurance work at UT2 intensity to make sure that I am in good form for the weights.

      I like the idea of doing a power test periodically through this process. I’ll plan one for Friday.


      • Richard says:

        For keeping HR down I meant in the Endurance session. I could have said power or lactate. It’s about using too much glycogen from the muscles. So you do have to do the endurance at the lower end of say UT2 or keep it fairly short otherwise the muscles don’t have enough glycogen to work with when doing the weights workout. But yes agree do it before weights not after. Stretching and core work after weights is good.

        My thought on weights is that you use it to improve max power so monitoring this is quite important. Then training comes in to maximize endurance to accommodate the gain in power.

        An example of this is Alex Gregory post 2008 Olympics where he focussed on a weakness in power.
        “Gregory said another ‘light-bulb moment’ had been realising that he needed to step outside his comfort zone. He explained that he had always worked on improving his rowing technique. “This was easy because it was something I was already good at,” he said. However, he said the big improvement only came after he decided to work on his weaknesses by focusing on building up his physical strength and size in the gym.”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. sanderroosendaal says:

    Heart Rate is not very much correlated with training effect for weights, in my experience.

    In terms of enthusiasm, you are where I was a year ago. I still have to get back into the rhythm again. Regular strength training has not been part of my training plan for the past few months, even though it was over the past winter/spring.


    • gregsmith01748 says:

      I agree that there is no correlation with HR. I just left the monitor running because I was curious.

      I know what you mean about enthusiasm. I’ve had a bunch of false starts with strength training. That’s why I am setting the bar so low with this training plan. I’m hoping I can sustain it for a year to give it a good chance.


  3. stelph82 says:

    My main findings with doing weights off and on over the years, backed with several studies I have seen, suggest that they don’t really have a major impact on rowing performance other than helping to prevent injuries and allowing you to have additional time training if you already have a complete polarised training plan set up and find yourself with extra time to do something additional – I think rowing is very different to cycling/rowing in this respect as the act of rowing itself at UT2 pace 18-20 is, in itself, a resistance weights exercise in a way that cycling isn’t – so although theres a lot of data supporting doing weights to support the carido for cycling I havent seen the same in rowing

    Regarding the number of workouts would be two a week, but this season I have been doing one a week(and previous seasons none!) and seen gains made with what I can lift – The way I fit it in is having it as the second session of the day after the cardio workout – ideally several hours between the two

    Liked by 1 person

    • Richard says:

      “The act of rowing itself at UT2 pace 18-20 is, in itself, a resistance weights exercise”

      So it should increase peak power or would it only increase it to a point? I have only been rowing coming up to 5 years and with increased UT2 18-20 I haven’t seen increased peak power. UT2 18-20 trains aerobic fitness I have definitely seen improvement in this, but how much does it train peak power? I’ve never done Xeno’s training or seen the proper plan but his peak power training on the erg seems to be quite important part of improving speed.

      Taking technique out, to row faster you need more power and then improved endurance to use that power. It’s what a lot of the text books say, it that right?

      When a trained so fit someone has a certain erg score it is usually because they have a certain peak power.

      So do weights increase peak power in the stroke in a better way than UT2 18-20 rows? Any studies? Or would a peak power session on the erg (as previously mentioned back killers) like mentioned in following link be better? –

      The book Training for the Complete Rower: A Guide to Improving Performance
      Book by Alex Wolf and Paul Richard Thompson has some good peak power erg workouts too. Its at home but will try and post the workouts from there later.

      Liked by 1 person

      • gregsmith01748 says:

        I’ve recommended that peak power training article to a lot of people. I really like the protocol and try to include it in the last month before sprint racing.
        The way I see it, it is very similar to the way I practice starts OTW.


      • stelph82 says:

        I wouldn’t have thought that peak power would be increased by steady state but then equally I would ask if there is a correlation between peak power and rowing performance? I would argue that strength endurance (i.e. be able to maintain a set amount of power output for longer amounts of time) is more important than peak power in what your 2k score is – case in point, there are a large number of power lifters who are able to hit stupidly low scores on a max watts test, but very few are able to compete racing over a racing distance like the 1k/2k as they lack the strength endurance.

        Also there is the question about muscle use in rowing, we know there are different types of muscle fibres but are they all being using for rowing? And does weight training train he correct ones? An interesting study looked into fatigue from weight lifting and the impact it has on rowing up to 48 hours after

        The results show that up to 48 hours after the weights workout, there was a marked reduction in the rowers peak power however this did not significantly impact the rowers 2k score – if there was a correlation between peak power and 2k score you would have expected the 2k to have taken a hit – but it didn’t – to my mind this supports the idea that rowing is more of an endurance sport and slow its more the slower twitch muscles that are important for good rowing performance than the fast twitch ones which are normally trained/exhausted with heavy weights sessions

        Liked by 1 person

    • gregsmith01748 says:

      My main priorities (in order) are:
      1. Injury prevention and general fitness
      2. Don’t lose any aerobic fitness
      3. Increase peak power

      As Richard pointed out, I’ve done so many millions of meters at r18-r20 that I think I may be on the shallow part of the strength improvement slope from that mode of exercise.
      I have very low expectations for weight training to make me faster in the boat. It is very important to me that it doesn’t make me slower.


  4. Randall Bickham says:

    This is a small payback for all the great information you have posted on rowing. Getting more explosive/stronger from lifting is relatively simple, you need to have minimalist approach and avoid injury. Injury generally comes from incorrect range of motion from lack of flexibility that is typically associated with too much sitting over the years. Here are some thoughts:
    1. Start with core foundational movements that you can add to in the future if you really think it is necessary. Focus should be core strength, leg, hip/hinge and back for a rower.
    2. Buy a Sorinex Diamond Bar for deadlifts (RDL style of movement with upright body position) and rows. Check out the Sorinex site for the bar and there is a video that shows you the movements.
    3. The best rep protocol for a beginner/intermediate lifter is Ethan Reeve’s (S&C coach at Wake Forest) density program. There is a short youtube video where he explains the basic concept in 2 minutes. In terms of programming, you double your rep max to determine total reps and start each new set on the minute. For example, your 10 rep max is typically around 70% of a 1 RM, double it to 20 reps. One day a week do 10×2 (you are done in 10 minutes) and second day do 6×3 (done in 6 minutes). When you can maintain good bar speed on the 3rd rep on Day 2, increase the weight the next week by 3 to 5 kilos.
    4. A good combination of movements to consider is:
    a. Deadlift with diamond bar which because of the upright stance works the legs and hips.
    b. Row with diamond bar
    c. In Sorinex video they show standing presses. Only do them if you have the shoulder flexibility to replicate the movement in the video. Most people do not and compensate by arching their back which leads to injury.
    d. You listed power cleans and squats. Power cleans are a great athletic movement if done
    correctly which is 90% leg and hip with the upper body only used to catch the bar. As to
    squats, most people that have sit for years don’t have the hip flexibility to do them. If you
    can’t do a proper power clean, do 1×20 kettlebell swings which is 90% a hip movement. If
    you are limited by hip flexibility on squats, the diamond bar deadlift works a lot of the
    same muscle groups, you just don’t get the benefit of getting use to having a heavy weight
    on your back.
    e. Pullups and pushups are great in combination. Rather than the 10×2 and 6×3 above, do 3
    full range pullups followed by 6 (2x) pushups for 10 sets on the minute. So in 10 minutes,
    you have done 30 pullups and 60 pushups. When you can get though the 10 minutes,
    increase to 4 pullups and 8 pushups, then 5/10, 6/12. Most athletes stop at 6/12.

    I have summarized a lot to keep the post short. The most important considerations is to keep the workout to less than 45 minutes, increase weights slowly to allow ligament/tendon adaptation. I saw where you wanted a decent deadlift when were 60. Within 12 to 18 months, you should be at 150 kilos for the 10×2/6×3 based on the athleticism you have demonstrated on the rower.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gregsmith01748 says:

      Wow, what great feedback. I really appreciate the time you put into it. I’ll look into the diamond bar for deadlifts.

      I’ve filmed myself doing squats, and while it isn’t exactly pretty, I think my form is basically right. I should probably do it again.


  5. sanderroosendaal says:

    Wow, great comments on this post.
    I am not exactly scientific in the need for strength training. Most professional rowers do it. Most coaches recommend it. I have even read somewhere that for aging Masters rowers it becomes more important as they get older.
    At the same time, strength training seems to divide the Masters rowers in two camps, probably because of the limited amount of time for training, so what to sacrifice first?
    I will be monitoring this space, so please write about your experiences with strength training.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gregsmith01748 says:

      Yes, I am glad to see all the comments about this, and also on the concept and rowing illustrated forums. I’ve learned a lot from the feedback.

      I have definitely seen the pro and con camps come out in the feedback. And there is definitely a third camp as well, which are the people who think that the right answer is to devote more time to training. At my age, I don’t think that is right. I am not sure I am recovering enough as it is, and putting in a lot more training time might not help much.


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