Tagrowing technique

Boost Your Middle 1000 Meters with This Rowing Workout

This is a new rowing workout that we’ve had good success with recently. It’s a great workout that can be done in the boat or on the erg. Most of the rowers and ergers that have tried it all said it helped them to precisely:

  • Row a really hard rowing session
  • Touch many training zones
  • Stay motivated (it’s a mentally alerting workout)
  • Jolt from the comfort zone into new rowing territory.

But be warned – of all the rowing workouts that ergrowing.com recommends this one is one of the toughest.

But most of all it’s a rowing workout designed to help you develop an awesome middle 1000 2k race pace.

Here it is:

Warm Up:

  • Warm up for around 20 minutes with some solid rowing.
  • After around 10 minutes do a 1 minute pipe opener rating 30 – 32 rowing hard.
  • Next (after a short break) do 3 x 15 strokes at rate 32, 34 and 36 respectively.
  • Take around 1 minute easy rowing between each 15 stroke push.
  • Finally do some easy rowing for 2 – 3 minutes and get ready for the actual rowing session.

Phase I

  • Row hard at 32 strokes per minute for 30 seconds, then drop the rate down to 30 for the next 30 seconds.
  • Repeat this wave for a total of 5 minutes.
  • In other words you will do each rate (30 and 32) 5 times in a row at 30 seconds each continuously for 5 minutes

Take 5 minutes easy rowing and repeat the 30 second rowing wave for 5 minutes.

  • After that take 5 minutes easy rowing again and repeat the wave a third time.
  • Row easily for 5 minutes and take a short break.
  • 7 minutes after finishing the 3rd rowing wave begin the next phase.

 

Phase II

  • 12 minutes steady rowing rate 28.
  • Focus on power and rhythm developed in the 5 minute wave phase.
  • Take a 5 minute rest and repeat the 12 minute workout.
  • That’s it!
  • Warm down in the usual way.

Rowing Tips:

For the 5 minute wave workout make sure you work hard. For some rowers (and rowing crews) rating 30 – 32 in the summer racing season is easy. But if you do it with extra punch and purpose, you will get an excellent physically challenging workout.

But here’s the best part. Most rowing workouts focus (mainly) on the physical training effect of the program. Very few have a physical element intertwined with a specific technical & physical element built into the workout.

Very few are designed so that it would be impossible to do a good workout without using your technique and physicality properly.

Let me explain.

In this workout, when you drop the rate down from 32 to 30 strokes per minute you should actually row harder. That’s right – you should actually work harder in the water.

Now to some rowing coaches (and rowers) doing something like this is borderline rowing heresy– it betrays the very fundamentals of ratio and rhythm with the timing and speed of the boat.

Accepted.

That stuff is all fine and dandy and in the real world of racing 2k competitively its actually crucial. But in the world of training and practice you need to learn to improve your weaknesses.

And you know what one the biggest weaknesses (technically & physically) of mid level rowers and rowing crews is?

The 2k Rowing Settle Slump

Is that point of a rowing race where crews make a change from the after start phase to the middle of the 2k course phase. It’s the point where most crews actually lose speed and set themselves up for a slower than potential  middle of the course pace..

It happens because rowers and crews lighten off the work rate in the water way too much.

Trust me. 50 – 60 % of rowing crews (at mid level) do this in every race.

Powering down as the rate drops causes two things:

  • A drop in speed (because rate and power drop)
  • A distortion of the rhythm (power drops more than rate)

The distortion of the rowing rhythm causes all sorts of problems for the rest of the race. Crews get too tired rowing in an incomplete rhythm that is not a direct match of the boat speed.

Here’s How To Solve It.

The rhythm at the beginning of a rowing race is generally good amongst most crews. But most lose it when they drop the rate down for the middle 1k.

Of course it is necessary for survival to drop the rate and power (even the best crews in the world could not hold the rate, length and power of the start phase for the entire 2k – although some are getting close)

You and your crews need to train and practice the transition from the racing start into the middle 1000. Doing the 5 minute workouts (with 30 second waves) will help you and your crew practice that transition.

So when the rate drops by 2 pips – Harden On In The Water.

But what should you do when the rate goes back up to 32? Pull lighter? Pull the same?

I’ll leave that up to you to feel it out. But most will pull harder.

 

Is this an Erg Workout?

I’ve tried this rowing workout on the erg and found it to be a very demanding erg session. Be warned this workout should only be attempted when you are mentally and physically fit. And more importantly, should only be attempted once a week – max.

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7 Steps To Seriously Effective Erg Technique

1 – Super Quick Hands.

You can never be too quick with moving your hands away from the finish of the erg  rowing stroke.

Not only does it help rhythm and power towards the finish, but if done correctly it can really set you up for the next stroke by recycling some of that dynamic energy built up during the power phase.

2 –  Follow your hands

Use the speed and energy of your hands away from your body to swing your body over the hips. A lot of Ergers make the mistake of not moving the body past vertical in the recovery phase.

If you don’t then you never be able to achieve maximum power in the power phase

3- Lift your knees smoothly.

This is especially important if you are a rower. Most of the time rowing Ergers will really emphasise the separation of the hands, body swing forware and slide on the recovery phase.

That’s fine if your game is proper rowing technique. But on the erg this is a waste of time and energy. The idea is to keep recycling the energy dynamically. If you delay or make a sticking point along the stroke cycle then it’s just wasted energy.

4 – Be set up and ready for the power phase.

Once your seat wheels are on the move towards the beginning of the stroke you need to be thinking only of one thing – the next stroke. Most rowing coaches will call this heresy but they are looking at it from rowing-a- boat perspective. Ergers are looking at it from the fastest possible erg perspective.

5 –Take it easy on the easy phase.

When it’s easy make it easy. In other words when you are going up to take your next stroke allow yourself to take it easy. Taking it easy doesn’t mean taking it slow. RELAX. If you can learn to relax then you will save A LOT of energy.  Even by just by thinking ‘easy’ makes the blood flow and mind feel strong.

6 – Use the easy phase to make the power phase easier.

This is one of the most important tips you will read at erg rowing.com Most rowing coaches will never mention it because they don’t even know it exists. Most average rowers don’t know about it. The top Ergers however DO know about it.

You won’t  see it by watching YouTube. You won’t even see it at the CRASH B’s. It’s so imperceptible that it’s almost invisible. You just have to know it exists, find it, feel it and use it. I’m talking about recycling dynamic energy. If you find it you can save unbelievable amounts of energy and when you get the feeling you won’t let it go.

To find it you need to approach the beginning of a new stroke with perfect speed. It’s a very subtle feeling. A lot of rowing coaches will say that you need to slow down the seat as you go for a new stroke. Recycling dynamic energy demands that you actually maintain your seat speed or slightly faster.

When you do it correctly and you hit the next power phase you will feel a reduced load with the same split or even lower. I don’t have percentages, because I can’t measure it but take it from me, once you can hit this sweet spot, you will save yourself a lot of pain. Remember recycling dynamic energy.

Another way of thinking about it is to keep the wheel spinning. Feel as though you are tapping the wheel along. You are not ‘muscling’ the handle on the power phase.

Recycling dynamic energy is closely related to rating which I examine below under rating.

7 –   Sequence your power phase.

If you can dance (well!), then you will know that sequence and timing is crucial. Similarly the power phase of an erg stroke is all about sequence and timing. Strongest – Next Strongest – Weakest. Legs – Back – Arms in that order. Simple, yet it’s absolutely the most efficient and effective way of pulling the handle.

To get the most from this sequence you need to follow the advice in the next article very carefully.

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Learn Good Erg Rowing Posture

Did you know that there are 1000’s of things that you can do to make yourself a better rower – starting right now. And almost all of them are non rowing tasks.

Changing habits are hard. And the bad news is that this tip requires you to change one of your habits.

But first:

 

I Have a (non Rowing) Question for You…

Where are you sitting right now? Are you at a desk – crouching down looking at these very words on your monitor? Or maybe you’re on the couch at home slouching down flicking through your ipad? Or are you on a bus or train, on your way to work reading this on your phone?

You could be anywhere reading this.

Wherever you are and whatever device you are reading this article on, I want you to  think about one thing – right now.

 

Just one simple thing.

 

And when you think of it, I want you to do something immediately afterwards.

 

Ready?

 

Your posture.

 

How is your posture?

 

Are you sitting correctly?

 

Or, are you slouching down with a curved back, tense shoulders and protruding chin?

 

If it’s the last one – change it right now. Make yourself sit correctly so that you are maintaining your back and spine in a good neutral position.

How to correct it:

Uncurl your back, rotate your pelvis and sit on the bones of your ass. That’s the same bones that stick down those 2 holes in your seat as you are rowing in the boat. And same bones that sit on the seat of the erg (and somehow always get really sore after a really long erg session).

 

But What Has All This Got to do With Rowing?

And more specifically, helping you to row faster?

Well let me show you by telling you a short story. I heard this once a couple of years back and was amazed by its simple brilliance. At the time Peter Haning was coaching some rowing crews.

Haning was 3 times World Champion in the Lightweight Men’s Single Scull from 1993 – 1995. In some ways he was ahead of his time because he rowed with a particular style and technique that is not unlike the current rowing styles and techniques. Most notably was his flat back and upright body position.

But though he rowed upright with a flat back he still got a great dynamic body action with lots of length generated from swinging his body both forward and back.

I don’t know if it was by accident or design that he rowed this way, but the fact is that it was great to watch.

And deadly effective.

Anyway – back to my story. When he was coaching, he once subtly corrected a rower who was on a public computer on a hotel lobby checking his email. Very courteously and helpfully he motioned to the guy to sit up a little. To correct his posture from the slouching position he was in.

Before you say anything – this wasn’t a case of Haning getting involved in something that was none of his business (even though the rower was not one of his athletes). This was a guy who had seen this rower actually row out on the water and saw his limiting problem.

And like all good coaches he took his opportunity to impart his knowledge freely and helpfully – in the right context.

The rowers problem was a pronounced curved back. This curved back was – with time – making him inefficient and have some of the following adverse problems:

  • Weak finishes of his rowing stroke
  • Tired a lot especially towards the end of races
  • A generally a poor performer into strong headwinds
  • Have thoracic back tightness (which lead to injury threats)
  • On more than one occasion in a rowing race had difficulty breathing (his chest was constricted with the curve)

You would think that this guy should have been able to solve this problem, long before Haining came along. Especially since he was getting intensive (and good) coaching from his university rowing coach. But no matter how hard he tried in the boat to correct his problem, he still reverted back to his old habit when he was under pressure.

 

That is until the day he got a subtle bomb dropped on him by a 3 time world champion. Who showed (and fixed) him his problem for him in 10 seconds.

 

You see, it was not about his posture in the boat that was the major cause – it was about his posture out of the boat.

So Remember This:

Sit up and be aware of your posture until you have created a new (good) habit. And you will go a long way towards avoiding some of the problems this guy had with his rowing technique.

Oarsome Foursome v Romanian Women’s 8 – A Technique Lesson

Have you ever watched the Romanian Women’s 8 in full flight? Here they are in the 2008 Olympic Final.

Take a look especially at 1:04 and at 4:54

When they were at their best, watching them rowing was something to behold. It was truly unique – and deadly effective. Their results speak for themselves.

But their rowing style and technique really defined them.

At its most simple – they moved their hands very fast away from the finish of the stroke and followed with a really fast body swing forward. Then the slide was taken very – very slowly (in proportion to the hands and body movement). They crept  up the slide as slowly and delicately as possible. (You can relly see this at 4:54)

Look at the overhead shot at 1:05 in the video. Watch out for the speed of the blades on the recovery of all 6 crews. Notice how quick the Romanian blades move off the finish and then slow dramatically in the slide forward.

  • There is a notably big difference in comparison to the other crews’ bladework.
  • See how they explode with an amazing leg drive off the catch and open up the body angle late in the drive phase?

And you know what?

They did the same thing – whether they were at 36 strokes per minute in the middle 1000 meters of the Olympic Final, or out for an easy training session during a World Cup Regatta.

Watching them train was great and was a real chance to see how they rowed their boat. The contrast between the hands & body speed and the slide speed during the recovery was almost unbelievable.

It was almost like they were doing a stop drill exercise -where you stop at various points during the recovery to help with timing, balance, co-ordination and all round general technique.**

Anyway – the point about the Romanian Women’s 8 is that they had a particular way of rowing their boat. And it wasn’t just confined to the 8. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the bow and stroke of the 8 teamed up to row the pair.

Which they won gold to match their Gold in the 8.

Rowing exactly the same style.

Oarsome Foursome – Completely Different Style (Still Effective)

Do you remember the Oarsome Foursome? If not – here’s a really great video of them training in 1996

See how they are much slower with the hands away?

But see how fluid they are after that initial ‘set’ point.

Look at how they just roll up into the front and into the water with the blades – in one fluid seamless movement.

I’m sure you’ve heard before that the catch is the ‘last thing you do on the recovery phase’? (or something similar). This rowing is a perfect example of that movement.

Important Features of Both Styles

Romanian

Hands: Really Fast away from the finish.

Body: Follows the speed of the hands (quick)

Slide: First quarter on the recovery is quick. But then it slows dramatically.

Catch: After the very slow slide the blade drops in quick and the change of direction with the slide (and the engagement of the legs is dramatic.

Leg Drive: Go down hard and the body remains forward. The whole of the drive phase is very horizontal. See how low and level they move their bodies towards the bow? It looks like their whole style is based on not disturbing the boat run (in both the recovery AND the drive phase).

Back swing: Very dynamic through to the finish (which helps a fast spin of the hands away on the recovery)

Australian

Hands: Deliberate and controlled way from the finish. The guys sit very still at the finish with toes pointed, knees flat, core braced and the only things that move are the hands. See how they all meet at a point together?

Body: Controlled – and a noticeably separate movement from the hands. Very different from the Romanians where the hands and body move almost together.

Slide: Very fluid, direct and deliberate. Notice how well they match the slide speed with the speed of the boat.

Catch: Part of the recovery.

Leg Drive: Simple effective movement: Press (or push)

Back swing: Compared to the Romanians the back swing in the Australian Boat is much more ‘even’. Sure they open up hard together towards the finish, but they don’t over rely on the legs-back separation in the drive phase.

The use both together.

But notice how dynamic the finish of the drive is: The back and arms move faster as the momentum, power and boat speed increase towards the finish.

It shows excellent timing with the movement of the boat.

So Which is best?

It’s up to you. I been directly involved with crews rowing both styles at a serious level for a long time. We spent 2 whole seasons trying to row the Australian style and spend 5- 6 seasons rowing more like the Romanians (but not as extreme).

The crews I was involved in went fast with either style – Top 7 in the world fast.

What you can try…(and why)

Option # 1

If you are inflexible the Australian style may suit you better because the fluid movement in the recovery will give you momentum for a good

  • Compression
  • Stroke length

Aim to purposively build the boat speed towards the finish.

Release the blade and feel your boat run.  Make sure you brace and sit still on the finish and don’t disturb your boat.

The Australian style could also work well for you if you have a problem with the length of your stroke (you row too short)

Be very careful though. The oarsome foursome match the slide speed forward with a quick catch and connection. So for you to do it right, you need to match this.

Option #2

Rowing the Romanian Style is a little more challenging in my experience. It’s a bit like walking a tight rope. Once you are moving and are in the groove then you are ok, if you stop moving or break the rhythm they you could be in trouble.

It also requires good control and flexibility – especially with your hips, hamstrings and lower leg joints and muscles.

Creeping up the slide is the balancing on the tight rope part – but the dynamic drive and lightening quick hands – body  – first quarter slide creates a nice rhythmic momentum that will carry you a long way up the slide towards the catch.

It’s kind of like sting and float – with a high work to rest ratio.

It works on the erg too

You can try either of theses techniques on the erg. Study both videos and decide which style you think will work best for you.

** Actually this is one of the best rowing drills you can do to get your boat going well. Whether you are in a crew of 8 or in a single scull or are on the erg – it truly is a worthwhile drill.

P.S. Drew Ginn is the bow man in the Australian 4. He runs a great blog and site called rudderfish – which gives us all a really unique insight into the world of a multiple Olympic Rowing Champion.

How To Pull The Erg Harder (Learn 3 Ways)

 

#1 Load up the Front End

The erg responds well to a front – loaded power phase. If you are working hard at the back end of the rowing stroke you are probably limiting your erg splits because:

A. Working the handle hard towards the finish is not very efficient
B. You are missing out on the natural erg response to loading the first 70 – 80% of the drive.

So if you can spend your power early in the drive and not rely on back loading towards the finish you can produce more efficient power. And it’s a power curve that the erg monitor responds to  – sometimes by up to 1 second/500. (depending on your rating and power) Continue reading

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