TagWinning a Close Rowing Race

Rowers – Why You Must Always Sprint

Rowers like pulling hard. On the erg and in the boat. It’s what gives us speed and makes us feel good. It makes us feel like we’re doing something honest and playing by the cardinal rule of rowing and erging – pull hard and go faster.

But given that you spend most of your time erging and rowing at a rate below 24 strokes per minute you end up pulling A LOT of hard, slow strokes.

Physiologically that’s fine(and necessary) for lots of reasons. But there is one major problem with it- especially for erging:

You teach yourself to mainly pull slow hard strokes when all the money is at fast hard strokes.

How You Can Fix It.

Always finish your session with a stepped sprint. Whether it’s an hour long erg or a short series of 500 meter intervals, always finish the last work piece flat out. Why? Because you will benefit massively in millions of ways – both physically and mentally.

Your body will adapt and respond to the increased stimulus you heap upon it at a point where you are under a lot of stress and fatigue. It will learn to expect that every rowing session you do will have a sprint to the finish. This is a great weapon to have in your armoury for tight races.

Your mind will also respond in a positive way to finishing the session on a high. You will come away feeling good even if you didn’t have a good row. You will also come to realise that you will always be capable of going harder (and faster) no matter how tired you are coming to the line.

But what about your long steady session?

Yes, even if it’s a long 1 hour row on the erg, you should still sprint to the line.

Here’s an example.

  • From about 3 minutes left, step up your rating and power slightly (1 second per 500).
  • Do the same with 2 minutes left.
  • Then in the last minute start to slowly nail it.
  • Incrementally increase your power and rating so that in the last 20 seconds you are all out – recruiting every muscle fibre and brain power in your possession.

The same goes for shorter rowing workouts.
Over time if you practice a sprint in the long sessions you will develop an ability to sprint for short sessions also. Even if you are only able to reduce your average power by 0.5 seconds per 500 it will be worth it.

Sprinting is a great habit to develop. And it will not affect the general core purpose of a particular rowing session.

Introduce it to your rowing and erging sessions and one day when you find yourself in a dog fight use it to blow your opposition away.

P.S. Read the follow up to this article, where I clarify some interesting questions raised by one of our readers.

3 Race Winning Rowing Workouts

Have you ever wondered about the rowingworkouts you are doing day in day out? Ever wonder if they are designed to help you actually win a race. Late in rowing races is often the time when the outcome is decided and it’s often down to the looser actually breaking, more than the winner actually winning.

But you can learn to win close races by preparing physically (and by implication, mentally) with specific workouts designed to get you familiar with severe pain tolerance – simulating the late stages of a race.

But you should treat the following workouts with caution. Because of the heavy demand physically and mentally they will place on you, they should only be attempted when you are feeling relatively fresh and rested. Use them once a week at most and treat them with the degree of seriousness that race winning knowledge deserves.

Here you go:

#1 Under Over Intervals

12 minutes total
(2 minutes at Threshold Power + 1 Minute Above Threshold Power) x 4

This is really tough training. Perfect for a controlled rowing environment like the erging. Your Threshold Power(TP)  is the power you could hold for 20 – 30 minutes all out.

So for example, if your TP is 1:45 average /500 meters, then you would pull (1:45 for 2 minutes +  1:44 – 1:43 for 1 minute) x 4 (which is 12 minutes total)

I first came across this type of training in the Lance Armstrong Performance Program. And the first time I tried it I was only able to do one 12 minute set. It was extremely difficult but after 3 – 4 weeks I was pulling 2 x 12 minutes with a 5 – 7 minute break between sets.

#2 Five minute boosters

(5 minutes at TP then 5 minutes easy rowing) x 5

Take it a little easier for the first couple (maybe 1:46 in the under over example). The accumulative interval will start to really hit home for the final 2 sets. This is race winning territory. You are burning, you’re tired and the 5 minute rest is not enough to recover. Dig deep and always finish hard to the line.

#3 Vo2 Max Intervals

I have mentioned elsewhere about vo2 max boosting rowing intervals. But here is a different erg workout which again tests you in race winning territory.

(1000 meters all out) x 3

Each set should be done with a proper racing start and a short sprint to the line. This is severe training and is as much mental as it is physical. This workout should only be attempted once per week for a few weeks before an important race or test. When done properly your lactate tolerance will go through the roof – and your ability to win close races  will rocket with it.

P.S. Thanks to Steve for pointing out the error in the Under-Over Workout – The correction is 4 times 3 minutes (12 minute workout).

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