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by Jacque Crockford, MS http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/row-stronger-boat-not-required
Ex Rx:These three rowing–machine workouts boost strength, endurance and aerobic capacity.
Rowing has been a competitive sport for hundreds of years (and an official Olympic event since the modern Games began), and it consistently produces some of the world's fittest athletes (Steinacker 1993).
Formats spanning Indo–Row®, Orangetheory® Fitness and CrossFit® all include rowing programming, but we tend not to use it widely for our general fitness clients. Although few fitness professionals can say they have been in a racing shell with crew and coxswain, we can teach our clients to correctly use the rowing machine at their local gym to reach new levels of fitness.
Like any competitive sport, rowing can be intense, with a high risk of injury, but the sport is still considered "nonimpact," making it—for most clients—a great training tool at lower intensity levels, regardless of musculoskeletal limitations. The rowing ergometer (affectionately called the "erg" in the rowing community) is like any fitness machine: If clients use it properly, there is little risk of injury.
As long as rowing form is correct and efficient, clients of all ages, sizes and abilities will enjoy better cardiovascular and muscular function from rowing regularly. So when clients tire of the same old "glute burner" selection on the elliptical, the indoor rowing machine can provide a great new challenge.
The Science of Rowing
Competitive rowers have registered some of the largest maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) values ever recorded, because the sport requires a large mass of body muscle (Steinacker 1993). Although most of our general fitness clients won't need a VO2max in the 65–70 milliliters/kilogram of body weight/minute range, they can still row their way to a higher VO2max, boosting energy levels and improving overall cardiovascular function.
Like other effective cardiovascular training protocols, rowing increases mitochondrial density and capillary count over time. Row training also increases the size of both fast– and slow–twitch muscle fibers (Steinacker 1993).
Rowing is a good option for clients who seek hypertrophy but feel that cardio holds back their gains in muscle mass. Erg training will add muscle while providing the cardio they otherwise might not get. Furthermore, rowing can be a great way for clients to build mental fortitude and stay motivated.
Rowing Stats to Watch
While seated on the erg, rowers can see their split time (time it takes to row 500 meters) and/or watts (power output), which can really challenge them to achieve new levels of fitness and push past preconceptions about their physical abilities. As they repeat some of the workouts in this article, clients will see their progress over a longer period of time, which can be an effective extrinsic motivator.
For anyone looking to improve metabolic markers of chronic disease such as glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity and lipid profiles, rowing can also offer positive changes in body composition, as noted in several studies. One from the International Spinal Cord Society found a significant decrease in fat mass and a notable increase in lean mass in patients with different forms of spinal–cord injuries (a rowing machine with functional electrical stimulation was used) (Kim et al. 2014).
The biomechanics of rowing are pretty simple—the activity uses just about every body part! Approximately 70% of our muscle mass is used while rowing, according to several researchers (Steinacker 1993; Ogurkowska et al. 2015; Hagerman 2010). Beginning from the ankles and going all the way to the wrists and fingers, nearly every joint in our body goes through some degree of flexion and/or extension.
Forget the notion that rowing is all upper body. The lower body, specifically the quadriceps group, does a tremendous amount of work on the "drive" phase of the stroke (as the rower pushes away from the foot stretchers). The upper body and back are engaged just at the end of the stroke. The hamstrings are also very important during the recovery phase of the stroke, as they work to apply the brakes, or eccentrically slow the body, when needed to allow a controlled recovery up the slide. This is why flexibility can be improved through rowing, especially within the posterior chain.
Core stability can also improve through rowing. While core musculature maintains trunk position as the hips swing open and closed, force transfers through the feet, increasing stroke power and saving the lower back from injury.
Practical Rowing Workouts
Research tells us that rowing is a great way to safely improve cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition. Because these are the five major components of fitness, rowing can be the perfect tool for many people to reach their goals. Using the three workouts below, your clients will improve all these areas of fitness by working through the three major energy systems: aerobic, glycolytic and anaerobic.
1. Aerobic Workout (10–9–8–7)
The aerobic system is always working in the sport of rowing. A 2,000 m race takes roughly 5:30–7:30 minutes, depending on the racing crew and the type of shell, so it's important to have an efficient aerobic system.
For a general fitness client who is training for life and not the Olympics, a stronger aerobic system makes it easier to take care of kids, work around the house, use the stairs at work, and race from one meeting to the next without running out of breath.
A great aerobic system workout is the 10–9–8–7, which my college coach made our team do as a periodic fitness test throughout the year. Although I loathed it then, I appreciate the physiological benefits today (Thanks, Coach Sweeney!).
To do the 10–9–8–7, set the erg timer or your watch for 10 minutes. Be sure your client wears a heart rate monitor so you can track improvements over time. The goal of this workout is to improve heart rate recovery when working in the aerobic zone. Use an open–rate row (stroke rate as high or low as the client prefers) for 10 minutes, recording heart rate and total meters covered. Then rest for 10 minutes (this seems long, but it will come in handy later, and your client will wish it were longer).
Before rowing for 9 minutes on the next set, record heart rate recovery. Do the 9–minute set at an open rate again, tracking heart rate and total meters at the end. Rest for 10 more minutes. Repeat this process for 8– and 7–minute sets, making sure you gather heart rate recovery data.
Again, the goal is to improve cardiovascular endurance by improving the body's ability to recover between sets. This translates well to a 2,000 m rowing race and is a great way for general fitness clients to build endurance. The entire workout takes 64 minutes.
2. Glycolytic System Workout (500 M Repeats)
The glycolytic system improves muscle's capacity to buffer exercise byproducts (neutralize acid buildup), which makes this system essential for rowing. In a rowing sprint race, a significant amount of lactic acid builds up, creating an incredible physical and mental challenge. In real life, the glycolytic system works for us when we are rushing around in a 2–minute family drill (picking up toys, doing laundry and cleaning up aft er dinner!) or when we're literally running late to soccer practice.
For the 500 m repeats, allow your client to warm up for 5–10 minutes. When the client is ready, set the erg to count backward from 500 m (using the setting and timer). Set the rest time between the 500 m repeats for a predetermined length of time, depending on fitness level. The newer the client is to fitness, the more rest he or she will likely need.
At an open rate (using as many strokes per minute as feels comfortable; typical rowing races are done at 30–40 strokes per minute), ask your client to hold a split time for the 500 m. The goal will be to maintain that time (split for 500 m) for the entire set.
Start with a rest time of at least twice as long as it takes a client to finish the set. For example, if it takes 3 minutes to finish 500 m, allow 6 minutes of rest. Repeat the 500 m four times, recording average split time and overall completion time. Over time, buffering capacity improves and clients therefore need less rest to maintain a low split time.
In the glycolytic system, providing a work–to–rest ratio of 1:2 is sufficient for recovery, but you can adjust based on the client's fitness level.
3. Anaerobic Workout
Time to sprint! The anaerobic system supplies energy for just 6–10 seconds, so these sprints will take place between easier sets.
Start your client with a 5–minute warm–up. Ensure that the heart rate stays low (Zone 1). Rest is crucial for complete recovery of the anaerobic system, so this workout will include active recovery so that the client doesn't have to go back and forth from the machine.
Begin with a 5–minute row at a stroke rate of less than 20 strokes per minute (15–18 is usually a good pace). At the 5–minute mark, the client will sprint for no more than 20 seconds as fast as possible with an open stroke rate. Watching the timer, have the client row for another 4 minutes, then repeat the 20–second sprint. The client will row for 3 minutes, sprint for 20 seconds and then repeat at the 2– and the 1–minute markers.
In total, the client will do only 80 seconds of hard work (20 × 4) with 15 minutes of easy rowing (5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 15). Feel free to repeat this set up to three more times for a 60–minute workout.
AVOIDING ERRORS ON THE ERGOMETER
These are some of the major mistakes that occur when using a rowing ergometer:
Hartwell, M.S., Volberding, J.L., & Brennan, D.K. 2015. Cardiovascular drift while rowing on an ergometer. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online, 18 (2), 95-102.
Kim, D.I., et al. 2014. A six-week motor-driven functional electronic stimulation rowing program improves muscle strength and body composition in people with spinal cord injury: A pilot study. Spinal Cord, 52 (8), 621-24.
Ogurkowska, M., et al. 2015. Biomechanical characteristics of rowing. Trends in Sports Sciences, 2 (22), 61-69.
Steinacker, J.M. 1993. Physiological aspects of training in rowing. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 14 (Suppl. 1), S3-S10.
Matt Chebatoris February 2, 2017
Why Paddler Events Like Hanohano Are the BestStand up paddling is fun and has opened the world of watersports to new audiences around the world. I can remember the first time I saw a stand up paddler back in 2008. The individual was moving along on a what was approximately an 11 ft all around board in Marina del Rey. I had recently moved back to the U.S. after spending nine of the previous 10 years overseas and was a newcomer to the Los Angeles area. My wife and I were renting a very small studio apartment on the ninth floor of a high-rise building in nearby Venice at the time. We saw the guy on the board during a walk one evening and weren’t sure what it was. Not being from the area, we just figured it was some sort of crazy California thing that they do out here.
My wife and I rented a pair of boards not long afterwards. Pre-paddling instruction back then was essentially non-existent. After a minor marital discussion on the topic of who knew more about a sport neither of us knew anything about we agreed it was most effective to stand with our feet shoulder width apart and paddle the giant “surf boards” like canoes.
I took to stand up paddling with a bit more eagerness than my wife and soon began learning as much as I could about the new sport. I found the event scene, later joined a local outrigger canoe club (OC-6), and have been training regularly on an OC-1 since last fall.
After attending a variety of events over the years I’ve developed a short list of my favorites, as well as the ones which contribute the most to the sustainable growth of not just stand up paddling, but paddle sports across the board. Yes, not just SUP, but paddling as a whole. Stand up paddling, unique as it may be, is part of a broader paddling community and the events which recognize this and welcome the discipline into the fold have historically, and will continue for the foreseeable future, to be the true grassroots events responsible for ensuring the future of stand up paddling as a recreational sport.
Happy Paddlers! Photo: OnIt Pro
The Hanohano Ocean Challenge is one of such events. I’m not a metrics guy, but based on observation alone, Hanohano is probably the largest multi-discipline paddling event on the West Coast and one of the largest anywhere in the United States. Registration in 2017 topped 400 and while stand up paddling contributed a sizeable portion of the total participants, it is the 21-year-old event’s focus on maximum inclusion that has been its key to success over the years.
Stand up paddling doesn’t need manufacturer’s challenges, rows of exclusionary corporate tents, and a disproportionate emphasis on “professionals” while needlessly relegating recreational paddlers to a circus-like sideshow separate from the “main event”. Hopefully the organizers of the Pacific Paddle Games had a few scouts at Hanohano this past weekend and they learned a thing or two.
Hanohano’s mission is to spread the spirit of Aloha while growing the community of all paddlers. What started as a grassroots surfski event in the late 1980’s has grown to become one of the country’s largest multi discipline paddling events. This spirit of inclusion is readily on display throughout the day from the moment you arrive to check in. For a mere $25 participants can race along an endless number of great paddlers, young and old, in all paddling disciplines from outrigger canoes to SUPs and everything in between. Yes, the event costs only $25 to enter and for that one low price everyone receives the same well-designed T Shirt, a great pre-race breakfast, and the opportunity to paddle in a great destination – San Diego, California.
Hanohano has quite possibly the best raffle of any paddling event on the planet (the top prize is a brand new OC-1) and the inclusive format not only allows paddlers to compete against many of the best in all of paddling, but provides the opportunity to race or try out multiple paddle craft. Danny Ching and Jade Howson each won the overall title in their respective SUP divisions and then after a short rest took to the water once more in OC-1’s for a repeat performance in the day long event’s long course. Infinity’s Dave Boehne set another great example when after finishing third overall in the 14’ SUP division he hung out on the water near the finish line and cheered on the remaining competitors. What made their actions great was that they did so alongside the rest of us, on the same courses, at the same time, in the same conditions allowing everyone to share the glory.
Several stand up paddlers competed in more than one discipline, racing the long course in an OC-2 proved to be a popular option, while others, including this writer, traded their SUP paddle for that of an outrigger canoe and tested their skills in a new craft on the short course. Stand up paddling is great fun, but the grand ambitions SUP conjures up in the minds of some are not an absolute and we need more events like Hanohano to nurture the sport’s full potential.
The Hanohano Outrigger Canoe Club is a 501c3 that has been contributing to the growth of paddle sports since the early 1980’s. The annual Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge funds the club’s junior development program and Wounded Warrior Program. The event is staffed by volunteers and treats every participant like family. Special thanks to the sponsors of the 2017 Hanohano Ocean Challenge: Huki Outrigger/Surfski, Paddle Planet, Dirty Birds and Carbo Pro as well as all the vendors, product sponsors, and paddlers who helped us make it a great day.