What exercises will make a novice into a stronger rower? by Duncan Holland


Cross Training

We got this question from Kiera “I’m a new rower and I compete in school regattas. I was wondering what exercises I could do to become a stronger rower?”

The question above arrived at the Rowperfect UK desk the other day. A good question I thought. The questioner is a girl, I don’t know her age but assume relatively young as she is a recent starter. Further thought suggested that the answer was perhaps not simple. So, here goes an attempt at an answer.

The short answer is that almost any exercise will help her row faster

The tricky bit is which kinds will have the most effect? As a coach I need to surround my advice with caveats and cautions, especially as I don’t know the athlete, her stage of development, physical ability and even her environment.

My starting point for cross training is endurance – rowing is primarily an endurance sport so running and cycling are both good options to increase aerobic ability and thus endurance.

Running is relatively cheap and is possible most places

Mahé Drysdale cross training

Hills are great, fast up and slow down is a good guide to protect knees and hips from long term wear, and varied surfaces are great. Cycling is another good option if access to a bike and safe roads are possible. The lack of impact is good but there are undeniable dangers from other road users and the road itself.

Perhaps the best of all is cross country skiing if you happen to live somewhere that winter notices.

The next port of call in cross training should be core strength. The old strong abdominals and lower back of our youth. Any good Pilates, Yoga or similar programme will help your rowing. The Rowperfect web site has good information on routines you can do yourself.

The last main area for cross training is strength.

Strength helps an athlete row fast. The big concern here is that most strength training involves lifting heavy things and this is potentially dangerous. For a young beginner I think the strength aspect of normal rowing is sufficient for significant strength gains. If you want more than this then exercises using body weight such as squat jumps, pull ups, press ups and lunges are all very effective. Weight training should only be done with expert supervision and coaching.

rowing cross training

To finish, the other solution of course is to row more! Whenever you get a chance get out in the club single and cover some more water. Miles make Champions is as true today as it was when Fairbairn used it.

Duncan Holland

Buy Duncan Holland’s Coaching Advice for yourself on the Rowperfect UK Shop.

strong women scull


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