How Athletes Can Use Rowing to Increase their VO2 Max
Maximal oxygen uptake, or VO2 max for short, is the greatest amount of oxygen that can be used by the whole body. Strength and conditioning coach James Philips speaking to Coach Mag defines it as “a measure of aerobic fitness related to a person’s ability to sustain long periods of moderate to high intensity physical activity with large muscle groups.” In short, an athlete’s VO2 max is the best way to measure their fitness. While elite level athletes measure this in a laboratory by taking a maximal running or cycling test, most athletes can use a fitness tracker.
Improving your VO2 max
If you’re just getting into a fitness routine, your VO2 will increase relatively quickly with sustained aerobic exercises such as running, swimming, cycling, or rowing. As your fitness improves, you’ll need to start doing more intense training. Training at the intensity where you’re near or slightly above your VO2 max will help improve it. Doing high-intensity interval training is ideal, where you train close to your maximum capacity for short periods of time repeatedly.
How rowing increases your VO2 max
Among all the different activities that can help improve your VO2 max, rowing is one of the best. Rowers rank high when it comes to VO2 Max as rowing is an aerobic activity that’s also high intensity, and is an endurance sport that also requires power and strength. Furthermore, rowers develop an optimal breathing rhythm that helps them perform at their best. As the intensity increases, rowers will start to take two breaths instead of one per stroke. This timing helps increase what’s called ‘intra-abdominal pressure’, which improves the strength of the diaphragm, the organ most responsible for taking in air. It also helps improve lung capacity. The very nature of rowing is what makes it a great way to increase your VO2 max, and why it’s better than any other training methods.
Why measure VO2 max?
What’s the value in measuring VO2 max, you might ask? Having a high VO2 max means you’re able to absorb and utilise oxygen to better help your muscles. This results in improving athletic performance and can help in increasing intensity. While athletes measure their performance through different types of tools, VO2 has proven to be the best indicator of cardiovascular fitness. This is why Constantine Louloudis is an Olympic champion despite not being the tallest rower. As a result, many of the world’s elite athletes have been measuring their VO2 max across different disciplines. For example, HuffPost reports that Cristiano Ronaldo’s VO2 max is above 7 L/min. This remarkable level of fitness has helped him become the football star he is today. Ronaldo is not only one of the fittest sports stars on the planet, he is also the most successful, with Ladbrokes ranking him #1 in their list of the highest paid sports stars in the world. A position he has achieved thanks to his fitness. It must to be said however that English rower and four-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Matthew Pinsent had a lung capacity of 8 litres and 7.5 L/min, which really goes to show just how rowing is the best exercise for improving your VO2 max.
If you’re looking to improve your performance, Kristin Marvin explains how crawling can improve your strength and even laid out a quick crawling workout. An alternative exercise to also improve your VO2 max.
*The post was written in collaboration with Keith Marsh. Guest and collaborative posts represent the authors view. These views do not always correspond with Rowperfect’s views.