Improvements suggested for Rowing Faster

David Harralson kindly wrote a comment under our Book Review of Volker Nolte’s new edition of Rowing Faster.

He writes:

I have read both of Volker Nolte’s books, and find them very interesting and informative.

The only comment I have is on Chapter 12, Training for Strength and the tables for strength to weight factors.

The squat, as normally performed, has a low correlation to rowing performance. The thighs go only to parallel as opposed to the body’s position at the catch. A better example would be the front squat bringing the body down so the hamstrings almost touch the calves. This would more closely approximate the conditions at the catch, although the squat as a whole does not correlate that closely to the force demands during the stroke.

I find the recommendations for 1RM dead lift to be rather low. At 71 years old, I did a 2.5X BW dead lift at my club after rowing practice. I think any Olympic caliber rower (especially lightweights) could easily exceed 2.5X BW. The dead lift is a very good exercise, especially for the bow rower in a pair as it helps develop a force profile more optimized for the bow rower. Maybe Ed McNeely and Volker want to make more rowers feel their strength is at Olympic level!

One point Ed did not directly make is that the 1RM is the first point on the hyperbolic strength vs repetitions curve. The greater the 1RM, the greater the force at any repetition point, but to a proportionally reduced level. Thus calling for training at all points on the hyperbolic strength vs repetitions curve is necessary for optimum rowing performance.

David Harralson

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2 thoughts on “Improvements suggested for Rowing Faster

  1. Tom Carter says:

    Interesting points raised, although the main thing this makes me want to raise is the question about technique for weight lifting and the different interpritations of what each excercise is! As an example David describes a “back squat” as only letting the thighs go parallel. To me that is only a half squat, a full squat is where you completely compress down (the best explanation ive heard was when I was told to look at how a toddler squats down, shins vertical and back straight, it seems we are able to properly squat at a very early age!). This full squat therefore is very much a rowing motion and useful to train for explosive power from the legs.

    As to 1RM for deadlift, Davids scores are most impressive, however again I am always cautious when someone talks about how much they can lift becuase again technique and enviroment can come into it. I myself have managed to change the amount I can deadlift depending on the physical size of the weight disks on the ends of the bar we have two sets of weight disks, they are the same weight but some have a huge circumference and some have a much smaller circumference, essnetially when I use the “large” weights I am able to lift considerably more because the bar has less distance to go

    Essentially one thing I think is very important to get across in any book that looks at weight training is a section that clarifies exactly what is meant by a rep, otherwise people may not get out of doing the weight lifting as much as they should, I remember a couple of years back when a new rower came to the club we were discussing the 1RM for each excercise so we could plan the weights excercise. “400kg inverted leg press” he said, “really?” “show me” so we set up 300kg on the leg press and he perfromed the 1 rep, turns out it moved approximately 3cm which is what he believed confirmed it as a rep……..

  2. David Harralson says:

    Power lifting organizations have detailed definitions for the proper performance of the squat (and the bench press and dead lift), so judges and participants perform the lift properly and legally. Accordingly, the hip joint needs to come down to or below the knee joint, or parallel thighs. In the Olympic clean, the hips can come down further as long as the buttocks do not touch the platform. It is very impressive watching an Olympic lifter squat up out of a clean of 3X+ BW. Terminology for the back squat coming down below thighs parallel is often called a full depth squat or some such wording so that the coach and athlete know how to perform the exercise.

    There is a video of me on my FB page dead lifting 375 lbs at 160 lbs BW. This was done after morning crew practice and my normal weightlifting routine, and was an easy lift with probably 20-30 or more lbs possible. The bar has Olympic standard diameter plates, the bar is slightly larger in diameter than standard, which is why I am using a reversed grip, not my preferred hook grip.

    The dead lift orients the force curve to favor the bow position in a pair (or the boward position in the 1/2, 3/4, 5/6, and 7/8 positions). Peter Mallory calls this a right leaning haystack. I also do dead lifts standing on weight plates to emphasize the catch more, plus leg presses which do the same thing. As Ed has said, front squats can lead to holes in the force curve, so that rear squats are necessary for a smooth force curve, and squats emphasize the catch part of the drive more than the middle (what Peter Mallory calls a left leaning haystack).

    It is likely that a rower should perform all those lifts, and transfer the strength developed into rowing strength with a variety of exercises on the erg and drills on water.

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