A reader wrote to us with a question
“The School Head of Rowing wants me to ‘weight train’ my U15 girls over the winter, all theories about this are discouraged due to their young age and I use circuits with them using their own body weight, do you have an opinion on this?”
It depends on a couple of things
- how physically mature your 15 year old girls are. If they are nearly finished growing, then it’s considered OK to start with heavier lifting
- weight training takes many forms. I think of it as resistance or load-bearing exercise. Rowing a boat is load bearing exercise. They are pushing their bodies against the mass of water locked into the front of each oar. So weight training is not bad per se.
- I think teaching good weight lifting technique is VERY useful skill. If you can get a skilled trainer in to start to teach your girls how to do the core weight lifts – power cleans, dead lifts and bench press / leg press then this is just fine. Because the technique is complex they cannot carry heavy weights while they are learning.
- you can do weight training on the water using power strokes. These are low rate firm pressure rowing with an additional resistance on the boat. We use a bungee or a boat tie underneath the boat. The drag adds considerably to the load the rowers are moving. If you do two crews side by side they can ‘race’ while doing weights. This will help both competition and the load of resistance you are training in them.
- Lastly, I’d suggest talking face to face with your Director of Rowing to address your concerns. Come to the talk with an open mind. Ask them to show you sample circuits they’ve used. Ask about how weight lifting technique can be taught (especially if you are not a trained weight lifting coach) and then, lastly, raise your concerns about their young age. Ask them for guidance about what to look for if your athletes risk injury. How frequently you can increase the weights and how to check that their muscles are getting the right workout and not getting damaged. If the Director can’t answer these questions, you could suggest that the two of you together go to meet a professional weight lifting instructor and get more information before deciding on the training programme.
Perhaps a solution will be to combine learning weight lifting skill with your body weight circuits so the girls get to lift some weight; or you increase the load in body weights using 0.5 kg bean bags on their legs to make it harder.
What do other readers think?