Warming up for Rowing – How to get it right Part 3


In our last part of this mini-series on how to warm up, Raf Wyatt shares her insights.

Have you have ever had to battle to get your rowers to warm up before training? Before a race?  Before testing?  I mean, really warm up with sweat and raised heart rates and loose muscles and everything . . .?  Getting a little bit of jogging out of a crew doesn’t seem to take much of a coach’s energy, some light stretching aka sitting in the sun and chatting

Avon County Head of the River Rowing Races Avon County Head of the River Rowing Races (Photo credit: velodenz)

ditto but running, maybe jumping and once you’re on the water, actually pushing . . . oooh now we’re starting to talk about getting tired and using up vital energy before we even start and that means it’s the coach who’s got an elevated pulse!

Not everyone’s got the National team training on their doorstep showing off a routine that lasts at least 30 minutes >before they take their boat off the rack or step up to the ergometer.  Not everyone can take their crews to the World Championships so that they can sit alongside the warm-up lanes and see how hard those legs are working with every stroke.  And not everyone expects that our Club rowers, our beginners, our Juniors work at the same level.  But if you’ve ever witnessed the disappointment of someone failing to better their score on that machine or failing to race as well as they had trained then you know that you’ve got to prepare them to prepare themselves.

How long is a rowing warm up?

And 30 minutes?  That meets quite a lot of resistance in the minds of the young and the busy if you want to add it on to the time that the training session takes.  So here’s how I compromised.  I developed a race warm-up: something that would take a crew from their first strokes away from the pontoon to the start, ideally after 3km (2km being the length of the course, 1km in a 500m loop).  Bear in mind that this is for the first race of the day and that at a regatta I also have my crews both running and doing a series of callisthenic exercises that mimic the rowing stroke.  When we’re training we skip the running and exercises but do the first 5 minutes of the warm-up in half crews before repeating with the whole boat.

It goes like this:

  • 1 minute each of rowing arms-and-bodies, full strokes at ¼-pressure, ½-pressure, ¾-pressure and full pressure at 18 rating (all of these strokes have a full-pressure finish – this is my campaign against boats slopping around at the finish – so ¼-pressure means you row lightly from the catch and push hard for the last quarter of the stroke, ½-pressure is pushing hard for the second half and so on)
  • 3-5 minutes rowing full strokes, full pressure at 24-26 rating
  • 1 minute full strokes, ½-pressure at 18 rating
  • 10 super strokes at 18 (pushing so hard that your knees are trembling after 8 strokes and the ergometer fan is roaring as loud as you can make it but keeping the rating at 18)
  • 1 minute full strokes, ½-pressure at 18 rating
  • 10 strokes over-rating (you’ve heard about that Japanese crew rating 60 out of the blocks?  Well, see if you can go higher.  Close your eyes coaches – this is UGLY)
  • 1 minute full strokes, ½-pressure at 18 rating
  • 10 strokes at race rating (Put the strength of the first 10 together with the speed of the second 10 and feel really comfortable doing whatever is the current race rating – something like 28 at the beginning of the season, aiming for 38 by the end)
  • 1-5 minutes at ½-pressure and rating 18 which may encompass a practice start

So there you are: 19 ½  minutes if there’s time and space, 12 ½ minutes if not and a step towards the ideal for those wanting to take our sport more seriously.


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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Penny Price

    Warm up for racing.. what a great idea… problem is the way we organise our head racing that we can be as warm as toast by the time we get to the start BUT we then sit around for an hour ,an hour and a quarter sometimes longer, rarely less. Even with space blankets loads of kit you just get cold. Masters womens crews are the most vulnerable here as we are usually boated first and racing last. The sport needs to sort this out. Racing cold is not a good idea for any crews.

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