Physical Aspects of Laker Rowing
Presented by Coach Tom Paulett, October 6, 2010
7PM, Princeton University Boathouse
In this discussion we will cover three basic physical areas: endurance, flexibility, and strength.
How exactly do these areas affect our rowing stroke and training and racing goals? How do we
work on these areas during a normal Laker practice or during Laker winter training? What gaps
do we have in these areas if we only do regular Laker practice and how do we address these
gaps to become a more well-rounded and, ultimately, better rower?
How exactly do these areas affect our rowing stroke and training and racing goals?
-Endurance - Basic foundation of rowing
- Helps with injury prevention
- We require a basic level to complete any Laker workout and higher levels to race.
- Fitness is like a pyramid. Endurance is the broad base of the pyramid and is gained by
long low intensity pieces. This is accomplished at Tuesday and Thursday practices or
3X20 minute pieces on the erg. As we travel up the pyramid the intensity gets higher
like with our 3 mile Wednesday head races. Finally intervals are the highest intensity;
like when we get ready for a 2k.
-Flexibility - Complementary and necessary to fitness
- Allows for proper technique - such as maximum compression at the catch
- Increased speed and efficiency with increased flexibility
- If you can’t get full range of motion, you will compensate in other ways. In order to get to
the next level and become competitive you must work on flexibility.
-Strength - Possibly the toughest aspect for Laker rowers
- Creates difficulties in matching lineups, creating often frustrating rows
- The rowing stroke requires full body strength, both lower and upper body
- Allows rowers to attain a higher maximum power, or output, over one stroke and over an
- The rowing stroke by itself gives us strength and this strength can be obtained both on
the water and on the erg. We achieve this with low rate pieces and body weight circuts
in winter training. Increased strength will improve rowing.
QUESTION: Rowing seems to have a higher emphasis on flexibility than other sports. Is this
true? Tom: Yes, rowing requires a full length of motion. Flexibility is good in all sports to prevent
injury. In rowing you can’t be too flexible
QUESTION: Is it better to work the whole body each day or is it better to work different body parts
on different days? Tom: We are not a power lifting/body-building group It is not necessary to
work on back, arms chest on different days. For rowing we need full body strength. This works
better than targeting a specific area of the body on a particular day.
How do we work on these areas during a normal Laker practice or during Laker winter training?
-Endurance - The most easily addressed aspect in Laker practice
- A full week of Laker training offers a complete and high level fitness program
- Laker weeks usually have 3 high intensity days MWF and 3 lower intensity / steady state
type practices TThS
- This full week will make anyone into a better, more fit rower
QUESTION: If we can’t come all 6 days but can manage to come 3 days each week, what is the
best cross training activity we can do on non rowing days? Tom: If you decide to come on MWF,
or the more intense rowing days, you may want to go for a light jog on TTh. If you row on the less
intense rowing days of TTh, you may want to go for a faster run on MWF.
-Flexibility - Normal rowing provides a decent amount of flexibility, much better than that of an
average person but with any physical activity, the breaking down and repairing of muscles causes
- Winter training practice allows for extra time to stretch that gives a good deal of flexibility
but on the water training does not afford much time for group stretching other than actual rowing
-Strength - As with flexibility, the rowing stroke itself has a beneficial impact on strength.
- The rowing stroke, even without outside lifting, will provide a good deal of strength
- The rowing stroke also provides a full body focus on strength, leaving no muscles
- For the Laker training plan, we do rate capped pieces which force us to maximize our
In winter training we address strength by doing body circuits of squats, lunges, push ups, sit ups.
Entire body strength including legs, core and upper body improves rowing.
QUESTION; Does improved strength help prevent injuries? Tom: Yes. Core strength is key to
preventing rib and shoulder injuries. You don’t need a gym membership. Doing sit-ups, V-ups,
planks, push-ups and pull-ups are ways to improve strength and rowing techniques. Five minutes
does a lot.
QUESTION: Can breathing techniques be incorporated into the rowing program and exercises?
Tom: I won’t coach this aspect. Breathing should work sub consciously. Typically you will
breathe in when recovering and exhale on the drive.
What gaps do we have in these areas if we only do regular Laker practice and how do we
address these gaps to become a more well-rounded and, ultimately, better rower?
The easiest way to do this is to come more often! The coaches love to see a big turn out at
practices. The more you show up the better your results. Of course schedules get in the way
and this is understandable. Try to schedule practice at least 2 or 3 days a week.
-Endurance - How do we compare to other training plans - clubs, our hosts Princeton, and even
- Our comprehensive program is very similar to a competitive collegiate program or any
- However, it would be a rare Laker who shows up every practice...
- So there are major gaps (although we do very well as a masters group) that can simply be
addressed by additional Laker practices
- Otherwise, supplement cross training can be very beneficial
If you come on MWF you are working on the middle/top of the pyramid. Will need a better base.
You get this by continuous exercise for 40 to 80 minutes at 70% to 75% maximum heart rate. If
you come TThS you may lack the higher level of fitness. Outside practice you may want to do
hard interval training (i.e., erging short 500 M pieces), running hill sprints, biking at quick intervals
or swimming short bursts. There is NOTHING like the erg; the numbers don’t lie, but of course, it
is not always fun!
-Flexibility - As discussed, regular practices do not allow for specific flexibility training
- A simple warm up routine of jumping jacks, squats, lunges, toe-touches, etc can improve
long term and short term performance
- Post-practice cool down stretching of 5-15 minutes is also an easy way to improve
rowing and general health
Flexibility is easy to forget but is important. Can be done even at work by doing 10 toe touches
every hour or so. It is simple, and takes little time and the benefit will be noticeable.
-Strength - The most glaring gap as well as most difficult to fix
- Strength gaps that are not addressed by more rowing sessions require a little bit of
- If wanted, we can spend more time indoors on body weight circuits and core - the
squats, push ups, and ab work that we do a bit at the end of erging
- Otherwise, a normal weight lifting routine at a gym is necessary to correct imbalances
and improve strength
- This is a topic that we will be able to discuss more in our third lecture if that is of interest
to the group...
You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to increase strength. 20 minutes of body circuit training
works well. It can be done 2 or 3 times per week alternating with rowing. Full body work out is
best. Doing body weight squats, lunges, push ups, pull ups, sit-ups and other core activities work
well. These can be done anywhere. Compound exercises that coordinate multiple muscles like is
accomplished with Olympic lifts, power clean and clean and jerk are also very beneficial.
QUESTION: Can Tom provide a list of circuits? Tom: Yes.
Here is the program Tom has provided post presentation: As for some of circuits exercises that I
talked about, here might be an example of each:
Stretching/warmup - 5 minutes
10-15 of each of the following:
-Arm rotations (swinging arms in full arc) - both forward and back
Strength circuit - start with as long as you are comfortable with and
continue to push as you do it more often, even 15-20 minutes can be
great; best to alternate leg exercises with core and upper body
40 seconds of each exercise, with 20 seconds to rotate/rest
-Body weight squats
-Side or rotator sit ups/crunches
-Lateral lunges - standing feet together and then stepping 2-3 feet to
one side, then back to the middle, then to the other side
-Squat thrusts/burpees (google this if confused)
QUESTION: Will erg-training schedule be posted online so we can do it at home instead of
coming to the boathouse? Tom: No, we will not do this. We would like to see you here at the
SUMMARY: Come to the boathouse more often. Increase strength, flexibility and endurance and
rowing will improve. Do it!
There is a change in the rowing sport with the sprint v. head seasons. Power v. endurance. Pure
power is needed for shorter sprint pieces and head season is enhanced by increased endurance.
It is like runners that are sprinters v. marathoners.
QUESTION: Is power yoga good as a cross training activity? Tom: Yes, yoga is great and so is
pilates. They are a great complement to rowing and will help improve core strength
QUESTION: Will we use tanks this winter? Tom: Yes, more than in the past. We will fill the tanks
and rotate with ergs during practice. Tanks will gave us a long continuous work out that will use
power, flexibility and strength. Plus tanks are more fun than ergs! However, there will be days
when tanks are not used.
QUESTION: What will winter training entail? Tom: A basic calendar will be available. We will do
body weight and core training on strength training days as well as easy tanking days. Some days
will be longer and not as hard, some will be harder and shorter in duration. There will be testing
QUESTION: Can good technique override lack of power? Someone from audience said “why do
you think the women win!” Tom: Yes, this is why lightweight rowers, who are smaller, can really
move a boat.
QUESTION: What is the cap-weight to be considered lightweight? Tom: 130 pounds for women
and 155-160 pounds for men.
SUMMARY: To be an efficient effective rower all three aspects of strength, endurance and
flexibility are needed.