Strength and Conditioning for Rowing
The main aims of strength and conditioning (S & C) are to
• Develop robust athletes and minimise any potential injuries.
• Improve the movement efficiency of the athlete’s rowing stroke.
• Develop underlying physical capacities (strength, power, strength endurance etc) and general athletic competencies (pelvic stability, scapular stability, thoracic mobility, squat pattern etc) which improve performance.
1. Robustness and injury prevention
In any sport continuity of training is directly related to performance. This is especially true in rowing with the most successful crews often are those that have accumulated the most time rowing together. S & C is essential for injury prevention, to address imbalances and any areas of weakness or muscle tightness which may ultimately lead to an injury. Likewise an appreciation of load management on a weekly basis is essential so that dry land training compliments rowing and aerobic load, and the S & C component is part of the athlete’s periodised training plan.
2. Improve the movement efficiency of the rowing stroke.
Dry land training provides the opportunity to try to address technical deficiencies. For example – the ability to row long is primarily determined by hip mobility, hamstring length and thoracic mobility. The movement pattern of the rock over is determined by lumbo –pelvic rhythm and a good hip hinge pattern, connection & coordination of the kinetic chain at the catch, trunk stability (from scapular to the pelvis), postural deficiencies, speed of movement etc. All these technical aspects of the rowing stroke can be developed within an athlete’s S & C program.
3. Athletic Development
Rowers need to develop a foundation of basic athletic ability and physical competence. Early specialisation at school, deficiencies in the approach to long term athlete development create the need to address this particularly with younger athletes. Squatting, pulling, pressing, rotating, climbing, lunging, multi-directional work etc, are all typical movement patterns that need to be developed. Good range of motion, stability, control, sequencing, coordination are all qualities developed in the gym and lead to more robust rowers. The development of strength, power, strength endurance, speed etc, will depend on the age of the athlete, their training history, and genetic make up.
Good technical execution of an S & C program and appropriate exercise progression are essential so athletes do not injure themselves in the gym environment. Therefore rowing coaches are encouraged to use S & C coaches who have obtained the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association – Level 2 qualification, to assist in this area.
There are a number of useful documents available to the rowing community with regards to sports medicine. Rowing Australia Medical Team have put together the below documentation for rowers and coaches which may assist in injury prevention and management.