Walking the Knife’s Edge: Balancing Peak Performance vs. Overtraining – By Joe DeLeo

Novice Rowing Performance Improves By Switching Attention Between Internal and External Cues – By Alex Wolf

Bone Density And Masters Rowers – By Lisa Lowe


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Article Summaries

Pope, C., Penney, D., & Smith, T. (2018). Overtraining and the complexities of coaches’ decision-making: managing elite athletes on the training cusp. Reflective practice, 19(2).

Researchers interviewed three elite rowing coaches from New Zealand to better understand how they recognize and manage overtraining in elite rowers. Over a three year period, the researchers conducted a total of three interviews with each coach. The researchers found that the rowing coaches monitored for overtraining through three ways: athlete observation, conversations with the athletes, and declines in performance. Rowers and coaches will gain a greater understanding of the concepts of functional overreaching, non-functional overreaching, and overtraining syndrome in this article. Coaches can use this information to enhance their training program and athlete management practices. Rowers can use this information to identify signs that may indicate signs of overtraining if action is not taken. 

Neumann, D. L., Olive, A., Moffitt, R. L., & Piatkowski, T. (2022). Switching attentional focus across internal and external cues improves performance in a rowing task in novices. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 61,102195.

Attention focus can be split into internal (focus on inwardly of the body movement or sensation) and external (focus externally on the outcome or effect of the movement) focus. Research has historically focused on discrete skills and the use of using a single attentional focus (either external or internal). This article specifically investigates the effectiveness of attention focus on novice rowers completing the repetitive cyclical action of rowing. Three attention focus conditions were investigated: external focus only, internal focus only, and switch focus, alternating between external focus and internal focus. Rowing performance was measured as time to complete 2000 m and mean power per stroke. Twenty seven novice rowers were asked to complete each condition on different days in a random order.  The switch focus condition improved rowing performance significantly more than external or internal focus conditions. Wider attention focus of alternating between external and internal focus was significantly greater than focusing on a single attention focus. Novice rowers and rowers looking to adapt an existing skill are more likely to benefit from switching attention when compared to a single attention focus.

Kopiczko, A., Adamczyk, J. G., Gryko, K., & Popowczak, M. (2021). Bone mineral density in elite masters athletes: the effect of body composition and long-term exercise. European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, 18(1).

This study was conducted at the 2019 World Masters Athletic Championship (track and field). They assessed bone density, bone mass and body composition of athletes older than 40 years old between three categories of athletes, endurance, speed-power, and throwing sports. The primary question was, is there a correlation between type of athlete, body composition and bone health? They found that best bone density and bone mass was linked to lean body components (amount of muscle), hydration levels and the type of athlete tested. Athletes with more of a strength component to their events had the highest body mass and the highest bone mineral density.  The rates of osteoporosis and osteopenia were higher with endurance athletes, and females more than males. The male strength athletes had no osteoporosis or osteopenia and for female strength athletes only 10.5% of them had bone density scores that would indicate significantly decreased bone mineral density. The key takeaways from these results is that hydration influences bone health, that cardio alone is not enough to maintain bone density as you age and bone density is best in athletes that have a strength component to their training.  Rowers and coaches can use this information for masters athletes to build strength training and non-rowing variety of movements into training to attempt to affect maintenance of bone mineral density and the overall health of a masters athlete.

About Science of Rowing

“Science of Rowing” is a monthly publication created by three dual rowing-and-strength coaches: Will Ruth, Blake Gourley, and Joe DeLeo. Our goal is to move research into practice for coaches and rowers of all ages, types, and levels. We are entirely member-funded and do not promote products or sell advertisements. Members receive one issue each month containing three reviews of recent and applicable research in rowing training, strength training for rowing, and other relevant performance areas like psychology, injury analysis, technology, and more.

Each issue includes video and graphic content to help move the knowledge into practice, as well as a podcast episode of the three of us discussing the takeaways and our experiences. Membership includes access to all prior issues, so join us for one month and get access to every issue. We also offer discounted annual and team memberships, as well as gift memberships for a special rower or coach in your life.