Female Rowers’ Lean Mass Distribution Correlates to VO2max and Time To Exhaustion – By Joe DeLeo 

The Effects of ‘Normal’ Weekly Strength Training On 2000m Rowing Performance – By Alex Wolf

Hypertrophy Training For Rowing – Nicole Elkins


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Article Summaries

Haraldsdottir, K., Sanfilippo, J., Dawes, S., & Watson, A. (2022). Contribution of Lean Mass Distribution on Aerobic Fitness and Performance in NCAA Division I Female Rowers. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 10-1519

Researchers evaluated 107 NCAA Division I female rowers in this study to determine the relationship between lean muscle mass and rowing performance. Researchers performed a DXA scan and an incremental step test with all rowers. The researchers found that greater muscle mass in the legs indicated a higher VO2max. Rowers with greater muscle mass in their trunk could endure rowing performance longer during the incremental step test. The results of this study suggest that rowers’ legs require much of the oxygen while the trunk musculature plays a key role in fatigue resistance. Rowers and coaches can use the results of this study to better prepare their bodies for rowing performance. 

Gee, T. I., Caplan, N., Gibbon, K. C., Howatson, G., & Thompson, K. G. (2016). Investigating the effects of typical rowing strength training practices on strength and power development and 2,000 m rowing performance. Journal of Human Kinetics. 50, 167-177.

Endurance and strength training are important physical characteristics to develop to help support rowing performance. This article investigates the impact of completing three high-intensity strength training sessions over a five day period. The researchers measured  2,000m ergometer rowing performance, force and power characteristics, and muscle damage. 28 male club rowers were assigned to either a strength training (ST) or control (c) group. Both groups completed the same baseline and follow up assessments with the ST group completing the three strength training sessions in between the assessments. The results show that 2,000 m ergometer performance and pace strategy was unaffected for both groups. The ST group had significant increases in markers of muscle soreness and damage and decreases in isometric force, static squat jump and countermovement jump performance. EMG muscle activity increased in some muscle groups while also decreasing in other groups.. In summary, 2,000m ergometer performance was unaffected even with the presence of muscle soreness and damage and disrupted muscle function. This provides coaches and practitioners insight around the organisation of training knowing rowing performance may not be negatively affected with the inclusion of strength training. Furthermore, it indicates that self-reported measures of soreness may not be an effective tool to determine training, knowing that performances can still be equally achieved with increased soreness.

Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(10), 2857-2872.

Increasing lean muscle mass is often a desired physical outcome for supporting the performance of lighter openweight rowers. There are a wide variety of methods used to increase lean muscle mass to support both sports performance and fitness goals. Many of these methods originate from bodybuilding, involving the use of resistance training with moderate volumes and short rest intervals that induce high amounts of metabolic stress. On the other hand, heavier loads and lengthy rest periods between sets may also lead to increases in muscle CSA. The latter method of training is closely aligned to training utilized by powerlifters. Although both methods result in large increases in lean muscle mass, it is unclear which method is superior for hypertrophic gains. There are three primary physiological mechanisms that may result in an increase in muscle CSA. These include mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress, which all can play a role in exercise-induced muscle growth. The current paper reviews the literature on the mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy, their application to exercise training and draws conclusions from the research as to the optimal protocol for maximising muscle growth. Although this paper is not specific to rowing, the reviewers aim is to utilise the evidence from the article to provide training recommendations for rowers looking to increase lean muscle mass and support their rowing performance. The original paper provides significant detail in terms of underpinning physiology that results in an increase in muscle CSA following resistance training protocols. The objective of this review is to outline the primary physiological factors that may drive a hypertrophic response and how these may inform training program design for rowers.

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.