Research Summaries

These are short summaries from each rowing research article we’ve reviewed in Science of Rowing. Membership includes access to all prior issues, so join us for one month and get all this and more!

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Find these articles in Volume 2, Issue 4 (April, 2021)!

Beyond peak, a simple approach to assess rowing power and the impact of training: a technical report. Egan-Shuttler, J., Edmonds, R., Eddy, C., O’Neill, V., & Ives, S. (2019) International Journal of Exercise Science, 12(6).

Junior rowers performing four weeks of plyometric training significantly improved 500-meter performance and slightly improved 15-second peak power performance versus a matched group doing stationary cycling. Evaluating the data stroke-by-stroke using the ErgData app revealed that the plyometric group significantly increased drive speed, achieved peak power earlier in the 15-second test, and produced more force over the entire test than the cycling group. These findings inform our power evaluation practices and our understanding of the influence of plyometric training on rowing performance.

Effects of preferred and nonpreferred warm-up music on exercise performance. Ballmann, C., Marshall, M., Williams, T., Pederson, J., Rogers, R., Karow, M. (2020). Perceptual and Motor Skills, 0(0).

12 physically active individuals performed an all-out 2K on an erg after three different warm-up scenarios: no music played, preferred music played, or nonpreferred music played. Listening to preferred music resulted in increased power output, faster 2K times, higher heart rates, and greater motivation levels. Coaches and rowers can use this information to strategically incorporate music into their individual training, team training, and pre-race environments.

Improved 2000-m rowing performance in a cool environment with an external heating garment. Cowper, G., Barwood, M., & Goodall, S. (2021). International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 16(1).

Researchers tested ten male rowers in a laboratory controlled environment set to 8 degrees Celsius, 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit to determine if a heated jacket would improve 2,000 meter rowing performance. The researchers found approximately 4.8 seconds (1.1%) improvement in rowing performance over 2,000 meters. Rowers can use a heated jacket to achieve and maintain an optimal body temperature for both cold weather training, competition, and extended wait times before races.

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Find these articles in Volume 2, Issue 3 (March, 2021)!

Activation of spinal stabilizers and shoulder complex muscles during an inverted row using a portable pull-up device and body weight resistance. Youdas, J., Keith, J., Nonn, D., Squires, A., & Hollman, J. (2016). Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(7).

Researchers studied the muscle activation levels of 13 men and 13 women performing four different variations of the inverted bodyweight row exercise. They found high overall muscle activation in the back, shoulders, and arms in all variations, with a few differences. The inverted bodyweight row offers numerous benefits for rowers as a low-equipment exercise to strengthen the back, shoulder, and arm muscles with low loading on the lumbar spine.

Patterns of achievement-motivated behavior and performance as predictors for future success in rowing: A person-oriented study. Schmid, M., Conzelmann, A., & Zuber, C. (2020). International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching.

Researchers examined motivation behaviors and their impact on the long-term success of 65 high-level youth rowers. Over the course of two and a half years researchers found that the highly motivated rowers were more likely to possess better erg times and to participate in higher levels of competition. Researchers found that the ambitionless and unmotivated rowers participated in lower levels of competition or had quit the sport by the end of the study. A rowers’ motivation level may be associated with long-term success in the sport of rowing. These findings should encourage coaches to utilize a flexible coaching style that adjusts to best fit the individual. 

Rowers’ self-reported behaviors, attitudes, and safety concerns related to exercise, training, and competition during pregnancy. Franklin, A., Mishtal, J., Johnson, T., & Simms-Cendan, J. (2017). Cureus, 9(8)

Researchers analyzed a qualitative survey of 224 female rowers regarding pregnancy and rowing to understand safety concerns and training during pregnancy. They found that pregnant rowers were above average in physical activity when compared to other pregnant women of their age groups, but rowers face unique team and environmental challenges. This review provides training recommendations for pregnant women to implement during each trimester of their pregnancy and a three-guest podcast discussion covering key perspectives from a coach, athlete, mother, and physician.

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Find these articles in Volume 2, Issue 2 (February, 2021)!

Comparing masters athletes with varying degrees of coaching for psychological need satisfaction and frustration. Hoffman, M., Young, B., Rathwell, S., & Callary, B. (2019). International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 15(1).

Researchers analyzed survey responses from 561 masters athletes from swimming, running, rowing, and other individual sports to understand how different amounts of coaching affected the athletes’ feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Coached masters athletes reported greater feelings of relatedness than non-coached athletes, but also greater frustration in autonomy. This study offers takeaways for masters rowers and coaches to better engage masters athletes and improve sport outcomes.

 Influence of prior exercise on VO2 kinetics subsequent exhaustive rowing performance. Sousa, A., Ribeiro, Joao., Sousa, M., Vilas-Boas, J., & Fernandes, R. (2014). Plos One, 9(1).

Researchers examined the impact of three different warm-up scenarios on rowers’ oxygen consumption and ability to sustain high intensity rowing exercise. The three warm-up scenarios included: no warm-up, a moderate intensity warm-up, and a high intensity warm-up. Researchers found that the moderate intensity warm-up outperformed the other two warm-ups by improving the rowers’ ability to consume oxygen effectively and by increasing the amount of time that they were able to sustain high intensity exercise. Rowers and coaches can use this study to improve warm-up protocols and enhance rowing performance by maintaining a higher intensity for a longer duration.

The effects of Nordic hamstring exercise on pain and performance in elite rowers with back pain. Kasmi, S., Hammami, A., Noureddine, G., Riadh, K. (2017). Turkish Journal of Kinesiology, 3(2).

Ten elite rowers with low back pain performed a six-week intervention using the Nordic hamstring curl. The researchers found a significant reduction in back pain levels, a moderate improvement in 2000-meter rowing ergometer performance, and no effect on flexibility. Coaches and rowers can use the Nordic hamstring curl as a minimalistic exercise to strengthen the hamstrings while simultaneously reducing low back pain and improving performance.

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Find these articles in Volume 2, Issue 1 (January, 2021)!

Within-session and between-session reliability of the seven-stroke maximal effort test in national level senior rowers. Nugent, F., Comyns, T., Ní Chéilleachair, N., & Warrington, G. (2019). Journal of Australian Strength & Conditioning, 27(4). 

Researchers studied 10 male competitive rowers performing multiple seven-stroke max (7SM) tests to understand its reliability as a test of peak rowing power. They found that the rowers produced similar scores across all tests, indicating that the 7SM is a reliable and practical test for trained rowers. Rowers and coaches can use the 7SM as a superior form of short-duration erg testing to evaluate rowing peak power and performance impact from strength training.

Rowing performance, body composition, and bone mineral density outcomes in college-level rowers after a season of concurrent training. Young, K., Kendall, K., Patterson, K., Pandya, P., Fairman, C., & Smith, S. (2014). International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 9.

Over the course of a nine-month competitive rowing season, rowers participated in a concurrent training program that paired strength training with rowing specific training. Researchers explored the training program’s impact on body composition, bone mineral density, and 2K performance. Throughout the season rowers gradually and consistently demonstrated significant improvements in rowing performance, body fat percentage, as well as lean body mass. Coaches and rowers can utilize concurrent strength and rowing training to effectively improve both rowing performance and body composition.

Technical determinants of on-water rowing performance. Holt, A., Aughey, R., Ball, K., Hopkins, W., & Siegel, R. (2020). Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 2.

Researchers collected race data from 17 female and 14 male national-level rowers across forty-seven, 2,000-meter races. The researchers found that faster rowers over 2,000-meters performed with higher stroke rates, greater peak and average force, and greater catch angles. Rowers and coaches can use the results from this study to focus on the technical and physiological aspects that best translate to boat speed: greater catch angles, higher stroke rates, and rate of force development in the rower.

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Find these articles in Volume 1, Issue 4 (December, 2020)!

Eleven-week preparation involving polarized intensity distribution is not superior to pyramidal distribution in national elite rowers. Treff, G., Winkert, K., Sareban, M., Steinacker, J., Becker, M., & Sperlich, B. (2017). Frontiers In Physiology, 8.

Researchers studied 14 male rowers on the German National Team and found that an 11-week polarized or pyramidal training plan both improved 2km erg performance by approximately two seconds. While polarized training is often held up as a gold standard of endurance training, this study suggests that both approaches can be equally effective. In this article, we’ll explore the two different training plan systems, the findings and faults of this research piece, and how you can put the training to the test for yourself.

Association between rowing injuries and the functional movement screen in female collegiate division I rowers. Clay, H., Mansell, J., Tierney, R. (2016). The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 11(3).

Researchers studied 45 female division I rowers using a Functional Movement Screen™ (FMS™) to understand the relationship between movement quality, back pain, and injury incidence over one rowing season. Rowers with worse movement quality experienced more back pain, and researchers noted a trend for higher injury occurrence. These findings support the use of the FMS™ to identify risk factors for back pain and injuries in rowers. Rowers and coaches can use this information to incorporate proactive measures into their individual or team practice.

Effects of equal volume heavy-resistance strength training versus strength endurance training on physical fitness and sport-specific performance in young elite female rowers. Thiele, D., Prieske, O., Lesinski, M., Granacher, U. (2020). Frontiers in Physiology, 11.

Researchers studied 26 elite female junior rowers over a nine-week training intervention. The purpose of this study was to determine the more effective strength training method for a rower: heavy weight and low repetition or moderate weight and high repetition? Researchers distributed rowers into two matched-volume groups: heavy resistance strength training (HRST) and strength endurance training (SET). The researchers found that the HRST showed larger gains in maximal strength and muscle power, while SET improved speed in a 700-meter rowing ergometer trial. There are benefits to both methods and rowers will want to utilize both HRST and SET in their training to maximize performance and overall development.

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Find these articles in Volume 1, Issue 3 (November, 2020)!

Epidemiology of injury and illness in 153 Australian international-level rowers over eight international seasons. Trease, L., Wilkie, K., Lovell, G., Drew, M., & Hooper, I. (2020). British Journal of Sports Medicine, 54.

Researchers studied eight years of illness and injury data from the Australian Rowing Team to better understand what causes elite rowers to miss training time. A change in coaching between the 2012 and 2016 Olympic cycles brought a change in policy from using dynamic ergometers to using static ergometers, and the researchers observed a significant increase in athletes missing training days due to low back pain. The findings of this study lead to potential strategies to improve athlete availability.

Physical and strength variables as a predictor of 2000m rowing ergometer performance in elite rowers. Majumdar, P., Das, A., Malay, Mandal. (2017). Journal of Physical Education and Sport, 17(4).

Researchers studying physical qualities that predict rowing performance have found that age, height, limb length, body weight, lean body mass, leg strength, grip strength, and the ability to produce large amounts of lower-body and rowing specific power, are significantly correlated to 2km rowing performance. Coaches and rowers can use this information to identify rowing potential, individual limitations, and to target the development of qualities that may impact rowing performance.

The effect of concurrent plyometric training versus submaximal aerobic cycling on rowing economy, peak power, and performance in male high school rowers. Egan-Shuttler, J., Edmonds, R., Eddy, C., O’Neill, C., & Ives, S. (2017). Sports Medicine Open, 3(7).

Researchers conducted a four-week study of a concurrent training program comparing two groups: a plyometric group versus a submaximal aerobic group. The researchers found the plyometric group showed significant improvements in 500-meter time trials and a modest improvement in peak power during three trials of 15-second maximal rowing ergometer tests. The results suggest plyometric training is beneficial to improve rowing performance over shorter distances.

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Find these articles in Volume 1, Issue 2 (October, 2020)!

Low intensity rowing with blood flow restriction over 5 weeks increases VO2 max in elite rowers: A randomized control trial. Held, S., Behringer, M., & Donath, L. (2020). Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 23.

Researchers studied 31 elite rowers from the German National Team (23 men, 8 women) using a blood flow restriction (BFR) intervention. Rowers used BFR during low-intensity erging and rowing training for just five total hours over a five-week training cycle, in addition to the rest of their training. The BFR group significantly improved VO2 max and power at VO2 max, while controls performing identical training without BFR made small, non-significant improvements. This research review explores practical applications of BFR in erging, rowing, and strength training.

Don’t think about your movements: Effects of attentional instructions on rowing performance. Schucker, L., Jedamski, J., Hagermann, N., & Vater, H. (2015). International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 10(5).

Researchers steered rowers’ focus with three different sets of instructions and found several physiological changes that may impact rowing performance. The internal instructions focused on the body, the external instructions focused on a simulated rowing video, and the control instructions only focused on maintaining the appropriate intensity. The internal instructions negatively impacted all four variables; heart rate, blood lactate, rate of perceived exertion, and sub-maximal VO2. By simply focusing on aspects of our body instead of our environment or the sport task, all four variables changed for the worse. Where we focus our attention as rowers and where we direct attention as coaches may influence our physiology, efficiency, and technical abilities.

Improvement of 2000-m rowing performance with caffeinated carbohydrate-gel ingestion. Scott, A., O’Leary, T., Walker, S., Owen, R., (2015). International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 10(4).

Researchers compared 13 male athletes in three 2,000-meter time trials on ergometers with the resistance set to 10/10. One trial was a familiarization test to achieve a baseline. In subsequent tests, athletes consumed a gel 10 minutes prior to beginning, either a carbohydrate-only gel or a gel containing carbohydrates and 100mg of caffeine. Participants performed an average of 5.2 seconds better after taking the carbohydrate-and-caffeine gel. Rowers and coaches can use this information to improve their race prep nutrition and supplement strategies.

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Find these articles in Volume 1, Issue 1 (September, 2020)!

Local muscular endurance and prediction of 1 repetition maximum for bench in 4 athletic populations. Descorges, F., Berthelot, G., Dietrich, G., & Testa, M. (2010). Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(2).

Percent of 1-repetition maximum (1RM) is a common strength training programming method, but there are errors in testing 1RMs and calculating training weights at different intensities that can result in athletes training at too great or too little intensity. Researchers tested bench press 1RMs and number of reps achieved at different percentages of that 1RM in 110 athletes from rowing, swimming, powerlifting, and racket/ball sports, and found large significant differences between groups and reps achieved at each intensity. These findings suggest that coaches and rowers should consider more specific ways of assessing strength and programming training weights.

Effect of training combined with different breathing entrainment patterns on physiological adaptations during rowing exercise. Webster, A., Penkman, M., Syrotuik, D., Gervais, P., Cruz, L., & Bell, G. (2010). Advances in Exercise & Sports Physiology, 16(1).

Researchers compared rowers using three different breathing strategies over eight weeks of training. The use of a breathing strategy demonstrated several benefits that may contribute to rowing performance, such as increased lung capacity, recovery, and efficiency. These findings indicate that rowers should use a 1-to-1 breathing strategy for low intensity training, a 2-to-1 strategy for medium intensity training, a whatever feels natural and comfortable for race-pace training and performance.

Skeletal health and associated injury risk in collegiate female rowers. Baker, Breanne S., Buchanan, Samuel R., and Bemben, Debra A. (2020). The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Chest wall pain, also known as rib stress injuries, accounts for the most training time missed of all rowing injuries. This research study investigated if rowers have abnormal bone mineral density and if they have bone asymmetries that lead to stress fractures. The researchers developed an equation for rowers and coaches to predict the incidence of a rib injury, providing a proactive approach to mitigate rib injury risk and reduce missed training time.

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Find these articles in our FREE Sample Issue (August, 2020)!

Electromyography and kinematics of the trunk during rowing in elite female rowers. Pollock, C., Jenkyn, T., Jones, I., Ivanova, T., & Garland, J. (2009). Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 41(3).

Researchers studied nine national team rowers doing a 2k erg test with EMG readings and video biomechanical analysis to better understand how the muscles of the hip and trunk activate and sequence during the drive of the stroke. The results indicate that the early drive phase is characterized by high activity of the hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles, while the late drive phase is characterized by high activity of the abdominal muscles acting as a “braking mechanism” on torso swing and reversal into the recovery, with minimal muscular overlap between the two phases. These findings guide our core muscle training by emphasizing the role of hip movement with spinal stability to most closely simulate the demands of the rowing stroke.

Textured insoles affect the plantar pressure distribution while elite rowers perform on an indoor rowing machine. Vieira, T, Botter, A, Gastaldi, L, Sacco, I, Martelli, F, & Giacomozzi, C. (2017). Plos one, 12(11).

Eleven elite rowers performed 30 max pressure strokes at rates 18, 24, and 32. They repeated these trials with a smooth insole (control), an insole with a few bumps (low density), and an insole with more bumps (high density). They found that the high density insole demonstrated greater foot force against the footplate as well as greater contact area between the foot and the footplate. These changes potentially offer several rowing performance benefits for a relatively low cost piece of technology.

Sport injuries in international masters rowers: a cross-sectional study. Smoljanović, T, Bohaček, I, Hannafin, J, Nielsen, H, Hren, D, & Bojanić, I. (2018). Croatian Medical Journal, 59(5).

743 masters rowers participated in a retrospective study to identify the most common injuries for the masters rower (age 27+). The results showed that the lumbar spine continues to be the most common injury site across rowing demographics. In the F+ Age Group (60+) there was a migration of the injury site to the upper body, potentially due loss of strength or a shift in rowing technique. This study informs our approach to reducing rowing injuries in masters rowers with different ages, amounts of experience, and training levels.

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