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Rowing has become popular not only with aspiring oarsmen and women, but with the general population who see it as an effective form of fitness training.

The success of the Concept 2 rowing ergometer has meant that health club members can develop substantial rowing-specific fitness without ever taking to the water. Several events now exist purely to test the competitor’s proficiency on an indoor rowing ergo.

Rowing is often labelled as one of the most physically strenuous of all sports, and it’s not without credence…

In tests designed to mirror the demands of a 2000m race, caloric expenditure has been calculated as 36kcal per minute making it one of the most energy demanding activities ever studied (1). It’s not surprising then that the aerobic power (VO2max) of elite oarsmen and women is substantial (1).

Aerobic energy metabolism is responsible for up to 75% of the energy required to row a 2000m race (1,3). The rest is derived from anaerobic metabolism, predominately through the lactic acid system with a small contribution from alactic pathways (2,3). Muscle fibre type composition in oarsmen and women resembles that of distance runners although they demonstrate significantly greater leg power than other athletes.

Tactically, rowers take a unique approach to race pacing. Up to the first 500m are completed with a vigorous sprint so athletes can look back on competitors. This places an immediate strain on the anaerobic energy pathways, which is followed by about 1000m of very high steady-state aerobic activity. The final 500m consists of an exhaustive, anaerobic sprint. Unsurprisingly, studies show Oarsmen and women have an exceptionally high tolerance to lactate accumulation (6,).

Strength is also important to the rower. Peak power, power endurance and muscular endurance should be the ultimate goal of a rowing training program. Excessive hypertrophy can be detrimental to rowing (4) while peak power, rather than maximal strength, is associated with good performance (5).

This section of the site covers the different conditioning elements important in successful rowing. You will find a range of sample indoor rowing training programs designed to build aerobic power and anaerobic endurance. You will also find strength training advice and exercises specific to the sport and learn why the traditional bodybuilding approach to weight lifting is not the best use of your training time.

Rowing Training Articles

The Different Types of Endurance TrainingEndurance is a heavy component of a rowing training plan. There are different types of endurance training and the concepts are the same whether exercise occurs on land or the water

Interval Training for Sport-Specific EnduranceInterval endurance training can be used to increase lactate threshold, exercise economy and muscular endurance. There is an increasing body of research that suggests pure endurance athletes who have favored only steady-state training can benefit by substituting some of that for interval work

VO2max – Your Aerobic PotentialEndurance training and VO2 max seem to inextricably linked. While maximal oxygen uptake is certainly not the be all and end all of rowing performance, understanding what it is and how it can be affected by training, can help athletes better prepare themselves for competition…

Lactate Threshold – Tapping Your Aerobic PotentialPerhaps more indicative of success in rowing, an more trainable, is lactate threshold. Often a confusing subject for some coaches and athletes, from a practical point of view, improving lactate threshold is relatively straightforward…

How to Determine Your Anaerobic ThresholdHere are some non-invasive tests used to determine an athlete’s lactate threshold…

Lactate Threshold TrainingTraining tips to improve anaerobic threshold…

Lactic Acid, Blood Lactate & The ‘Lactic Acid Myth’Blood lactate is not be all bad! In fact there is research questioning whether it causes fatigue at all. This review of the literature highlights the good and bad of both lactic acid and blood lactate…

Heart Rate Training for Endurance EventsHeart rate training, despite being erratic, is still popular with many athletes. Here’s how heart rate can be best used to monitor the intensity of a rowing training program

The Sport-Specific Approach to Strength Training ProgramsRowers must be both powerful and possess good strength endurance. Sport-specific strength training is very different to bodybuilding or simply lifting weights however

How To Design Resistance Training Programs For AthletesHere is the step-by-step process of developing a sport-specific strength training plan – one that meets the demanding nature of rowing…

Power Training for AthletesWhat are the best methods for improving power?

Muscular Endurance TrainingWhile explosive power is key in rwoing, muscular endurance is equally as important. But lifting weights for sets of 20 repetitions is not the most effective approach…

Flexibility ExercisesFlexibility training is part and parcel of most athletes’ conditioning program. Increased flexibility may reduce the risk of certain long-term injuries…

Self Myofascial Release ExercisesMany Exercise Scientists believe that enhancing recovery between training sessions is the key to winning. Myofascial release exercises are said to relieve and release trigger points in the muscle sheath that may compound leading to injury and sub-optimal performance…

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)We’ve all suffered it – the stiff, aching muscles that follow the first day of training or a long layoff. But can it be prevented or treated?

Best Rowing MachineThe Sunny Health Fitness SF-RW5515 Rowing Machine is our best rowing machine, which is very convenient due to the magnetic[…]


1) Hagerman FC. Applied physiology of rowing. Sports Med. 1984 Jul-Aug;1(4):303-26

2) Pripstein LP, Rhodes EC, McKenzie DC, Coutts KD. Aerobic and anaerobic energy during a 2-km race simulation in female rowers. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1999 May;79(6):491-4

3) Mickelson TC, Hagerman FC. Anaerobic threshold measurements of elite oarsmen. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1982;14(6):440-4

4) Bompa, Tudor. Periodization training for sports. 1999. Champaign: IL, Human Kinetics

5) Bourdin M, Messonnier L, Hager JP, Lacour JR. Peak power output predicts rowing ergometer performance in elite male rowers. Int J Sports Med. 2004 Jul;25(5):368-73

6) Perkins CD, Pivarnik JM. Physiological profiles and performance predictors of a women’s NCAA rowing team. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Feb;17(1):173-6

7) Cosgrove MJ, Wilson J, Watt D, Grant SF. The relationship between selected physiological variables of rowers and rowing performance as determined by a 2000 m ergometer test. J Sports Sci. 1999 Nov;17(11):845-52

8) Ingham SA, Whyte GP, Jones K, Nevill AM. Determinants of 2,000 m rowing ergometer performance in elite rowers. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Dec;88(3):243-6. Epub 2002 Oct 10