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Old 10-16-2009, 08:57 AM   #1
Tom Fetter
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Default Pls. help me design an off-season rowing plan

I nearly added this to the existing threads on lifting and endurance ... but thought the better of it - this is probably too specific.

I'm struggling to sort out how to integrate this information into an off-season rowing training plan for my 16 year old son. He's got measurable, but conflicting goals. He's got a moderate training history both in his sport and in more general activity, but is still junior enough that he can probably go for quite some time in a linear progression if he eats enough, and recovers enough.

At 5'5" and only #110, Chris has still probably got 5" of height increase coming over the next few years, judging by family genetics. Rowing training and his ongoing growth spurt brought his bodyfat way down ... the kid needs to eat. SS-based lifting done in a couple of stretches over the years has brought his squat up to #180 for sets of 5, and his DL to #250 for 5 reps, but we've never had an uninterrupted period of more than about 6 weeks to chase the linear progression. There's lots more in the tank.

While I'm confident that I can help him gain the #30 he wants over the Winter by eating and lifting, I don't know how to do it concurrent with also markedly improving his rowing performance.

Chris' 2k time, he thinks, is hovering around the 8 minute mark. Hasn't tested it since August, but will soon. By the time the club gets back on the water in late April, Chris wants that improved to at least 7:30, meaning that his 2k split will have to drop from 2:00 to 1:52 or better.

I think he will get there most efficiently by:
  • doing a good mass gain program 'till Christmas and eating like hell, while doing 1 short-intervals workout and 1 active recovery day on the erg

    switching at Christmas to a rowing-centric regime (2 days short-intervals, 1-day medium intervals, 1 day long row at active recovery pace) with the lifting program dropped to 2 days/week

    did I mention eating like hell?

I think that will get him to this Winter's goals - but what I'm unsure about is the long term. Chris is serious about his rowing, and I'm conscious that it's a slow-twitch-dominant, massive aerobic demand sport. The research I've read is thoroughly mixed on when you reach diminishing returns in weight training for the sport ... and when to orient your training away even from the aerobic, towards eking out neuromuscular efficiency from long, LONG sessions.

Chris is far from needing such elite programming now, but I do wonder about the wisdom of developing fast-twitch fibers, when empirically the muscles of elite rowers are overwhelmingly slow-twitch.

All thoughts gratefully received.

T.
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Old 10-16-2009, 12:00 PM   #2
Alex Bond
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Re: slow vs fast twitch muscles -

I've never heard any athlete say "I wish I hadn't lifted so many weights early in my career" or "I wish I wasn't as fast as I am". Worry about the needs of advanced rowing when the time comes for that, if I were 16 I would be trying to become the best athlete possible, which means spending time in the gym lifting and getting strong.

I've never rowed competitively, but I 2k in 6:45, which isn't glacial, and I saw a very direct correlation between my rowing time and the weight I could clean. This correlation has slowed down as the clean as gotten higher, but I feel comfortable in thinking that for a rower, priority #1 is getting the strength up to an acceptable baseline (clean 200, squat 300, which might be high for a 16 y/o but are still good goals to aim for eventually) while rowing regularly, then worrying about specializing from there.

I have a buddy who rowed competitively and 2k'ed somewhere in the 6:15s or 6:20s, I will ask him if he has an opinion on the issue.
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Old 10-16-2009, 12:41 PM   #3
Steven Low
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Develop the strength/power base, then apply the endurance specifics.

Quote:
doing a good mass gain program 'till Christmas and eating like hell, while doing 1 short-intervals workout and 1 active recovery day on the erg

switching at Christmas to a rowing-centric regime (2 days short-intervals, 1-day medium intervals, 1 day long row at active recovery pace) with the lifting program dropped to 2 days/week
I agree with this. Make it happen.

Anything more than really about the 60-75s mark is almost 50/50 split anaerobic/aerobic so you know that 2k row is pretty much 80-90% aerobic. Aerobic endurance does however still require gains from strength/power for enduring more powerful strokes much like longer stride rate in running requires strength.

If you replaced rowing for running you'd get pretty much the exact same concepts in this article I wrote:
http://www.eatmoveimprove.com/2009/0...ite-endurance/

I think you should go strength/power until you're at the point of increasing diminishing return, then drop down the volume like you are to make slow progress. The focus on more interval specific work... then transition into endurance base. The thing I like about the fast intervals is they develop the ability to pull explosively and maintain high powerful and thus raise lac threshold and develop aerobic characteristics as well. Then you can translate that better into the increased endurance.

Keep in mind he's young so he still has a lot of developing to go. You can't do everything in one season. Honestly, I think it would be better for long term development to focus on rowing those short intervals, and mass gain + strength/power for at least a year if not more. But yeah. Shrug.
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Last edited by Steven Low : 10-16-2009 at 12:47 PM.
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Old 10-16-2009, 12:48 PM   #4
Tom Fetter
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Thanks Alex.

Frankly, my bias is weighted heavily towards simply getting him stronger/bigger first, on the notion that certainly at novice to intermediate levels, strength endurance will be a function of maximal strength. Build the engine first, and tune it up later. I'd lean towards building a strength base using something like Rippetoe's Starting Strength ... and then shifting the lifting orientation towards Oly, to focus on developing power. Ramping up erg work as a proportion of overall training effort at that point.

We've got 2 conflicting models even within our own rowing club. Our juniors spent a winter doing strength training at our (quite powerlifting oriented) local CF gym. Their performance in the next season's regattas had jumped sharply - and the kids making the biggest rowing gains were also those with the biggest improvements in deadlifts and kipping pullups.

At the same time, the top masters rowers in the club are nationally competitive, and they're very heavily focused on erg training, and aerobic/movement efficiency gains.

Personally, I think that reflects where they are in their lifecycles as athletes - they've built their strength, and their aerobic base - and the incremental gains will come from movement efficiency now. In contrast, I think a younger rowing athlete should focus on a strength base, use it to efficiently build the aerobic capacity, and only then priorize the "3rd wave" gains from really targetting movement efficiency 1 per-cent-tweaks.

What worries me is my own bias. Just because I'd far prefer to lift weights by almost any protocol than do metcon, doesn't give me license to give my kid garbage advice.
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Old 10-16-2009, 12:52 PM   #5
Tom Fetter
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Thanks Steven.

I'd rather spend the whole off season on strength, punctuated by short intervals and one long active recovery row too. If we find, doing our testing, that Chris' goals for his 2k time are dropping simply using that protocol, I might be able to convince him to keep with it 'till it stops working.

It goes against the conventional wisdom of the rowing world though, which is pretty hard to buck when you're a 16 year old.
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Old 10-16-2009, 02:16 PM   #6
Steven Low
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I mean, ideally any training should be like that. People are set in their ways though.

The aerobic and neuromuscular efficiency has to be built eventually (and can even be integrated in if it doesn't interfere with recovery in the beginning). But I am of the opinion that increasing lac threshold and strength/power will have stronger carryover once you do that.

What separates elite endurance runners isn't Vo2max because all of them are up there... it's the lac threshold that is what is correlated with finishing place.
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Old 10-16-2009, 03:01 PM   #7
Donald Lee
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Low View Post
What separates elite endurance runners isn't Vo2max because all of them are up there... it's the lac threshold that is what is correlated with finishing place.
It's power output at lactate threshold, not lactate threshold, that is really important.

Tom,

If you'd like to learn more about youth training, I hear Drabik's book is highly recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Children-Sport...5730289&sr=1-1

If you'd like to learn more about elite training, Block Periodization by Issurin is good. I think he's a kayaking guy, but I don't know if that relates much to rowing.

http://www.ultimateathleteconcepts.c...surinbook.html
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Old 10-18-2009, 05:06 PM   #8
Tom Fetter
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Thanks again folks.

Our short intervals will be based on Veronique Billat's research, having Chris' work intervals all be at his vVoMax (the pace at which he first reaches his Vo2Max). Do as many 1:1 work pace:rest pace intervals as possible, and stop the workout when you can't maintain the split anymore.

Though she's primarily worked with runners, this interval protocol seems utterly ideal for working on a CII ... you'll never be in any doubt whether you're able to maintain the split or not.
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Old 10-24-2009, 08:01 PM   #9
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Tom,

As you know, by asking the question on a forum focused on oly lifting and the like, you'll get answers consistent with that focus.

I don't know the right answer. i doubt there's one approach that is right, but before deciding anything, if I were you I'd be inclined to ask Larry Gluckman what he thinks. Larry has been a college the coach. He was an Olympian, and he worked with C2. He's involved in the development program at Craftsbury. Larry had his college rowers lift, and I expect he could give you some helpful thoughts.

Tom
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Old 10-28-2009, 10:20 AM   #10
Tom Fetter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Rawls View Post
Tom,

As you know, by asking the question on a forum focused on oly lifting and the like, you'll get answers consistent with that focus.

I don't know the right answer. i doubt there's one approach that is right, but before deciding anything, if I were you I'd be inclined to ask Larry Gluckman what he thinks. Larry has been a college the coach. He was an Olympian, and he worked with C2. He's involved in the development program at Craftsbury. Larry had his college rowers lift, and I expect he could give you some helpful thoughts.

Tom
Done. Thanks for the suggestion.

t
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