A very interesting article was recently posted on row-360.com which investigates the different approaches to training by different high performance systems. Below are a few excerpts which shed a very interesting light on the thinking towards high performance training.

Recent tales of football coaches with camouflage outfits and binoculars spying on their upcoming adversaries’ preparations have received much media attention. In the rowing world, catching a glimpse of other crews is often a little more straightforward, and rarely requires wire cutters. While watching (and even timing) the odd session on a shared river will give you an idea of how well and fast your opposition is moving, understanding and learning from their training programme is rarely as public. When permitted, academic researchers have attempted to quantify the work of elite rowers so they can better understand the applied world and figure out why it works – or occasionally doesn’t. Summarising and discussing what has been peer-reviewed then published can provide useful insights into the evolution of training practices and offer some useful advice that is applicable to all levels of competition.”

Let’s start with training volume, and the adage that ‘mileage makes champions’. As you would expect, the literature tends to agree – with several papers associating distance rowed with success. Research from Juergen Steinacker, chair of the FISA Sports Medicine Commission and author of some classic rowing physiology studies, suggests that some eastern European teams completed over six hours of on-water rowing per day during the 1970s. Data from the German Junior National Team explains how they trained for 150 minutes per day in 1989 increasing to 190 minutes per day by 1995. As one of the most successful coaches in Olympic rowing history once said to me (in a German accent) “Mark, if there was a way of doing less and getting more, we would be trying it”.

However, while being an important contributing factor, quantity of strokes must be considered alongside quality. The way training is distributed across the various cycles within an Olympiad has been the subject of intense discussion within the scientific community. In most cases, the desire to complete high mileages has led to the evolution of a ‘polarised’ model of training whereby most of the endurance training is conducted at low intensity, with smaller amounts at higher intensities – generally following an 80:20 percent distribution ratio. Seiler has written some definitive articles in this field that include examples from rowing, among other endurance sports.”

Finally, how do we know what we are reading that the elites are doing is optimal? Could there be a better way or are coaches playing safe and sticking to what they know has worked in the past? Some research has compared different methods (generally using sub-elite athletes). Ingham et al (2008) found high volume, low intensity to be more effective than a threshold-based programme when attempting to improve 2km ergometer performance. This, among other evidence suggests that the elites are understandably on to something. Respected track coach Steve Magness, on Twitter, once said that “coaches figure out what works in training and then scientists come and figure out why it works”. This statement seems to apply to training methodology and some of sports science’s more radical ideas.”

To read the full article visit https://row-360.com/who-does-what-and-why/.

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