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/.

Rowing ergometer is used very frequently to evaluate the performance of rowers and to predict on-water rowing times. Mikulic et al. (2009) conducted a study on 562 rowers of both sexes and body-mass categories to compare their performance on rowing ergometer with their ranking at the 2007 World Rowing Championships.

Of the 562 rowers, 69% were male and 31% were female; 65% competed in open-category events and 35% in lightweight. A questionnaire was used to obtain the personal information and 2000 m rowing ergometer performance times of each athlete. Gathered data were compared with the rankings at the above-mentioned championships.

The main findings of the study were that of the 23 events at the World Rowing Championships, 17 correlated positively (P ≤ 0.049) with the rowing ergometer times and 12 events had a correlation coefficient greater than r = 50. The highest correlations were observed for lightweight men’s single sculls (r = 0.78; P = 0.005), women’s single sculls (r = 0.75; P = 0.002), men’s single sculls (r = 0.72; P = 0.004), lightweight men’s double sculls (r = 0.72; P = 0.001) and lightweight women’s double sculls (r = 0.69; P = 0.001). No correlations were found in four and negative correlations were observed in two events (men’s coxed pair and lightweight men’s coxless pair). Negative correlations could be the result of the small sample of rowers in these groups.

The correlations were stronger for smaller boats (single sculls, double sculls and pairs) – this was probably because rowing ergometer simulates on-water racing conditions better for smaller boats than for larger boats as the performance is dependant of only one rower. In larger boats, rowers have to coordinate and synchronize their movements which cannot be assessed on a rowing ergometer and could lead to discrepant.

What to learn from this?

In 12 of the 23 events the correlation coefficients between the 2000 m ergometer time and 2000 m World Rowing Championships rankings were positive and greater than r = 50. This indicates a moderate-to-strong relationship between the two types of rowing. Stronger correlations were observed for smaller boats. Although the rowing ergometer and on-water rowing are not exactly the same disciplines, from the physiological and biomechanical aspect they are similar. Therefore, these data must be handled with caution as the standard error in the study could be too large to accurately predict rowing performance on water.

Mikulic P, Smoljanovic T, Bojanic I, Hannafin JA, Matkovic BR. Relationship between 2000-m rowing ergometer performance times and World Rowing Championships rankings in elite-standard rowers. Journal of Sports Sciences 2009; 29 (9): 907-913.

There is limited published research on the practices of strength and conditioning (S &C) coaches in rowing. An interesting paper endeavored to quantify the training practices of coaches responsible for the S&C of rowing athletes. A questionnaire was developed that consisted of 6 sections: (a) personal details, (b) physical testing, (c) strength and power development, (d) flexibility development, (e) unique aspects of the program, and (f) any further relevant comments regarding the athletes prescribed training program.

Twenty-two rowing and 10 S&C coaches with an average of 10.5 ± 7.2 years’ experience agreed to complete the questionnaire. Approximately, 34% coached rowers of Olympic standard, 34% coached national standard, 3% coached regional standard, 19% coached club standard, and 10% coached university standard rowers. All coaches agreed that strength training enhanced rowing performance and the majority (74%) indicated that athletes’ strength trained 2-3 times a week.

Almost all coaches (94%) reported their rowers performed strength training, with 81% using Olympic lifting, and 91% employing a periodized training model. The clean (63%) and squat (27%) were rated the most important prescribed exercises. Approximately 50% of coaches used plyometrics such as depth jumps, box drills, and standing jumps. Ninety-four percent indicated they conducted physical testing on their rowers, typically assessing cardiovascular endurance (80%), muscular power (70%), muscular strength (70%), and anaerobic capacity (57%).

Based on this research, it is evident that strength training is commonly used in a rowing training program.

In various papers and research articles, the differences of the kinetics and kinematics between ergometer rowing and water rowing are highlighted.

First of all on an ergometer, the handle force has a higher peak and develops later, the stroke length tends to be 3-5% longer and the curve of foot stretcher force is considerably moved towards the beginning of the stroke. An important point is that the legs:trunk:arms proportions of power development on an ergometer are 37% : 41% : 22% compared to 45% : 37% : 18% for on water rowing. This means that the trunk is doing a larger proportion of the work on an ergometer. All of these factors potentially lead to an increased load applied to the structures of the trunk, and particularly the spine. Greater work done by the trunk could produce earlier fatigue of the trunk muscles, placing the spine at risk.

Interestingly, Holt et al (2003) studied the effects of prolonged ergometer rowing. Over a 60 minute piece there were significant changes in the way the athletes moved. Lumbar spine range of motion at the catch and total lumbar spine range of motion increased during the piece. The gradient of force production decreased, and the ratio of drive to recovery time increased, over the piece. The authors attributed these changes to fatigue of the trunk muscles during the piece, reinforcing that fatigued trunk muscles may lead to low back injury.

In addition, Teitz et al (2002) conducted a retrospective study of 1632 US intercollegiate rowers. By the use of detailed questionnaires they established that 32% of these athletes had experienced back pain of at least one week’s duration during their rowing careers. The use of rowing ergometers for greater than 30 minutes per session and free weights were the variables most consistently associated with back pain.

This research suggests that there perhaps is a link between the amount of time the athletes spend on the ergometer (under greater trunk load than when on the water,) with less desirable technique and postural positions. The end result is an increased load on the spine which may increase the risk of injury.

It is therefore essential coaches have the ability to coach the correct technique on the ergo taking into account the difference forces impacting on the body compared to rowing on the water.

Jeppe rowers were able to compete at the SA National Regatta at Roodeplaat on 01/02 May 2021 after a very long hiatus.

This event is usually held annually towards the end of April, for senior rowing clubs and provincial/national junior athletes. However, in 2021 school clubs we invited included after the SA Schools Championship could not be staged in March because of the Covid-19 restrictions on sport.

As the regatta was planned during the public school holidays, Jeppe were not able to send a full team as. Thus it was a great opportunity to embrace the Jeppe Team Spirit, and establish crews that were a mix of fitness and technical prowess.

The Under-18 Eight crew, for example, was a mixture of senior and junior rowers. They rowed in an older boat, “Kitty” which is roughly 11 years old. Damascus, the clubs most recent purchase thanks to the efforts of Jeppe Boats and Blades, will only be used by official 1st teams in official school regattas, so it’s debut has been delayed. The young and mixed Jeppe eight came third, never-the-less, which was a very good result for them.

Rowing Head Coach , Mr Chris Paynter, points out that the main thing was to give the boys an opportunity to compete in a real competition in a year when that didn’t seem likely.

“We did very well, however,” he said. “Jeppe crews won a number of medals, including numerous golds, and our rowers who were in the SA Development Squad boats also came home with medals.”

The medal winners were:

Under-15 Single Scull, Gold – Logan Roodt
Under-15 Double Scull, Gold – Logan Roodt, Mario Alho
Under-16 Pair Oar, Bronze – Troy Jarvis, Liam Anderson
Under-18 Pair Oar, Bronze – Darian Ferreira , Sven Clausen
Under-18 Quad, Gold – Robert Preston, Liam McCourt, Joshua Gillespie, Darian Ferreira, Sven Clausen
U18 Coxed Four, Gold – Robert Preston, Michael Concalves, Joshua Gillespie, Darian Ferreira, Sven Clausen
U18 Eight, Bronze – Robert Preston, Troy Jarvis, Blayde Franken, Terence Laughton, Mandla Green, Christiano De Freitas, Joshua Gillespie, Darian Ferreira, Sven Clausen

The following Jeppe rowers won medals while rowing for the SA National Development Squads (under-15 and under-16).
Under-15 – Logan Roodt Gold (Oct), Gold (Quad); Mario Alho Gold (Oct), Gold (Quad)
Under-16 – Blayde Franken Gold (Coxed Four and Eight); Mandla Green Gold (Eight), Silver (Coxed Four), Bronze (Single Scull); Cristiano de Freitas Gold (Eight and Coxed Four).

All in all it was a fantastic regatta and so good for our boys to be back on the water again.