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Old 04-06-2009, 08:02 PM   #1
Andrew Killion
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Question about rowing

I've been rowing since high school. Rowed at Gonzaga in DC (very competitive) then as a Cornell Lightweight (extremely competitive). Since I can remember I've been told that rowing is an aerobic sport. I'm not going to debate that fact. I think it's anything over 2 minutes is considered an aerobic event, right? Anyway, why is it that just because rowing is an aerobic event a VAST majority of coaches train for it like its an endurance event. At Cornell we used to do 2x45 minutes on the erg 2 to 3 times a week. I've always thought this was the best way to train for aerobic events (just because thats how I've always done it). As I read more about aerobic vs anaerobic training it seems to me doing 2x45 minutes on the erg is hurting more than its helping. Wouldn't increased power output way outdo whatever VO2 is gained from long distance ergs. Long protracted erg sessions are the equivalent of training for a marathon right? And I've never seen a great rower that looked like a marathoner. Rowers a big burly people.

One more question: I may be wrong here but isnt the basic rowing stroke a bit of a "core extremity violation?" Anyone who has been taught to row is told legs/back/arms ad naseum. I'm guessing the use of the legs is technically the "core?" Did I answer my own question there?

Anyway any insight at all is HUGELY appreciated. Thanks in advance.
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Old 04-07-2009, 10:16 AM   #2
Roger Steffens
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Re: Question about rowing

I can be of no help to you since Cornell cut me from the freshman lightweight crew team in April 1979 , during spring break I might add. Probably for the best since I was short for my weight.
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Old 04-07-2009, 11:03 AM   #3
Steven Low
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Re: Question about rowing

1. Yes. High intensity is the way to make faster adaptations.

Why do you think a lot of the good/elite CFers can put up sub 1:30 and even sub 1:20 times in 500m row with very little directly C2 rowing AND poor technique.

TBH, you need to train both though. The elite marathons DO their distance work, but they also focus on intervals and sprints too. Running ~4:10 minute miles for 26 miles is no joke. You gotta have the speed too.


2. No, it's not a core violation.

The power from your legs is transmitted through your core (lower back, abdominal, lumbar area) to the arms which are holding onto the thing you are rowing with.

The main job of the core here is to resist the forces that is exerted on the top half the of the body and the lower half of the body. Your arms are being pulled towards the rower and your legs are pushing away from the rower.. your core resists the arms so that you move backwards pulling the chain away from the rower more.

This is similar to swinging sports such as baseball and golf where the HIPS are generating all of the power, and the core is resisting the action/reaction from contact with the ball.
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Old 04-07-2009, 01:42 PM   #4
Andy McLaughlin
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Re: Question about rowing

I've personally never thought that training for such long periods of time on an erg is especially beneficial. It's a 2000m race that you're training for. However, those long mind numbing workouts do help with improving mental toughness and keeping technique when tired, which is important in rowing.

2x45 might work, but I can't imagine it's the most efficient workout plan.
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Old 04-07-2009, 06:23 PM   #5
Andrew Killion
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Re: Question about rowing

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Originally Posted by Steven Low View Post

TBH, you need to train both though. The elite marathons DO their distance work, but they also focus on intervals and sprints too. Running ~4:10 minute miles for 26 miles is no joke. You gotta have the speed too.

Right but a marathon IS an endurance event. I don't think rowing 2000m is. Is a 5ish minute event considered "endurance?" These guys do not look like endurance athletes to me. They look much more adept at generating huge power than long drawn out "endurance events." Any thoughts as to why it's often considered an endurance event?
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Old 04-08-2009, 03:18 AM   #6
Steven Low
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Re: Question about rowing

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Originally Posted by Andrew Killion View Post
Right but a marathon IS an endurance event. I don't think rowing 2000m is. Is a 5ish minute event considered "endurance?" These guys do not look like endurance athletes to me. They look much more adept at generating huge power than long drawn out "endurance events." Any thoughts as to why it's often considered an endurance event?
The fact is that even some of the best 1500m runners (El Guerrouj) were doing a lot of longer distance runs with their intervals, and also did extremely well at 5000m too. Bekele holds world records at 5k and 10k, although those are longer duration events than what you're talking about.

Anything over ~30 or so seconds at high intensity is highly aerobic in nature as evidenced by the 300m burnout (in ~30s of total intramuscular glycogen depletion) experienced by 400m track athletes.

This is why CF is so good with 500m rowing because it's about 90s duration, and metcons develop both strong glycolytic and oxidative capacities.
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Old 04-08-2009, 11:14 AM   #7
Phillip Garrison
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Re: Question about rowing

For most endurance events you need a combination of lactate and alactate training. The higher your lactate threshold, the better you body can remove wastes and perform at a high percentage of VO2 max.
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Old 04-08-2009, 11:46 AM   #8
Andy McLaughlin
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Re: Question about rowing

The reason for more focus on longer pieces has to do with the fact that 2000m is much more of an endurance event than a sprint. Here's an interesting article:

http://home.hia.no/~stephens/rowphys.htm (WFS)


" When I determined the relationship between power output/kg for 500 meters and 2000 meters among 25 heavyweight men, the correlation was a weak 0.50. In the top 10 heavyweight women it was 0.07 or basically zero! Among the men, 500 meter power varied by 30 percent, while 2k power only varied by 10 percent.

Recently (2005), I applied the same approach to the online CII ergometer rankings. These data have become available since I first wrote this article. I took the top 10% of the performers age 20-40 in the 500m sprint. I then found those who had also performed 2k and 5k races. I then converted performance times to power output in watts using the same equation used by Concept II. The correlation between 500meter power output and 2000meter output was about 0,4. This means that 500meter power output only explained about 16% of the variation in 2k performance. However, the correlation between 2k and 5k power output was about 0.9, meaning that 80% of 2k performance was explained by variation in 5k performance. These data actually support nicely the known physiology of the 2k race. About 85% of the energy requirement during the race is supplied aerobically, while the remainder is supplied via anaerobic pathways. For those who are interested, these data also suggest that 5000meter power should average about 80-85% of 2,000m power. Among the good rowers I analyzed, this ratio ranged from 77% to about 90%. It is interesting to note in this context that the US National team no longer performs strength or sprint tests, only the 2k and 6k ergos."

As you can see, the 5 or 6 kilometer tims of elite rowers serves as a better predictor of 2k pace.
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Old 04-08-2009, 06:01 PM   #9
Andrew Killion
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Re: Question about rowing

Wow Andy that was a really interesting article and provided a really awesome counter point. But with something like a crossfit, isnt that some intense aerobic exercise. Like the article says 500's definitely dont correlate to a 2k because its a completely different metabolic pathway. But when you do a lot of these WOD's that last 15-20 minutes (about the length of a 5k) isnt that training the oxidative pathway. Maybe I'm wrong because I am by no means an exercise physiologist but wouldnt any crossfit WOD that lasts longer than 2 minutes be aerobic? Or does the muscle need to be in consistent action in order to go aerobic? I was an government major in college, I never studied this stuff but now I wish I had.
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Old 04-08-2009, 10:09 PM   #10
Steven Low
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Re: Question about rowing

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Originally Posted by Andrew Killion View Post
Wow Andy that was a really interesting article and provided a really awesome counter point. But with something like a crossfit, isnt that some intense aerobic exercise. Like the article says 500's definitely dont correlate to a 2k because its a completely different metabolic pathway. But when you do a lot of these WOD's that last 15-20 minutes (about the length of a 5k) isnt that training the oxidative pathway. Maybe I'm wrong because I am by no means an exercise physiologist but wouldnt any crossfit WOD that lasts longer than 2 minutes be aerobic? Or does the muscle need to be in consistent action in order to go aerobic? I was an government major in college, I never studied this stuff but now I wish I had.
Did you even read my post earlier in the thread?

I explained all of the questions you are asking.

And my analogy of the El Guerrouj fits PERFECTLY. WR mile/1500m times AND won 5k events..... events are ~4 mins and like ~12-13 mins or something like that pretty much EXACTLY like 2k rowing times and 5-6k row times.
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