Conditioning – On the rower

This post is basically just for you Darragh….because I know you need all the help you can get.

I am going to talk about ‘conditioning’ in its broader context at some stage but here I want to talk about the ways that I look to use the Concept II rower in particular…I am going to do so very briefly and will look to edit and expand this post if and when I get any questions about it…so this post will just be quick and to the point hopefully.

Firstly, like all aspects of strength and conditioning it is important to understand the continuum that you are looking at…in this case with the rower this continuum has sprint work at one end…something like max effort work over 100-200 metres….an effort of…just for the sake of discussion…of say 15-30 seconds at one end and a more endurance based effort at the other….typically and again for the sake of discussion 2000+ metres or more….now…before people start picking this to pieces…there is a difference between doing a ‘training’ 2000 metre effort and a ‘competition’ or ‘race pace’  2000 metre effort…a race pace 2k that I might do in 6min and 45 seconds puts very different demands on my body than a training 2k that I might do in 8+ minutes…what we are essentially talking about here with this continuum we are looking at is a max effort sustainable for 15-30 seconds at one end and an effort sustainable for an extended period of time at the other….with everything else in between. This everything else includes a multitude of various interval sessions and efforts placing a variety of differing demands on the body.

So with that in mind….if you are looking at improving your rowing you first have to decide what elements of your rowing you are looking to develop….are you looking to improve your sprint capacity or your endurance capacity….are you looking to improve your power or are you looking to improve you aerobic work capacity?

The important thing to understand is that you can’t ignore one while focusing on the other….this is the mistake that people make in all forms of training. People fail to understand that all elements and aspects of training have their own continuum on which they fall.

This is why you read countless articles about powerlifters who suddenly reach another level after doing something outside the element of the strength continuum on which they are focussed….all the focus on is pure strength work…working at the lower end of say the 1-5 rep range for example who then start introducing some prowler work….or start going for a walk….start doing some strongman training….it doesn’t matter what it is….they get an improvement because they start making gains in some other element of the continuum and as a result of this their general performance improves. Do you follow?

It is the same with work on the rower….if you want to improve your sprint capacity then the principle of specificity holds true and the bulk of your training should be focused on this area but it shouldn’t exclude everything else. You want to get better at pure power work….you should do plenty of that…BUT if you really want to get good…you should also do some sprint intervals….do some long intervals…..and do some endurance work….because they all feed into each other. Naturally the inverse is also true….if you want to improve your aerobic capacity…your endurance than that should make up the bulk of the work you do…but you also need to include some long intervals….some sprint intervals and some pure power work.

As with all elements of training…it is about getting the balance right.

Now to Darragh’s question specifically and again in brief…if I was rowing for fat loss….what I would do is this:

Do 1km…get off the rower…have a bit of a stretch and loosen up. I’d get back on the rower and do 10x150m with 30 seconds recovery between efforts…I’d bury myself on these…then I would advise you fall off the rower…if you are still alive a few minutes later I would get back on and row and easy 2-5km depending on how much time you had and how fat you are.


4 thoughts on “Conditioning – On the rower

  1. Ha ha yes, I need all the help I can get, mainly because my last gym made me fat.

    That’s exactly what I was looking for, and simple enough for me to understand too, cheers.

    Follow up stupid questions:

    Does the setting on the rower make a difference?
    You posted that you do your testing at 10, but isn’t it variable resistance or something?
    When I got on the rower it was set at 6 so out of laziness I left it there.
    This also means that if it’s wrong it’s not my fault.

    Do you go out at 100% from the start and hang on, or try to pace yourself for the 150m to get your best time?
    And yes I am asking about pacing yourself over 30 seconds.

    What about when you move from ‘fat loss’ conditioning to ‘conditioning’ conditioning,
    what changes then?

    I did this this morning for a laugh. Oh how I laughed.

    1. 26.6
    2. 27.4
    3. 28.6
    4. 30.6
    5. 30.0
    6. 31.3
    7. 30.3
    8. 31.8
    9. 30.9
    10. 30.6

    It’s all about the first interval right?
    I’m guessing the 5 second differential between the 1st and 6th intervals is a good thing.

    • Yes, the setting does make a difference. Personally I would have it set at 5 for the warm up, 10 for the intervals and 7 for the easy aerobic work afterwards.

      Yes, I do all the testing at 10 but that is to maintain consistency in testing.

      Yes, you are incredibly lazy….so nothing surprising there.

      For ‘fat loss’ I would be doing them flat and at high intensity….looking at your times I would say you should just aim to have all your efforts under 30 seconds.

      A lot changes with regard to doing pure conditioning but to answer that question I need to know what the goal is…for example my answer would be different if you wanted to do your best 2km time as a rower would. It would be different if you were a rugby player or MMA fighter etc etc and it is dependent on what you starting point is…as in…are you a Thomas The Tank Engine type or Roadrunner….good endurance or an explosive athlete lacking work capacity.

      So in short to answer your question….it depends.

  2. Will,

    If you were to use the rower during the 2nd and 4th 10 minute blocks of the old IP conditioning sessions would you go with 150m blocks with 30 seconds rest then?

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