With snow falling outside the row2k HQ windows at this writing, it is time for a lot of rowers and teams to head indoors for the winter to build or maintain strength gained from leaning on the oars this fall. Even if you are down under or in temperate climes, throwing some iron around is an important part of seasonal transitions.
When you have a full training schedule, adding weight lifting to your regimen can be challenging both for scheduling and recovery, especially when it comes to finding time to get a lift in. Set, rest, repeat, rest, do it again with a new exercise – it can wipe out a lot of your available training time. That and all the time you spend making a playlist to get you through a couple hours of lifting is more than some training regimens can bear.
However, new research appears to indicate that doing a heap of sets over a lot of time results in a classic example of diminishing returns – and for endurance athletes such as rowers, may add unnecessary bulk without corresponding gains in strength.
A study by folks at CUNY Lehman College comparing "low-, moderate-, and high-volume resistance training (RT) protocols in resistance-trained men" found that a group that lifted for only 13 minutes three times weekly had nearly identical strength gains to groups putting in much more time.
In the study, the low volume group did one set per exercise, the moderate volume group did three sets per exercise, and the high-volume group did five sets per exercise.
The high volume lifters did display greater "muscle hypertrophy" – that is, muscle size or bulk – than the lower volume group – but endurance athletes such as rowers do not always want or need additional bulk, which they have to move when they get in the boat.
So instead of a half-day session in the weight room, warm up a bit, crush one set of each exercise in rapid succession, and get out of there. Talk about BOOM, done.
For more info on how to get started with lifting for rowing, see our feature Strength and Conditioning Practices in Rowing for some practical advice.