row2k Features
Lifting Crunch Time: Could 'Less' be 'More?'
November 15, 2018
Ed Hewitt,

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.

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01/13/2022  5:34:47 PM
Weight training certainly offsets strength loss with age. For me the weak link is aging joints. In spring 2021 I started trying to build quads & glutes, with resistance work (sled) every 3 days instead of every 5-6 days, followed by a day of complete rest instead of rowing. Fantastic improvement in reps to failure, progressing w/ 10% increments to a total of +46%. Great! The next 10% increase blew out a knee. 9 months later I'm still recovering. As in all things, prudence is important.

01/08/2022  7:22:39 PM
Very impressive work from those athletes. One question, does it make the boat go faster.A quick story, we were addressed by a former strength & con. coach of the Kiwi all blacks rugby union team.They were all given targets to reach in the gym. One player who couldnt get close to his targets, also happened to have the best tackle count on the team. In other words, NEW HOW TO PLAY THE GAME or in rowing parlance knew how to make the boat go fast.

01/07/2022  1:51:49 PM
Muscle hypertrophy builds muscle. plain and simple. do it in the off season. then train it for endurance.... build strength/size - then chizel. just my two cents

12/23/2020  12:50:17 PM
Less could also be less. From the same journal eight months later: "Fifth, the study had a relatively small sample size and thus may have been somewhat underpowered to detect significant changes between groups in certain outcomes."

11/21/2018  1:35:15 PM
Always an interesting fight of tactical training. But the underlying this is the complexity to do, the total number of repetitions which is the equivalent of race, perfectly and to the maximum output. What is a race really? Approximately 220 repetitions of 4 segments of 2000 meters. Or 50 odd reps per 500 meters, with no rest between sets of 50. How do you prepare your body to accept that much "WORK". We have that excellent machine mostly supplied by Concept 2 for example, which screams agony to the new comer. But you still need pit stops between Dry Weight Training and Machine work. Oh, the agony of which comes first, the Chicken or the Egg. But that's sports for ya. Endless arguments over beer & wings. I've had some of the most outstanding strong fellas in a crew, but it ends up the tell story moment, the sum of the mistakes is the distance between first and second, and so on. Efficiency is the determining factor of similar wills of physical equivalency. So Happy Holidays and Thanksgiving to our American friends. Something to debate and argue over, the Chicken or the Egg.

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