row2k Features
Youth Coaches Corner
Cross Training, Part 2: On Workouts, Lifting, and Helpful Partnerships
March 13, 2023
John FX Flynn, row2k

Head of the Schuylkill, 2022

To learn more about this series, see the topics we plan to cover, and read Part 1 on Cross Training, please visit the Youth Coaches Corner's index page. Youth coaches are more than welcome to contact row2k to get involved in future columns.

This week, the answers we received to the next three questions we asked about Cross Training:

Do you tailor cross training to specific people, or does everyone typically get the same workouts?

CASSANDRA CUNNINGHAM - POWER OF 3, LLC/P3PE - PERSONAL COACH

I absolutely tailor cross training to specific people. Most of my athletes all have different areas to work on. I normally start by asking them what they dislike most and then will usually start them in that direction knowing it will help serve them long term as an athlete. For example most of my youths dislike running, so they learn to walk, fartlek run, and then pace on the track. In the beginning, they build a foundation, eventually overcoming their fear of the exercise.

Schuylkill Navy Run, 2022
Schuylkill Navy Run, 2022

DREW COMBS - LITCHFIELD HILLS ROWING CLUB - HEAD COACH

If lifting, the younger athletes have different movements and spend more time on technique. If we have injuries or newer athletes, we have modifications for them.



CHRIS RICKARD - JACKSON/REED HS - WOMEN'S HEAD COACH

Generally it's the same workout, but there are definitely exceptions for injuries: if someone can't run we get them on a stationary bike or go for a swim.

Mercer Indoor Row for the Cure, 2023
Mercer Indoor Row for the Cure, 2023

We also try to set up most workouts so the difficulty scales to each individual's ability. For example: instead of running a set distance, we'll have everyone run for 45 minutes so athletes can go at their own pace.



GEORGE KIRSCHBAUM - JUNIORS COACH - AUTHOR OF 'THE DOWN AND DIRTY GUIDE TO COXING'

For me, the novice will do less volume to start until we've felt they've built into it enough not to wear them out or scare them away. Most novices need to build into the rigors of rowing.

With a large squad, in general, it is hard to tailor things to the individual. If someone is recovering from an injury, then we'll follow whatever protocols are required to get them there. If you see someone struggling for whatever reason, and you know they are not sandbagging it, then you work with them by easing things up. You may not be able to tailor every workout to a specific person, but you should always know and monitor each of your individual athletes to help them be their best in a healthy way.



KIRSTEN PRESKENIS - FARMINGTON HS - HEAD WOMEN'S COACH

Because we have such a large group, everyone will do the same workout. Of course, if someone has an injury we'll find an alternative workout for them.



WILL PORTER - ST. ANDREWS SCHOOL - HEAD MEN'S COACH

I want our athletes to work together as much as possible, but I do, however, keep an eye on imbalances. Our rowers are coming to preseason camp about two weeks after the end of their winter seasons, so they are in good all-around shape.

Generally, runners, swimmers, and squash players have great base fitness but are short on power. Getting them into the weight room as soon as their winter season ends is crucial. The wrestlers are pretty much ready to go from day one. Squash involves a lot of lunging and short bursts, so they are pretty explosive but need to work on their back strength with pull-ups, etc. The swimmers tend to have tremendous upper-body strength and tolerance for grueling workouts, but they need more leg strength, so we'll hit them with front squats in our weekly lifts.

St. Andrews Regatta #3, 2022
St. Andrews Regatta #3, 2022

JOHN MARTIN - BRUNSWICK SCHOOL - HEAD MEN'S COACH
We try to do everything together as a team, but individuals cross-train on their own on days off and over vacation of course.



RUDY RYBACK - LAKE OSWEGO COMMUNITY ROWING - MEN'S HEAD COACH

Among a cohort, we usually just change one variable to address the different ages/skill levels. For instance, one of our staple cross-training workouts is weighted-carrys, up stairs or hills. Here, we might just change the amount of carried weight and leave the rest untouched. Another one would be setting up an obstacle course and tailoring the number of loops to adjust for age discrepancies.

A lot of programs integrate weightlifting in cross training, so which lifts have you found to be most beneficial for rowers and why?

CHRIS RICKARD - JACKSON/REED HS - WOMEN'S HEAD COACH

Deadlift and, if an athlete is up to it and you feel confident teaching it, Power Clean.

Mid-Atlantic Regional, 2019
Mid-Atlantic Regional, 2019

WILL PORTER - ST. ANDREWS SCHOOL - HEAD MEN'S COACH

To quote legendary strongman Jon Pall Sigmarsson, "There is no reason to be alive if you can't do deadlift." It's also a great exercise for grooving the hip hinge and building core strength.



CASSANDRA CUNNINGHAM - POWER OF 3, LLC/P3PE - PERSONAL COACH

I am a big fan of mini band work, medicine balls, kettle bells, and dumbbells. I love how these weights can apply to an athlete's range of motion, balance, stability and build strength.



DREW COMBS - LITCHFIELD HILLS ROWING CLUB - HEAD COACH

Squat--best for legs period--and the Deadlifts and Hip Thrust: great for posterior chain development (but both must be taught).

Recently, I have been loving Cossack Squats for hip mobility and nonlinear movements. Box jumps, bosu squats, and unbalanced movements help make it a balanced, full body challenge.



RUDY RYBACK - LAKE OSWEGO COMMUNITY ROWING - MEN'S HEAD COACH

This conjures up almost an almost imperative debate . . . with Youth Nationals being almost always in Sarasota now, that venue was made to break course records. So we are seeing some really fast times in Sarasota in early June. Physiologically, this forces big and quick muscular contractions. Long story short, we focus on the Heavy lifting in January, and move toward more explosive/dynamic lifts as we approach Regionals/Nationals. Teaching strength movements is the goal at the U17 level, and perfecting/optimizing the movement is the focus at the U19 level.

Philadelphia City Championships, 2019
Philadelphia City Championships, 2019

GEORGE KIRSCHBAUM - JUNIORS COACH - AUTHOR OF 'THE DOWN AND DIRTY GUIDE TO COXING'

I think kids benefit from a mix of bodyweight exercises and lifting. Just like you aren't going to ask novices to go down the course at a 38, you don't want them trying to do big lifts without building up to them. Teaching them the fundamentals is key, and that includes the proper motions unloaded until they can do them well.

Adolescents need a full body program for overall muscular development, and that include compound lifts like squats, dead-lifts (I like using a trap bar), bench press, front-presses, and rows. Pull-ups (including assisted), push-ups (including negatives or from the knees), air squats, and lunges are all valuable exercises for rowing.

You don't have to do a ton of different exercises, just do a few really well, and incrementally.

Do you have any relationships you've built with coaches in other sports, HS strength training coaches, etc., that have been beneficial?

KIRSTEN PRESKENIS - FARMINGTON HS - HEAD WOMEN'S COACH

We have a good relationship with the strength training coach at the high school. I'll collaborate with him on creating a lifting program for the off-season. He also helps supervise the workouts, so having an extra set of eyes is very helpful in making sure people are lifting safely.



JOHN MARTIN - BRUNSWICK SCHOOL - HEAD MEN'S COACH
We started doing some yoga this year which we are enjoying for many reasons including injury prevention.



RUDY RYBACK - LAKE OSWEGO COMMUNITY ROWING - MEN'S HEAD COACH

Having an outside perspective on the sport is super healthy. Continuing education in rowing and bringing in fresh ideas from other sports is how I've felt able to stay near the sharp-end of rowing. I've been grateful to gain knowledge and experience from many athletic professionals . . . too many to count!



CASSANDRA CUNNINGHAM - POWER OF 3, LLC/P3PE - PERSONAL COACH

First, I love building relationships and YES! General strength and conditioning coaches, track and field high school coaches, basketball high school coaches, college strength coaches.

Pacific Rowing Club Novice/U17 Regatta, 2023
Pacific Rowing Club Novice/U17 Regatta, 2023

DREW COMBS - LITCHFIELD HILLS ROWING CLUB - HEAD COACH

As coaches, we have to be looking to gain knowledge. I seek out info from massage therapists, PTs, Power Lifters, Hockey Coaches (I used to be one), Track Coaches, etc. Whoever wants to chat and share ideas, workouts, thoughts, I look for it.



GEORGE KIRSCHBAUM - JUNIORS COACH - AUTHOR OF 'THE DOWN AND DIRTY GUIDE TO COXING'

At different points, yes. We had a great athletic trainer and weight coach who were brothers. They worked with us in tandem to keep the kids getting stronger and healthy. It was a great relationship.

But the nature of scholastic and junior sports is that coaches turn over often and keeping up with and maintaining those kinds of working relationships can be a challenge, especially if the other coaches don't see the same value in what you are doing.



WILL PORTER - ST. ANDREWS SCHOOL - HEAD MEN'S COACH

Our Strength and Conditioning coach, Al Wood, has greatly influenced my coaching. I never lifted weights because I was a coxswain, so I went to him for help with all aspects of strength training.

First, he showed me the ins and outs of Functional Movement Screening, which is useful in identifying possible limitations athletes may have, such as tight ankles or poor hip mobility. Second, he helped me develop a plan that made sense and could be adapted to a wide range of abilities. Last, he showed me how to do various exercises, along with the instruction tricks he has learned over the years. I learned a ton from him about hip mobility and just movement in general.

I also have relationships with our fall and winter coaches because we are invested in the same athletes. We share notes on our athletes, what motivates them, and what they need to work on from a teammate standpoint. We root for our kids when they are competing in other sports and all hope that they will continue to grow and learn lessons as athletes that will apply to our sport when the time comes.

Youth Nationals, 2022
Youth Nationals, 2022

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