Low intensity high volume workouts on rowing ergometer are used to improve endurance capacity of athletes. It has been suggested that such long workouts may also have an impact on rowing technique.
Mackenzie et al. (2008) conducted a study to test a hypothesis that “elite rowers can maintain technique over a one hour rowing ergometer session”. Six highly trained male sweep oarsmen (2 international and 4 club level) were tested using an electromagnetic device to assess rowing technique in terms of generated force and spinal kinematics. The subjects performed a 5 minute warm-up, followed by one hour of rowing on a Concept II ergometer with the stroke rate of 18-20 strokes per minute and the heart rate of 130-150 beats per minute.
The results indicated that the elite rowers were able to sustain their technique and force parameters over the time period of one hour rowing. Minor changes were noted including decrease in force output (10N decrease after the first seven minutes of rowing) and a change in leg compression (three degrees at the end of one hour) which caused a small increase in anterior rotation of the pelvis. However, the authors suggested that these changes might have been the result of relatively short warm-up and that the athletes might not have had enough time to settle into technique.
What to learn from this?
One hour of low intensity training on rowing ergometer does not affect the technique of highly trained rowers. This knowledge can be used to better plan high volume low intensity rowing into training cycles of elite athletes. However, research has shown (Holt et al., 2003) that one hour of rowing does affect the technique of club level rowers, possibly contributing to lower back injuries.
Mackenzie HAM, Bull AMJ, McGregor AH. Changes in rowing technique over a routine one hour low intensity high volume training session. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 2008; 7: 486-491.
Holt PJ, Bull AM, Cashman PM, McGregor AH. Kinematics of spinal motion during prolonged rowing. International Journal of Sports Medicine 2003; 24: 597-602.