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Put your phone down for a couple hours each day and maintain those hard-earned gains from spring season. For youth rowers summer time is a golden opportunity to elevate your rowing. The spring “season” is long and arduous. By the time Youth Championships wrap up most athletes have been training consistently for almost 5 months. Summer is a time for much needed recovery but it is also an opportunity to make improvements in strength, endurance, and rowing technique.

Get stronger

The spring racing season emphasizes time in the boat. By the time competition season rolls around most crews have moved away from serious strength training. Summer is an excellent time to get in the weight room and build or rebuild strength. Being strong is integral to performing at a high level in rowing. Emphasizing squatting and deadlifting will yield results that translate to faster boats. Learn more about starting a strength program.

Go far

Summer is an excellent time to continue building endurance. Cross training helps keep things interesting and expands athlete’s abilities to understand pacing, pushing physical limits, and different motor patterns. Aerobic capacity can be built by rowing or other activities. Cycling, running, swimming, and hiking are all great options. Rowing requires an enormous aerobic capacity which underlies all your training and racing.

Improve technique

Improving your rowing stroke is hugely important in gaining speed. If you spend a lot of time in large team boats find an opportunity to get into sculling boats. Spend hours doing technical work. There’s no substitute for understanding how a boat moves and feels. One of the benefits of technical work is that it tends to be lower intensity. I’ve seen many smaller athletes with technical prowess outperform larger teammates. It may not be sexy but lots of time drilling and fine tuning your stroke will pay dividends when head racing season starts.


Do something everyday. It’s painfully obvious to coaches which athletes maintained their fitness over the summer. Strength train 2-3x per week and perform aerobic training sessions 2-3x per week. Get out on the water as much as possible.

Strike a balance

Always try to strike a balance with your training. Train too hard over the summer and you’ll end up at a higher risk of injury once the fall season starts. Train too little over the summer and you’ll be playing catch up when you return to the boathouse.

Be honest with yourself.

Everyone has things they need to work on. As an athlete where do you need to improve the most? Are you already big and strong relative to your peers? Spend time building your aerobic capacity and becoming more technically proficient. Are you more aerobically inclined? Get into the weight room this summer. Work on improving in all areas but focus on your weaknesses. That will give you the biggest boost in the fall.

The fastest athletes next year will be the ones who prioritize recovering from the spring racing season, lift weights 2-3x per week, engage in cross training, and find opportunities to improve their technical skills on the water. Surprise yourself, your teammates, and your coaches next fall.

'Tis the season for long solitary hours on your rowing machine. Everywhere, rowers sit on the erg, grinding out pieces, grimacing with each stroke as sweat drips down their arms, slowly forming a puddle. Five minutes into the session, you’re already questioning your life choices – I’m doing this voluntarily? How long until Head of the Charles? Do I HAVE to hit 28 spm?

OKAY. The erg isn’t THAT bad. The good news is the rowing machine will help you maintain and build rowing specific fitness for next year. Take these tips into consideration as you begin spending more time on the indoor rower.

The Pain Cave.

Erging vs. Rowing on the water

The erg isn’t as forgiving as rowing on the water. Rowing on the water is a much more dynamic. You are constantly adapting and reacting to subtle changes in the environment. On the rowing machine it’s easier to replicate the exact same stroke and generate higher forces. Thus putting you at higher risk for overuse injuries. One advantage of the rowing machine vs. rowing on the water: you can, and should, stand up between pieces.

Confused Erg: Am I an RP3?

Work Smart and Hard (but only some of the times)

Do mostly easy work. Interval pieces can be a fun way to break up the monotony of indoor training. Not all of your work should be hard short intervals though. Incorporate higher intensity work strategically. Most of your pieces should be longer, easier, and focused on building aerobic capacity. The interval stuff should be reserved for increasing anaerobic threshold closer to competition periods.

Tech Work

The erg is a wonderful place to develop bad habits. It doesn’t punish you for rowing poorly the way a boat does. In fact, the erg often rewards poor rowing technique. Remain focused on the technical aspects of the rowing stroke rather than being tempted to pull faster and faster splits. Our bodies learn bad habits as easily as they learn good ones. Incorporate drills into your warm ups and during active recovery pieces to reinforce good technique.

Old School

Hydrate or Die-drate

It’s easier to get dehydrated on the indoor rower. When you’re out on the water moving through the elements your body cools off more easily. Here in Seattle, like much of North America, the fall temps are cool and we’re at little risk of heat exhaustion. Your first erg sessions will likely be in a much warmer environment. Prepare accordingly by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after sessions.

Splits: Learn to Ignore Them

The numbers stare us in the face on the erg. Often, they even mock us. It’s easy to take what is supposed to be a chill erg session and get bent out of shape about your splits. Go into each erg piece with a plan. Use heart rate to monitor the intensity of your training sessions. Take advantage of the depth of information available on the erg but don’t live and die by it.

Rowing Machine or Living Room Furniture?


Find yourself a training partner. Unless you’re one of the those really twisted people who can do a solo marathon most people are more accountable with a teammate. Recruit teammates or a friend (or enemy) who will motivate you to show up and get the work done.

If you’ve got big rowing goals in 2024 the erg will be an important training tool. Moderate the intensity of your sessions. Use the data provided but don’t obsess over it. Coordinate with teammates to improve accountability. Don’t forgo the technical work just because you’re not in a boat. Stay healthy and spring will be here before you know it!

Starting a strength training program doesn’t have to be complicated. These 7 tips will help you understand where to focus your time and energy.

1. Start slow. If it’s been a while since you’ve been doing strength workouts use the first couple training sessions to set new bench marks and understand what your body’s capabilities are. Modify movements if necessary. Body weight exercises and dumbbells provide plenty of resistance for the novice lifter. More advanced athletes will enjoy the challenges of barbell work and complex movements.

Snails are notoriously slow (it's a metaphor).

2. Start simple. Choose exercises that are easily executable. You don’t need to do the latest viral Instagram exercises to get strong for rowing. Most of the trendy stuff you see on social media won’t do much for your rowing. Simple movements like squatting and dead lifting will yield better results than anything else.

3. Failure is not an option. Don’t worry about going to muscle failure. Going to failure can be fun and gratifying but it’s not an important part of a rowing-specific strength program. Stick with rep ranges between 5 and 15. Avoiding going to failure doesn’t mean avoiding hard work. Push yourself to 85-90% or your capabilities in specific lifts during your working sets.

Don't be this guy.

4. Micro Dose (not drugs). Be strategic about how you incorporate strength training into your rowing routine. If you’ve got a lot of time built into your schedule for cross training that’s great. If not, slowly incorporate strength movements into your routine. Do sets of squats after a long easier row. Avoid doing heavier lifting on higher intensity rowing days.

5. Make Incremental Progress. Technique in the weight room is important but worrying too much about technique can be a barrier to showing up. The single most important thing to do when beginning a weight program is don’t do too much too fast. Slowly increase the load you’re lifting over time. As little as 1 lb per week. Our bodies adapt well to small changes.

6. Recover well. This is an often overlooked element of sport training. When you increase intensity and/or add to your training routines you need to make adjustments in your recovery. You may need more sleep after your first couple days in the weight room. Drink water, eat enough, and move frequently throughout the day to ensure you’re getting the most out of your training sessions.

Turns out sleep is good for you.

7. Have fun. Strength training should be an enjoyable aspect of your rowing training. It will help you perform better on the water and increase your longevity in the sport. View the weight room as a place where you can continue to challenge yourself and make improvements.

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