The Workout

The Workout (Page 3 of 3)

The workout should be based on the user's objectives, whatever the objective, make sure that goals are realistic. If set too low, improvements will not be forthcoming. If set too high, undue strain may remove the pleasure which should be associated with exercise.


If the user's goal is weight reduction then their workouts need to be predominantly aerobic based with the occasional high intensity piece.


There are 4 main rowing workouts:


1) Steady State Rowing - for fat burning and aerobic conditioning

2) Interval Training - for aerobic conditioning and speed improvement

3) Pyramid Training - for aerobic conditioning

4) Platform Training - - for aerobic conditioning particularly for racing


Ensure the user works comfortably within their limits as it is far better to finish an exercise routine feeling worked yet refreshed than thoroughly exhausted and de-motivated.


Ensure everyone listens to their body. If the user feels slightly under the weather, make sure they don’t work out for their usual 30 minutes, but do 15 minutes at a low intensity with a long stretch instead.


Remember that exercise should compliment ones lifestyle, not rule it.





The Workout - Steady State Training

The aerobic system can be improved through training at a level which works the oxygen transporting system of the body without allowing an accumulation of lactate in the muscles, usually at exercise levels of between 55% and 75% of maximum heart rate.

The format of this type of workout is continuous rowing at the same rate, at the same pressure/speed, for a set period of time (known as Steady State Training). Training steady state for long durations at low intensities is good for fat burning.


The length of time of the workout will depend on fitness levels, starting with 10 minutes for beginners and extending to 90 minutes for advanced rowers. Stroke rates are usually around 20-24spm.


As fitness levels improve, the aim is to either increase the distance traveled over a set period of time or simply increase the duration of the workout.







The Workout - Interval Training

Interval training is a workout session that alternates short periods of high intensity exercise with low intensity recovery periods. In other words, there is a rest period in between bursts of anaerobic activity. Interval training works the heart and improves the body's use of oxygen, boosting general fitness levels.

It is important to remember that intervals are not always at maximum intensity. If the first few are too fast, the user will not be able to finish the session.

An example of an interval session would be, after a warm up, row for 2 minutes at a high intensity and follow this with a recovery period of 2 minutes, rowing at a low intensity. These intervals can be repeated throughout the duration of the workout.

Interval training can be applied to exercise within a specific heart rate range e.g. for weight maintenance: work for 2 minutes at 85% of maximum heart rate, then 2 minutes at 50% and repeat 4 to 5 times.




The Workout - Pyramid Training

The graph illustrates ‘Pyramid Training’. This type of training allows the intensity of exercise to be built up gradually.

The session starts at slow / moderate pace, concentrating on points of rowing technique so that good form is maintained as the intensity of the workout increases. Set a time goal and aim to work in stages, so that the most intense training occurs half-way through the workout.


An example of a common pyramid training session is the 29 minute pyramid broken into steps as follows:


5'-4'-3'-2'-1'-2'-3'-4'-5' - the duration of time in minutes (represented by the symbol ' ) decreases and then increases again in pyramid format.


As each step shortens, the intensity of exercise

increases and vice versa


i.e. 50%-60%-70%-80%-90%-80%-70%-60%-50%.


Intensity can be heightened either by increasing stroke rates


i.e. R22-24-26-28-30-28-26-24-22 or by increasing and decreasing speed.





The Workout - Platform Training

Platform Training is similar to steady state training but is of a higher intensity (75-85%). This is usually around the user's lactate threshold. It allows medium to high intensity work over a specific time.


This type of workout is usually done by competitive rowers/athletes preparing for a race or time trial. A popular Platform workout is a 5000 meter piece at 85-90% in preparation for the Olympic race distance of 2000 meters.


As fitness levels improve, the aim is usually to either decrease the time taken to complete both the 5000 and 2000 meters distance piece.


Gains in fitness can be tracked by keeping a log of previous times.





The Workout - Heart Rate Training


Exercise intensity measured in terms of speed or distance is very subjective as it depends on the individual’s physiology, age, weight, sex, physical condition, etc. These measurements can also vary according to an individual’s tiredness, hydration, stress, and general well-being. The most convenient and accurate method of measuring how much work the body is doing is to monitor heart rate.


A highly effective method of training is achieved by setting a training intensity as a percentage of the maximum heart rate of the individual. A high intensity workout to one person may be a moderate intensity workout to another.


The maximum heart rate (MHR) corresponds to maximum aerobic output, and is based on the physiology and fitness level the user. When measuring maximum heart rate, research has shown that results differ according to the type of exercise employed. For example, MHR on a treadmill is consistently 5-6 beats higher than on a bicycle ergometer and 2-3 beats higher than on a rowing ergometer.



The MHR can be estimated by using the age related formula:


Women: MHR = 226 - age


Men: MHR = 220 - age


A persons training heart rate can be determined using the Karvonen formula ;


Training Heart Rate = (Max Heart Rate – Resting Heart Rate x Desired Intensity + Resting Heart Rate)



A 40 year woman wanting to calculate her training heart rate for 60% intensity and she has a resting heart rate of 68 beats per minute (bpm). Her training heart rate will be as follows:

Training HR = 186 - 68 x 0.60 + 68

= 118 x 0.60 + 68

= 70.8 + 68

= 138.8 bpm (beats per minute)

You should treat this age adjusted formula as a guideline which is convenient for the purpose of training. However not all individuals will correspond to this guideline.



Using HR monitoring for Weight Maintenance

  • Aim to work between 60 - 70% of maximum heart rate, three or four times a week.

  • The best results will occur when workouts of varying durations are carried out within this heart rate zone. A weekly program example: Session 1: 30 minutes at 60% intensity, Session 2: 20 minutes at 70% intensity and Session 3: 40 minutes at 55% intensity.


Using HR monitoring for Aerobic Training


  • Aim to work between 70 - 80% of maximum heart rate, three or four times a week.

  • The best results will occur when workouts of medium to long durations are carried out within this heart rate. A weekly program example: Session 1: 30 minutes at 60% intensity, Session 2: 15 minute pyramid (5'-4'-3'-2'-1' increasing intensity (65%-70%-75%-80%-85%). and Session 3: 3000 meter piece at 75-80% intensity.


Using HR monitoring for Anaerobic Training


  • Aim to include high intensity, short bursts of exercise at 85 - 95% of maximum heart rate.


  • Sprint pieces are short in duration, between 10 seconds and 3 minutes. We do not recommend anaerobic workouts more than 2 times per week. These high intensity efforts should be followed by periods of easier or slower activity, or total rest. A program example: 5 x 2 minutes at 95% intensity with 2 minutes rest (light rowing) between each 2 minute piece.



The Workout- Monitoring Progress


Monitoring progress is essential for maintaining motivation and focus. While speed and distance are the commonly displayed measures on rowing machines, they fail to control the intensity of exercise, essential to targeting exercise objectives. As mentioned in the previous pages, the easiest way of controlling intensity is by monitoring heart rate. Resting heart rates are a good indication of fitness levels, as the user becomes more fit their resting heart rate should decrease as the heart gets stronger. When monitoring ones resting heart rate be sure you are in the same position at the same time of day for each recording. If a heart rate monitor unavailable, heart rates can be monitored manually by counting the number of heart beats for a minute.


An alternative method of working out intensity is by analyzing the perceived level of exertion, or by breathlessness, this is calculated using Borg's Ratings of Perceived Exertion.


One of the best ways to monitor progress is to keep records for comparison. Recording intensity as well as distance and time can provide the motivation to keep on rowing and improving. We have created a simple training log for your use, most gyms will have their own formats.


At WaterRower we stress the importance of individual progress rather than trying to compete with other people of different age, fitness levels and goals. It is important to emphasize that progress is a very individual matter. Progress is not always a quantifiable element (such as distance achieved or time improvement) and may take the form of:


  • General feelings of well being

  • Increased levels of energy

  • Lower resting heart rates

  • Quicker recovery heart rates

  • Achieving goals i.e. weight loss

Additional information