Rowing Machine Time:
Tips for Getting Better at Rowing – Part 1: How to Improve Rowing Machine Time
The first thing that I want to mention is that there are many different types of machines used in the world of rowing. Some have been around since ancient times while others were invented recently. There are two main types of machines used in rowing competitions; ergometers and ergostats.
Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, ergostat’s are designed to make your muscles work harder and therefore increase your power output. On the other hand, ergometers are meant to simulate real rowing strokes with no actual effort required from the athlete.
As far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong with using either type of machine. However, some athletes prefer one over another based on their individual needs and preferences. Therefore it is very important that you choose a machine which suits your needs best!
I will now give you my recommendations for what type of machine to use depending on your goals. If you just want to get faster and stronger then go ahead and try any of these machines. However, if you are aiming for a medal or even better, a gold medal then I would recommend going with an ergometer.
These machines allow us to row faster and thus produce greater power outputs than our normal rowing stroke.
I also encourage you to have realistic expectations going into any competition. No matter how hard you train you still won’t be able to beat the top-level guys and gals without supplementation or having been born with innate super-human abilities. But don’t get me wrong, supplementation isn’t necessary to win a medal, it just requires a little extra work that the average person isn’t willing to do.
Rowing Machine Time:
Tips for Getting Better at Rowing – Part 2: How to Improve Rowing Machine Time
Now that I’ve given you my recommendations on different types of machines, I will get into the general tips and tricks to help improve your rowing machine time. First of all, the most important aspect of any type of training is consistency. You have to put in the time and effort if you ever want to see any meaningful results.
Now that I got that out of the way, let’s talk more about your rowing technique. Now I’m not going to go too much into detail about the actual rowing technique because I already typed a lot about that above. So if you want more information on proper rowing technique then just scroll up a little bit and you can find all the information you need right there.
However, there is one important aspect that I neglected to mention in that section and that is the importance of gearing. You might think that the only thing that matters when it comes to rowing is how hard you row but this is far from the truth. In fact, proper gearing plays a huge role in rowing because it allows you to put out maximum power at all times without blowing up after only a few minutes on the ergometer.
Let me tell you why.
One of the main reasons why people get tired when using an ergometer is due to your body undergoing large amounts of strain as you contract your muscles to push the flywheel in the cage. Now there are two ways to reduce this strain. You can reduce the power that your muscles put out or you can increase the power of the flywheel in the cage.
If you decide to continue putting out the same amount of power then eventually you’re going to hit a point where your body can’t keep up and you will start to experience fatigue. If you decide to up the power of the flywheel in the cage then it won’t matter how hard you row because the flywheel won’t be turning as fast no matter what, and therefore your muscles won’t undergo as much strain. However, there are two problems with this approach.
The first and most obvious problem is that when using an ergometer, your ultimate goal is to train your body, not the equipment. So the less you use it, the less you will get out of your training. The second less obvious problem is that since the flywheel is so heavy in these ergometers then it takes a lot more energy to get it turning compared to using a lighter flywheel.
What this means for you is that when you first start using a rowing machine your muscles are going to have to work a lot harder to get the flywheel moving in the beginning and then to keep it moving. However, after you’ve used the machine for a few weeks then your muscles will have grown stronger and be able to put out more power without experiencing as much fatigue.
Now when you use the gears on the ergometer then it is like turning a lighter flywheel. It takes less energy to get it turning and the muscles don’t have to work as hard to keep pushing it. The problem here is that you aren’t using less energy, you are just hiding that energy by taking advantage of a mechanical advantage.
So when you aren’t using that advantage then your muscles still have to work as hard if not harder.
So if gearing isn’t the answer then what is?
Well the best way to address this problem is to either get a flywheel that takes less energy to get it moving or to increase your strength so that you don’t experience as much fatigue when using the flywheel.
The flywheel on these machines is very heavy because it has to be in order for it to turn at a slow speed. The only way to get a lighter flywheel is to use a flywheel that turns at a faster speed. A great example of this is an electric fan.
An electric fan uses a lot less energy to get it spinning compared to a heavy metal flywheel.
So why don’t they just use a smaller and lighter flywheel in the first place?
Well they could but then the problem becomes one of usability. Because the flywheel is spinning so fast, it would cause a lot more strain on your muscles when trying to start and stop the wheel. In other words it would be harder to keep pushing the machine when you needed to as well as getting the machine moving in the first place. Not good!
So in order to get the best of both worlds you would need a flywheel that turned fast enough to where it would mask your muscle strain but wouldn’t put too much strain on your muscles in the first place.
Sounds pretty idealistic right?
Well it does exist!
The Concept2 Model D is just such a machine. It has a very fast spinning flywheel for exactly this purpose. The flywheel spins at a rate of 10 meters/second.
Let’s put that into perspective.
If you stood on the moon and threw a baseball straight down at the ground it would take over 7 seconds for it to reach the surface. If you threw that baseball on earth (at the same speed) it would only take 1 second to reach the ground. This means that the flywheel is spinning 20 times faster!
Now although this flywheel is spinning very fast, it also spins in a circle with a radius of about 4 feet. This means that the force you need to apply in order to push against the wheel is much smaller than a normal flywheel of the same size. So although it’s much faster, the radius reduces the force you need to apply by over 75%!
So there you have it. A fast spinning flywheel that allows you to apply less force while expending less energy. This is why the Model D is considered by many to be the best home rowing machine in the world!
Here is a video of a guy testing out the flywheel on a Model D. He spins it up and then tries to push against it while it’s spinning. It’s pretty interesting to watch.
You will come across sites from time to time that sell an attachment for your Model C that is supposed to turn it into a Model D. Don’t waste your money! The flywheel that comes with these kits is not the same one that is on a Model D.
It is not as fast and does not have the radius that the Model D one has making it pretty worthless for what you need. Don’t do what I almost did!
Chapter 7: Getting Started
Now that you are familiar with what makes the Model D so special, let’s talk about how to get started with it. The first thing you need to do is gather up all of the equipment that you are going to need.
The first thing of course is the rowing machine itself. You don’t need any special shoes or clothing, just get naked like nature intended. You might want a towel to sit on though.
Next you will need some sort of heart rate monitor. Your local sporting goods store should have several to choose from. Try them on and see which one you like the best.
The important thing is that it can give you your heart rate while you are training. If you can’t get a monitor then take your pulse right now by placing your fingers on your throat and counting the beats for about 60 seconds. Then divide that number by 4 to give you your beats per minute. If you are really serious about this then I suggest going to your local sporting goods store and getting one.
Now that you have your rowing machine and monitor (or your pulse) you are ready to get started.
If you have been on a regular exercise program for some time then I would start by increasing your workouts to 3 times a week. If you are someone who has been a couch potato up until now then start out at 1-2 times a week until you work your way up.
Before you get started let’s talk a little bit about the rowing motion.
Your hands and arms do not provide all of the power. As I explained before, your legs do most of the work. This is why you want to make sure that your knees are not locked when you are pulling the handle towards you.
They should be bent about 90 degrees so that your heels are coming off of the footplates at the bottom of each stroke.
Your back should have a natural arch in it when you are rowing. Try to keep your head, neck and back straight as you row.
Now that you know the basics let’s get rowing!
There are two different ways that you can set up your rowing session. The first is an interval training method where you do a certain style of rowing for a certain amount of time and then rest for the same amount of time before doing it again. This is the method that I prefer because it gives you a lot of variety and keeps your body from getting use to one particular style of exercising.
The other way that you can do it is to pick a certain distance that you want to row (such as 500 meters/yards) and row until you reach that goal and then rest before doing it again. This might be better for those of you who are extremely fit since it is more of a steady pace than the interval training. You have to decide which way you want to train.
Either way, you need to do at least one 20 minute session and 3-4 sessions a week to get the full benefit of this program.
Now that you know how you are going to row, let’s figure out what your interval is going to be. Your “interval” is the amount of time that you rest between each set. A good rule of thumb is to take the total amount of time that you are going to row and then subtract 10% of that time.
This is the amount of time that you should rest before starting your next set.
For example if you are going to row for 20 minutes, then your interval would be 20 minutes minus 10% or 1 minute. This means that you should rest for 1 minute before each 20 minute session. If you are going to row for 30 minutes then your interval is going to be 20 minutes minus 10% or 30 seconds.
This means that you should rest for 30 seconds before each 30 minute session. If you are going to row for 40 minutes then your interval is going to be 20 minutes minus 10% or 40 minutes. In this case you are going to row for 20 minutes and then rest for 1 hour before each 20 minute session.
Now that you know your interval, let’s get rowing!
Rowing Workout #1
This is a sample interval training session.
2 minutes rest after each.
2 minutes easy rowing at a low resistance setting (for newer rowers)
2 minutes moderate effort
2 minutes hard before you start to feel fatigued.
Now that you know your interval, let’s figure out how long you are going to row. This is also going to be 20 minutes. You can pick whatever time you want but this is a good length of time and will keep your heart rate elevated throughout the entire session.
So first you are going to row for 20 minutes straight and then rest for 1 minute before starting again. Then you are going to row for 20 minutes straight and then rest for 30 seconds before starting again. Then you are going to row for 20 minutes straight and then rest for 40 minutes before starting again.
Rowing Workout #2
This is a sample distance training session.
1 minute rest after each.
1 minute easy rowing at a low resistance setting (for newer rowers)
1 minute moderate effort
1 minute hard before you start to feel fatigued.
Now that you know your interval, let’s figure out how far you are going to row. This is also going to be 2000 meters since this is an even number and easy to measure. You can pick whatever measurement you want but keep the numbers easy to calculate and change as you get more fit.
So first you are going to row for 2000 meters straight and then rest for 1 minute before starting again.
Sources & references used in this article:
Reach your fitness goals by getting better sleep by PAY BILL – lifefitness.com.au
The gig economy: The complete guide to getting better work, taking more time off, and financing the life you want by D Mulcahy – 2016 – books.google.com
The complete guide to indoor rowing by J Flood, C Simpson – 2012 – books.google.com
Traumatic and overuse injuries among international elite junior rowers by RA Proctor – 1889 – Longmans, Green
Rowing: training-fitness-leisure by T Smoljanovic, I Bojanic, JA Hannafin… – … American journal of …, 2009 – journals.sagepub.com