This time of year, it is a pleasure to be off the erg and back on the water. Even bad weather doesn’t seem too bad compared to being indoors.
The good news is that there’s a lot of emphasis on developing specific power through loaded rowing, either through the use of a bungee wrapped around the hull, or by beefing up the gearing on the rigging. There is nothing like the true “hang” you can get in the boat. You simply can’t get it on the erg, even with sliders, because there is not enough momentum to really stretch and pre-load the system before you pull. I am very sore in all of my joints after doing some loaded power pieces into the wind, even after doing fairly aggressive CrossFit and indoor rowing in the weeks leading up to getting back on the water.
But don’t forget your squats! I find it’s easy to get caught in the euphoria of getting faster on the water and forget to get in the gym and maintain my core strength movements. Generally I scale back on CrossFit metcons at this time of year, and focus on on-water rowing and CrossFit strength workouts, as I get the “metcon effect” through loaded rowing. Squats, deadlifts, planks, squat jumps, and kettlebell swings are the core, with Turkish get ups and kettlebell snatches to correct imbalances. It’s important to keep developing core strength and stability, and then translating this into specific power in the boat.
Here’s a great article by Coach Kaehler on squats for rowers. I prefer the low-bar back squat, fully inhaled, core locked, knees out, below parallel. It doesn’t take a lot – I often build up to a just a few sets at a high weight late at night after a stressful day. I always feel awesome afterwards, but I find that if I don’t keep up with them regularly, my stabilization suffers. Don’t forget your squats!