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!
Winter is winding down, CRASH-Bs are over, and the docks are going in soon in the East. While for many this means that the CrossFit Open is starting and they are looking forward to the CrossFit Games, for me it means that it’s time to become a cherry-picker.
What I mean is that I have spent the winter doing whatever CrossFit threw at me, because it made me stronger and less prone to injury, and it made winter training interesting and motivating.
Now it’s time to focus on how CrossFit can make me stronger as a rower, specifically. This means developing power and acceleration in addition to strength in the specific movements that make up the rowing stroke. There are 3 principles I plan to implement:
1. Maintain the “constant variation” theme, but try to bound it within a set of WODs and exercises that relate to developing specific rowing power:
- Russian kettlebell swings – more closely models the speed and cadence of rowing.
- Jump squats or burpees, with emphasis on jump height vs. max reps.
- Box jumps, broad jumps, and other plyometric jumping variations.
- Ring rows and pullups.
- Back/core exercises: single-leg kettlebell deadlifts, hollow rocks, planks, toes-to-bar, L-sits, supermans.
- Light thrusters or wallball shots, training for maximum acceleration instead of max reps. I might even take the wallball outside and see how high I can shoot it vs. how many standard-height shots I can do.
2. Use weekly training volume and periodic testing to add periodization to my plan. While the CrossFit philosophy blows up traditional highly-planned progressive periodization cycles, the concept of varying volume and tapering can still be applied in terms of the number of workouts and how they are cadenced within a 1-week microcycle.
3. Make sure that no week passes without doing at least 1 core strength WOD in the following areas:
- Back Squats
- Some type of single-side injury prevention work such as single-leg kettlebell deadlifts, kettlebell lunges, kettlebell snatches, or Turkish get-ups.
Not to say I won’t still try to get better at things I can’t do well like double-unders or handstands, but these are not going to be as effective in generating a 3:40 1K time in the single scull, which is what I need to be at by the end of July.
The good news is that the first Open WOD, 7 minutes of burpees, is squarely in line with my transitional focus, so that will be an exciting start to the weekend.
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