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Updated: May 2, 2022

For the rowing enthusiasts among you, here is a brief summary on the benefits of strength training for rowing performance and injury prevention:


- Maximal strength has high correlations with 2,000m rowing performance (1,6,9,11).

- Elite rowers are significantly stronger and more powerful than non-elite rowers in barbell tests (7).

- Elite rowers have relative strength levels of 1.2 - 1.9x their body weight for the bench pull,deadlift and squat, whereas non-elite rowers show strength levels of 0.95- 1.4x body weight comparatively (10).

- Maximal strength has a direct correlation with Peak Stroke Power (PSP), a key element for accelerating the boat at the start and end of a race (9).


- Maximal strength has a direct correlation with Peak Stroke Power (PSP), a key element for accelerating the boat at the start and end of a race (9).


- A strong trunk optimizes force transfer from the legs onto the handles of the oar during the drive phase of the stroke (2,14,15).

- High levels of trunk strength are needed to tolerate high forces experienced at the start of a rowing race.


- Low back accounts for 32% of total injuries (13,18) due to repeated loading of the lumbar spine in a flexed position (12,16).

- Knee injuries have an incidence of 15.9–18.8%(13,18), including patellofemoral pain syndrome, tendinopathy, and iliotibial band friction syndrome (12,16).

- Rib stress injuries account for the most time lost from on-water training and competition (12). Muscular imbalances and poor trunk strength are major contributing factors.

- A reduction in injuries through strength training occurs due to increases in the resilience of ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and connective tissue sheaths within muscles and bones (5).


- As most of the propulsive forcesare generated by the legs (8), high importance needs to be placed on lower-body strength. Squats and deadlifts achieve this goal best, whereas olympic-style lifts such as power cleans and power snatches develop power performance. These lifts also increase trunk strength.

- Exercises such as pull-ups, chin-ups and barbell rows develop pulling strength for the rower to generate higher stroke forces.

- Sets and repetitions should be kept low (e.g. 3-5 sets of 1-5 repetitions) to develop maximal strength and power. A linear progression model of adding 2.5-5kg to the bar each workout while developing technique is a highly efficient way to achieve this goal.


1 Akca F. Prediction of rowing ergometer performance from functional anaerobic power, strength and anthropometric components. J Hum Kinet 41: 133–142, 2014.

2 Baudouin A and Hawkins D. A biomechanical review of factors affecting rowing performance. Br J Sports Med 36: 396–402, 2002.

3 Cosgrove MJ, Wilson J, Watt D, and Grant SF. The relationship between selected physiological variables of rowers and rowing performance as determined by a 2000 m ergometer test. J Sports Sci 17: 845–852, 1999.

4 Daniels J and Daniels N. Running economy of elite male and elite female runners. Med Sci Sports Exerc 24: 483– 489, 1992.

5 Fleck S and Falkel J. Value of resistance training for the reduction of sports injuries. Sports Med 3: 61–68, 1986.

6 Ingham S, Whyte G, Jones K, and Nevill A. Determinants of 2,000 m rowing ergometer performance in elite rowers. Eur J Appl Physiol 88: 243–246, 2002.

7 Izquierdo-Gabarren M, de Txabarri Expo´ sito RG, de Villarreal ESS, and Izquierdo M. Physiological factors to predict on traditional rowing performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 108: 83, 2010.

8 Kleshnev V. Power in Rowing. United Kingdom: Routledge, 2002

9 Lawton TW, Cronin JB, and McGuigan MR. Strength, power, and muscular endurance exercise and elite rowing ergometer performance. J Strength Cond Res 27: 1928–1935, 2013.

10 McNeely E, Sandler D, and Bamel S. Strength and power goals for competitive rowers. Strength Cond J 27: 10–15, 2005.

11 Nevill AM, Allen SV, and Ingham SA. Modelling the determinants of 2000 m rowing ergometer performance: A proportional, curvilinear allometric approach. Scand J Med Sci Sports 21: 73–78, 2011.

12 Rumball JS, Lebrun CM, Di Ciacca SR, and Orlando K. Rowing injuries. Sports Med 35: 537–555, 2005.

13 Smoljanovic T, Bojanic I, Hannafin JA, et al. Traumatic and overuse injuries among international elite junior rowers. Am J Sports Med 37: 1193–1199, 2009.

14 Soper C and Hume PA. Towards an ideal rowing technique for performance: The contributions from biomechanics. Sports Med 34: 825–848, 2004.

15 Thompson P and Wolf A. Trunk. Training for the Complete Rower. United Kingdom: The Crowood Press Ltd, 2016. pp. 104–113.

16 Thornton JS, Vinther A, Wilson F, et al. Rowing injuries: An updated review. Sports Med 47: 641–661, 2017.

17 Weston AR, Mbambo Z, and Myburgh KH. Running economy of African and Caucasian distance runners. Med Sci Sports Exerc 32: 1130–1134, 2000.

18 Wilson F, Gissane C, Gormley J, and Simms C. A 12-month prospective cohort study of injury in international rowers. Br J Sports Med 44: 207–214, 2010.

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