Workout of the Month with Austin Rowing Club

By Sponsored: Austin Rowing Club – October 1, 2020

Rowing is a complex sport and requires full-body engagement. Additionally, the precision, balance and rhythm needed to move a boat well necessitates a high level of mental focus. Rowing forces athletes to train their bodies and minds for the rigors of the sport. 

There are four parts of the rowing stroke: catch, drive, release and recovery, and they all flow together in a smooth, continuous, powerful movement.

  1. Catch: Each stroke begins with the catch. The blades enter the water with the athlete fully compressed, loaded like a spring.

  1. Drive: Once connected to the water, the athlete can propel the boat forward, almost lifting the shell out of the water by exerting pressure with their legs through the drive. The athlete then accelerates the boat by swinging their body and arms back toward the bow of the shell, building on the work done by the legs.

  1. Release: The rower finishes the power phase of the stroke by quickly moving their hands into their body, which by this time is in a “layback” position. During the finish, the oar handle is moved down, drawing the blade out of the water and lifting the blades out of the water. At the same time, the rower feathers the oar, or turns the oar handle so that the blade changes from a vertical position to a horizontal one.

  1. Recovery: The oar remains out of the water as the rower begins the recovery, moving their hands away from the body and past the knees. The body follows the hands, and the sliding seat moves forward until, knees bent, the rower is ready for the next catch.


Throughout an entire row, the athlete must maintain good posture and a strong core in order to control the boat. Athletes must train in strength and technique continuously in order to prepare for 2,000-meter races.

Workouts on the water are essential to building a clean rhythm in a rowing shell. Part of creating a smooth rhythm is putting together all of the parts of the stroke effectively. During a race, an athlete will take over 200 strokes that contain all parts listed (and pictured) above. The key is to make those strokes effective and quick. Therefore, athletes will practice at different rates (number of strokes per minute) in order to improve how well they can quickly take strokes. A common workout for rowers includes rate changes from low rates (less strokes per minute) to higher ones (more strokes per minute) in order to work on the transitions between all four parts of the stroke.

Water Workout
  • 5’–10’ easy row to warm up
  • Sets of 10 strokes, adding pressure/10 strokes rowing easy, adding pressure and adding stroke rate throughout
  • 3’ X 12’; 4’ rest between; each piece has 3’ X 4’ building rates: 1) 18, 20, 22; 2) 20, 22, 24; 3) 18, 20, 22
  • 1’ on/1’ easy X 4’; full pressure at rates 26, 28, 30, 32


Land Workout
  • 3 X 10: Kettlebell: Swings, shoulder push press, squats
  • 3 X 10: Kettlebell walking lunges; upright rows; ab figure eights
  • 3 X 10: Burpees, jumping switch lunges; ab windshield wipers







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