Needs analysis for a competitive 2K Rower

Rowing is one of the few non-weight bearing sports that exercises all the major muscle groups, including quads, biceps, triceps, lats, glutes and abdominal muscles. The sport also improves cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength.

This article is intended to provide transferable information, with the intention of improving performance within the sport of rowing, particularly within the distance of 2000m.

The purpose of a needs analysis is to highlight the sporting performance specifics, to determine the qualities necessary within the sport. In order to give strength and conditioning coaches and their athletes a better understanding when designing training programmes. Highlighting the key areas of development, minimizing the chance of injury and maximising performance.

1: Sport-specific analysis
2: Athlete profiling
3: Comparative analysis
1: Sport-specific analysis

Aerobic analysis and Anaerobic analysis

2000m Rowing competitions for males last 5.8–7.4 minutes and there is currently an improvement of 0.01 min every year (Secher, 1983). A study by (Hagerman, 1984) identified that the aerobic energy system accounts for 70-75% of a 2000m race. With the remaining 25-30% anaerobic. With the current male Heavyweight 2K indoor world record set at 5.36.6 and female Heavyweight 2K indoor world record set at 6.25 (, 2017).

Rowers utilise a specific physiological pattern when racing; beginning with a strong sprint which in turn places a tremendous amount of stress on the anaerobic metabolism. This is followed up with a demandingly high aerobic steady-state and finally finished with an exhaustive sprint to the finish (Hagerman, 1984). Oxygen (O2) intake when racing increases with velocity to the power 2.4. The metabolic cost of rowing a racing speed is estimated to correspond to 6.41 O2 min-1 (Secher, 1983).

When measuring power output during a simulated rowing session, men on average were producing 390 +/- 13.6W over 6 minutes and women were also able to develop 300 +/- 18.4W for 3 minutes of the same activity. During the same 6 minutes, male rowers also achieved very high ventilation volumes, being able to average above 200 L/min Body temperature, Pressure, Saturated or (BTPS), whilst females recorded average results of 170 L/min BTPS for the same exercise over 3 minutes (Secher, 1983).

Having a good VO2 max and O2 pulse readings demonstrate excellent cardiorespiratory effectiveness. In absolute terms, the highest VO2 values are often found in rowers, as the result of being heavier from more bulk than comparative sports this equates to a slightly lower VO2 max per kg. In 1984 elite male rowers measured VO2 max values of 6.1+/-0.6 L/min and values of 4.1+/-0.4 L/min in female rowers. Rowers are interested in lung capacity and absolute values of VO2 max, both are measured in similar units and the two should not be confused with one another (Secher, 1983).

In a study by the National Strength and Conditioning Association a top varsity rowing team consisting of 8 female members. The team completed the U.S. national team VO2 Max and 2K time trial rowing ergometer protocols. The study measured Heart rtates (HR) and blood lactate, before, during and after each test. The results concluded that the subjects were working at approximately 96% of VO2 Max and 98% HR Max during the 2K time trial (Perkins and Pivarnik, 2003).

The estimated cost of 6 minutes of rowing ergometer exercise has been calculated at 36 kcal/min, this is one of the highest energy costs reported for any predominantly aerobic-type sport (Hagerman, 1984).

Technique and muscles used

Rowing efficiency and mechanics, below are the four phases of an effecitive rowing stroke.

1. During the catch, legs are compressed, shins are vertical. Triceps extend your arms, back muscles are relaxed and abdominals are flexing torso forward.

2. Initiate the drive with the leg muscles, whilst the shoulder muscles contract. Engage the biceps in the drive, pulling the handle toward your abdomen, back muscles engage, torso open, glutes and hamstrings contract, extend the hip. upper body engage.

3. Abdominals stabilize the body,
glutes and quads are contracting. Biceps and back muscles contract, torso in the finish position and to internally rotate the upper arms.

4. Triceps engage, arms forward away from the body. Flex abdominals, torso forward, hamstrings and calves contract, slide up to the catch.

(, 2017)

Injury analysis

The most common injuries in rowing are primarily related to overuse. Commonly effecting the lumbar spine, ribs, shoulders and knees. Injuries are often a direct result of training volume, intensity and technique (Hosea and Hannafin, 2012).

The lower back (lumbar spine) is the most frequently injured region in rowers, mainly due to the amount of hyperflexion and twisting. With rib stress fractures accounting for the most time lost from training and competition. Shoulder pain is also common in rowers as a result of overuse and poor technique (Rumball et al., 2005).

2: Athlete profiling

Having a larger frame and body dimension can have its advantages when rowing, this is due to the larger anaerobic metabolism and also from the constant weight of the oars which becomes relatively less of a burden in athletes with larger body dimensions (Secher, 1983). A weight of 93 +/- 2.6kg has been found in the most successful male rowers, with a maximum oxygen intake of 5.9 +/- 0.08 1min-1. Conversely there is a direct correlation to the average maximal oxygen intake of the crew during a regatta and their placings. In contrast, size and strength does not necessarily separate the good from the less qualified rowers, except the best rowers can develop a larger force in a simulated rowing position (Secher, 1983).

Rowers need to exhibit excellent isokinetic power and strength, producing high leg strength values when lean body mass is considered. Elite male rowers will resemble the muscle fibre type distributions similar to distance runners, while elite female rowers will generally have a slightly higher amount of fast-twitch fibres (Hagerman, 1984).

3: Comparative analysis

When rowing, the maximal oxygen intake has been found to be greater when compared to comparative sports such as running and cycling. This could be a result of the intensive involvement of larger muscle groups. Oxygen capacity in the oxygen transporting system has been shown to be dependent on the local muscle blood flow. With the resulting strength, metabolic and circulatory measurements Indicating that training for rowing should simulate rowing in the boat as much as possible (Secher, 1983).

References (2017). World 2,000m Records | Concept2. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2017].
Hagerman, F. (1984). Applied Physiology of Rowing. Sports Medicine, 1(4), pp.303-326.
Hosea, T. and Hannafin, J. (2012). Rowing Injuries. Sports Health, 4(3), pp.236-245.
Perkins, C. and Pivarnik, J. (2003). Physiological Profiles and Performance Predictors of a Women’s NCAA Rowing Team. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 17(1), p.173.
Rumball, J., Lebrun, C., Di Ciacca, S. and Orlando, K. (2005). Rowing Injuries. Sports Medicine, 35(6), pp.537-555.
Secher, N. (1983). The physiology of rowing. Journal of Sports Sciences, 1(1), pp.23-53.

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