SESSION NOTES: Rowing (942)

Complete as many total meters as possible over the following rowing intervals. As fast as possible on each interval while still maintaining pace: 3x 60s work, 120s active recovery. 2x 120s work, 240s active recovery. 1x 180s work.


Programming Science:

This session an aerobic energy pathway, improving your ability to row using the oxidative energy systems to increase the aerobic threshold.

The 1:2 work to rest ratio requires active recovery in order to buffer the hydrogen ions (the byproducts of anaerobic exercise) from the system to ensure maximal output in subsequent intervals.

The intervals progress from short to long to minimise the loss in intensity that would occur if the order were reversed (which would then reduce the benefits to the shorter, more intensive energy systems).

Health and Body Composition Benefits:

Cardiorespiratory exercise has considerable health benefits, with this session creating favourable changes to cardiovascular disease (including reductions in blood pressure) and respiratory disease. This session will also lower your resting heart rate and increase blood flow to the brain.

The cyclical nature of rowing is the most effective type of movement to stimulate the release of endorphins, feel good chemicals that will not only improve mood and mental health, but will also help to reduce pain levels in the body.

As a result of this style of session, you will experience changes in blood chemistry, including favourable effects on cholesterol, blood glucose, triglyceride and lipid levels.

Although this session isn’t optimally effective as a stand-alone method of modifying body composition and weight management, it will aid in reducing levels of body fat when included in conjunction with your strength and resistance training based sessions.

Similarly, although this style of session doesn’t have as powerful a long term effect on your resting metabolic rate as resistance-based exercise, cardiovascular exercise at high intensities will put your body into a prolonged state of ‘EPOC’ (excess post- exercise oxygen consumption), meaning you’ll continue burning energy long after you finish training – further aiding healthy body composition.

Performance Benefits:

This session is specifically programmed as a weakness biased session to improve rowing ability across longer time domains and energy systems.

The primary benefit of training for cardiorespiratory endurance from a performance perspective is to improve the ability of your body to sustain repeated muscle contractions.

This session achieves this by training the oxidative energy system which generates ‘ATP’ (adenosine triphosphate) which fuels movement. By completing this session and training this energy system, we’re able to raise the threshold at which fatigue kicks in. This results in the session not only improving your work rate, but also improving your ability to sustain a higher work rate for longer, with less fatigue.

As a result of this session, you’ll experience performance-boosting changes in intramuscular substrate storage (increasing energy availability for muscle contractions) and increased enzyme activities (increasing the rate of energy delivery to the muscles).

Additionally, the repetitive muscle contractions create positive changes at a muscular level.

The high repetition movements in this session train the ability of your muscles to resist fatigue – increasing their stamina. This comes from improvements in the efficiency of slow twitch (fatigue resistant) muscle fibres.

As a result of the volume of repetitions, this session will increase the mitochondrial density in your muscle cells, allowing them to more efficiently convert energy into fuel. This means you can sustain higher rates of muscle contraction before fatigue or failure.

The higher volumes will also increase capillary density in your muscles, allowing for efficient delivery of oxygen and fuel, and removal of waste products (further adding to the fatigue resistance).

These muscular changes also occur in the ventilatory muscles, improving breathing efficiency.

From a psychological point of view, if your pacing is correct, this session can be an effective method of entering a ‘flow state’, an optimal physical and mental zone which can help to maximise your performance.


Regardless of the length of interval, the strategy here should be to find the maximal sustainable pace (the highest speed you can maintain) for each interval. For the short intervals, this pace will be much higher than for the longer intervals.

Ensure you’re completing active recovery where indicated to ensure high output on the following intervals.

How it Should Feel:

These longer intervals will see you limited more by breathing than muscle burn.

The start of each period of active recovery should be uncomfortable, but will speed up recovery.

Scaling Guidelines:

As this session is completed at a pace relative to the abilities of the individual, scaling is not necessary.

Modify around injuries with exercises as close as possible to the stimulus of the movement you’re modifying. For example, running is not a suitable substitute, as, although the same energy systems may be trained, the specific weakness of rowing will not be.

Common Mistakes:

Going too slow in the shortest intervals (these need to be max effort), and starting too fast in the third lot of intervals. If you are not able to maintain the same pace (your maximum sustainable pace) throughout the entire interval, you’ve started too fast and are not receiving the maximum benefit.

Ensure you adhere to the ‘active recovery’ where indicated.