Years ago I worked in a Sports Clinic in Fort Lauderdale. We were in a beautiful area between the intercoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. Our clientele included many affluent local residents, medical personnel and some elite athletes. This would include members of the New York Yankees, Strikers Soccer team, runners, tri-athletes and a member of the Fort Lauderdale Lifeguards Ocean Rowing Team. I’m going to focus on the training of a member of this team. This was around 1984, so understand the trends, technology and methodology of the time.
Our Sports Clinic in 1984 had two primary circuits. A Nautilus Circuit and a what we called a “Cardiovascular Circuit”. The training process for the ocean rower involved strength training in a high intensity fashion and a unique supplemental cardiovascular workout.
What is unique about ocean rowing is the randomness of conditions. You are dealing with ocean waves, currents and lots of gusts. The second factor is you are seated in a fixed position and using the legs primarily in an isometric fashion with all of the pull coming from the upper and lower back, along with the flexors of the arm.
Strength training should NOT mimic skills, so we focused on machines to reduce injury and increase strength through the greatest range of motion. All workouts were recorded and the athlete was coaxed to momentary muscular failure on a series of 8 to 10 exercises. Speed of movement was slow and smooth. Most repetitions followed the 2 second positive/ 4 second negative format with occasional excursions into VERY slow repetitions to deepen the inroads of specific muscle groups. The amount of repetitions performed was between 8 and 12. No strength training workout should last more than 15 minutes, twice per week. Heart rate was recorded at the beginning of the workout [approx. 52 to 54 bpm] and then again at completion. [approx. 180 to 200 bpm].
Training for the Ocean Rower: Workout A
1. Nautilus Hip and Back
2. Nautilus Leg Press
3. Nautilus Pullover, Negative Only
4. 90 second Dip, immediately followed by:
5. Nautilus Tricep Extension
6. 90 second Chin, immediately followed by:
7. Nautilus Bicep Curl
8. Nautilus Neck and Shoulder
A similar or “B” workout was administered later in the week. Total strength training time for the week was about thirty minutes. Training such as this not only develops strength, but a high degree of toughness, or the ability to ignore discomfort. The metabolic conditioning of working to failure and managing an elevated pulse rate is obvious.
The cardiovascular training was on separate days. This involved very specific apparatus (see Workout B).
Training for the Ocean Rower: Workout BStation 1 - A step up bench and metronome [to set speed]
Station 2 - An arm ergometer
Station 3 - A bike ergometer
Station 4 - A rowing machine.
Station 5 - A treadmill
Station 6 - A Schwinn Airdyne bike
Each station was performed for five minutes and the trainee’s heart rate was recorded.
Our measuring system was so accurate that a quintuple bypass patient on a post rehabilitative exercise program could train next to a high level triathlete with no major adjustments other than intensity. Work load was based on the age predicted max HR. When a client showed a reduced heart rate with the same load for two consecutive workouts, we increased the load very slightly. This program is perhaps the most flexible and dynamic cardiovascular training I’ve ever implemented.For the rower, we made adjustments to make his cardiovascular training a bit more specific. This involved two variations:
1. The athlete did the rowing machine for stations 2, 4 and 6.
2. While the rowing machine’s seat was on a track, the athlete remained consistent to the style he used in competition, namely folding at the hips instead of using leg thrust.
His pulse rate was between 168 to 174 bpm for the thirty minutes. This was always proceeded by a warm up and followed with a cool down. Some ‘negative only’ bent knee sit-ups were done at the end of the training as well. The particular athlete we trained work late hours as a night club manager/security expert and was careful to get adequate sleep.He was well nourished by consuming four large, balanced, meals per day.
While this training reflects the methods used by a high level athlete, the methodology is consistent with any athlete whose sport activity includes both high volume and risk of injury. The use of machines, heart rate, duration, intensity and very tight guidelines in a safe and air-conditioned environment added to his longevity and freshness. The key is that nothing was sporadic or random, and the measurements recorded accurately determined where he had been, where he was currently, and where he was ultimately headed.
This article was featured in the Feb/Mar 2012 Issue of the My Mad Methods Magazine. “Training for the Ocean Rower" was written by Tom Furman. Learn more about the My Mad Methods Magazine by Clicking Here
Tom Furman has been involved in martial arts and conditioning since 1972. His down to earth training methods are derived from his decades long practice of martial arts and his study of exercise science. The application of force, improvement of movement and durability rank high on his list of priorities when training. Find out more.
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