The last part of the Innovative Rowing Strategies series is going to discuss application to strength training. We've talked a lot over the last month about a lot of the things that I learned in Motor Learning, covering:
All of this discussion so far has focused on rowing training, so now let's talk applying these concepts to the weight-room. This part is going to be mostly theoretical. Having just learned these concepts, I haven't personally gotten to try them out in the gym yet. However, there a few things that I've been mulling over since last quarter.
One is exercise selection. I've generally kept things very simple in the weight-room to allow my rowers to really master each exercise with relatively little variety. However, knowing what we know about the specificity of strength, might it be more effective at certain times of the year to include higher variety to build a broader base of general strength? This summer, in the general preparation period of the block periodization system when we are furthest away from our competitive season, I plan on incorporating more diverse lifts including some advanced bodyweight exercises and unevenly loaded lifts. Something like an uneven farmers walk (heavier dumbbell in one hand than the other, then switching) or Blake Gourley's "rotary suitcase lift" could fit a more random practice structure by incorporating greater variety.
There is no strength training exercise that perfectly simulates or carries over to the rowing stroke, so rowing training is always going to be a game of balancing exercises that give you the MOST carryover with exercises that counter rowing's stress on the body and restore muscular balance and prevent development of imbalances.
I still like my method of whole-part instruction of the lifts (see: the How to Train Your Rower series) but will make sure that I don't dwell on this stage of learning for too long. Remember, slow and accurate is fine at very early stages of learning, but the full intensity of the movement needs to be introduced and practiced at full speed relatively soon after. I think in the past I have held my athletes in the "slow is smooth" phase for too long.
One idea that I'm excited about from the random practice design concept is the idea of doing more circuits when lifting. Before you think I've done a total 180-degree turn, I'm still not talking about light bodyweight circuits of calisthenic exercises for 50+ reps. Knowing what I know now about how random practice can help athletes differentiate movements and ultimately learn each individual one better, I do plan to spend more time in the Preparation Phase doing workouts like:
A1. Left Single-Leg Squat: 8 reps
A2. Full Tension Plank: 10 seconds
A3. Left Arm Overhead Press: 8 reps
A4. Right Single-Leg Squat: 8 reps
A5. Right Arm Overhead Press: 8 reps
Again, this would be a strategy for the Preparation Phase serving the goal of better movement differentiation, better long-term learning, and building a broader base of strength.
Okay, that's it for the Innovative Rowing Strategies series! Hope you enjoyed it and I didn't take you too far out to Crazy Town. Our winter training starts tomorrow and my classes this quarter are Sport Nutrition and Sport Psychology, so it should be another great quarter for learning and coaching!