Matt Gleed |

Cross-training for indoor rowing fitness

Why is it useful to incorporate cross-training into your indoor rowing fitness training?

Challenging your body in different ways increases your potential as a rower. Fitness training is all about improving your cardiovascular efficiency and your ability to use oxygen, as well as the way in which your body releases energy. Having a better fitness level will ultimately allow you to work harder, improve quicker and get better results.

How to cross-train for fitness.

As a general term, fitness can cover strength, power, flexibility and more components. Here, we’ll focus on the relationship between aerobic and anaerobic fitness. This comes as a result of improving your endurance, defined as the ability to keep going without the need to stop. To improve your fitness, you have to find the mindset to challenge yourself to a level of discomfort within your training efforts.

Can introducing variety be positive to training progression? 

Performing exercise like cycling, running, weight training or bodyweight circuits are all great ways to improve endurance while offering great variety to your workout programme. They all offer different benefits, but the use of a bike in particular and the measurement of power output has the best crossover to rowing. Its non-impact nature, combined with muscle recruitment order, really gives the perfect alternative.

Suggested exercises:

You should pick a method that you like, so if running isn’t a preference you shouldn’t push yourself into it. If you haven’t got access to a gym, then bodyweight exercises could be a great option. Train the way you like to train and you will be more successful at it.

You should also consider your body’s reaction to the training – if any joint discomfort comes from the impact of running, for example, or you get lower back discomfort from weights, I’d suggest trying another method.

There’s also a lot to be said for the use of technology in your cross-training – Wattbike training, for example, can offer great advantages because of the visuals of the monitor and the ability to see the force and efficiency of each revolution of the pedal. Treadmills with a good running deck and belt to offer support will also be better than pounding the streets, plus there is no stopping at traffic lights or car traffic to worry about.

Sample workouts:

Try fitting 2-3 of the below sessions per week into 8-12 weeks of training in order to assess the benefits.

Recommended exerciseDetailVariablesTeaching points
Wattbike CycleWarm-up – 3mins @65% MHR.
Interval – 4mins @85% MHR.
Recovery – 2mins @65% MHR.
Repeat the interval and recovery 
five times.
Use the fan resistance to increase intensity according to the desired MHR (Maximum Heart Rate).
Try to improve the shape of your cycling action with a PES (Pedal Efficiency Score) of 75.
Ensure your bike setup is correct, especially saddle position. To work out your MHR, use the below:

211 – (0.64 x your age)
Treadmill or Outdoor RunWarm-up – 3mins @65% MHR.
Interval – 4mins @85% MHR.
Recovery – 2mins @65% MHR.
Repeat the interval and recovery 
five times.
Use the Speed or Incline to increase intensity according to the desired MHR (Maximum Heart Rate).The goal is to work to the appropriate level of heart rate, irrespective of the speed you run at. Be mindful of the speed or incline level coming towards the end of the working interval.
Bodyweight CircuitsEnsure a good routine of mobility and muscle activation is done before the circuit intensity starts.

Once ready, perform each exercise in the style of AMRAP (As Many Repetitions As Possible) for one minute. Complete the full circuit 3 times.

– Burpees
– Bear Crawls
– Glute Bridge
– Squat Jumps
– Speed Skaters
– V sit ups
– Jumping Lunge
– Mountain Climbers
– Superman Back Extensions
Change any exercise to a lower impact option if needed.

Within the circuit the order will allow your intensity to vary so if fatigue comes then keep going with the 1 minute of duration.
Form of each exercise is important so ensure you aware of safe and proper form; a good trainer should be able to help you. 

Use a timer to give you 1 min intervals and have the order of exercises nearby you.