British Rowing |

High Quality Land Training: Strength and power exercises

These six exercises are good for developing your strength and power, one of the three pillars of High Quality Land Training. Don’t lift weights until you have developed good technique, and when you start, use manageable loads

Strength exercises

1. Full back squat

Keep the lumbar spine neutral and brace the trunk to keep stable as you bend knees and hips together, working the quadriceps and glutes.

If you haven’t done them before, start with body weight squats, then move on to holding a dumbbell in front.

Try three to four sets of three to 12 reps.

woman doing back squat

2. Dead lift

Lift the bar to the waist, working the hips and lower body.

Alternatively, the Romanian deadlift starts from the upright deadlift position, rocking over and back up again with a stiff (straight) leg, working the hamstrings and glutes more.

Try three to four sets of three to 12 reps.

woman doing dead lift

3. Bench press/press ups

It’s important to provide muscular balance by doing push training, which provides a strong platform to pull on.

Try three to four sets of three to 12 reps.

woman doing bench press


1. Jumps

Box, broad or vertical jumps are explosive plyometric exercises, where the muscle undergoes fast lengthening and then shortening contractions.

Absorb the power properly though, by landing under control.

Try four sets of six reps.

woman doing box jump

2. Power clean

This is quite a technical lift so needs to be well coached.

You have to lift the bar fast to get past the hip. Do cleans with a lighter weight and with speed.

Try three sets of eight or more reps.

woman doing power clean

3. Medicine ball slams

Works whole body co-ordination.

Lift the ball overhead and slam it down, finishing with partially bent knees.

Try three sets of 12 reps. 

2 photos of medicine ball slam

Thanks to Alice Baatz for demonstrating these exercises and Lee Smith at EIS for his technical expertise.

Alice’s top tips

Alice Baatz was a member of the GB Rowing Team at the time these photos were taken in 2019. We asked her for her experience of using these exercises as part of her training.

Which exercise do you find the hardest?

I think the power cleans are difficult. There’s a lot of different components – getting it off the floor, using your hips and then catching the bar as well. To do each of these things very well does take a lot of practice. You do need to be explosive but strong with it as well, so I do think that’s the most complex one. Having said that, when you do start to get it right you can put more load on the bar and you can do fluid explosive power cleans that is a very satisfying thing to do. It’s the hardest but the most gratifying as well. All round I do think it relates to what you’re doing on the water quite well.

Top tip for mastering the power clean?

Patience! Take your time, isolate each movement and practice!

What cross training do you find effective?

I think anything’s good. With rowing you do need to do other stuff – getting out on the bike’s good and long rides are good endurance stuff. I think doing something that you enjoy is really important – it’s so important to keep your body healthy but also to keep your mind healthy too.

Photos: Dianna Bonner.