By Dr Theodor Korner,
Rowing Association of the German Democratic Republic, Berlin
August 22, 1989
- Competition as the goal of training and long term build up
- Factors determining performance in competition
- The choice of training means and methods based on a physiological analysis of rowing races
- Selection and application of training means and methods
- Long term build up
- Training of talented children
- Training of talented youths
- Training of talented juniors
- Training of adults with a long term build up of performance
- Long Term build up training for 18 year old novices
- Periodization of the annual training programme
1. Competition as the goal of the training and long term build up
The entire training in high performance sports is aimed at competition where athletes can show their best possible performances. The preparation of the athlete determines the outcome of competitions. Winning is the ultimate goal for all athletes, coaches and officials. The rowing events at the 1988 Olympics showed that the level of performance has rise further. Between 1984 and 1988 the achieved times by compeitiors developed by 0.7% while, at the same time, the density in quality of participating Olympic finalists further increased.
A similar increase in the performance of rowers is expected for the future. The race strategy is still offensive as shown in its structure (behaviour at start, middle part, and finish). Out of the 14 winners of the 1988 Olympics twelve had been placed first or second after 500m and nine out of the 14 winners had a leading position after 1000m, whereas four had been placed second, and only the eight were in third place. Three women crews decided their races in the last 500m (finish). From the above it become clear that the winning crews judged their potential for performances correctly and managed their race tactics in different ways.
An analysis of the races of winning and second place crews clearly shows that the former have a higher and more consistent boat speed over the entire distance of the course. The wining performance was not achieved through higher rating but primarily through a higher stroke efficiency, i.e. the distance covered per stroke. Winners showed both greater economy (i.e. the ratio of rating to stroke efficiency) and performances of their movements. Both are reflected in the consistency of their second, third, and fourth 500m stretches (Figs 1 and 2). The higher ability to perform allows them a more offensive tactics during the start phase.
Figs 1 and 2. Race profiles of male (Fig 1) and female (Fig 2) rowers at the 1988 Olympics. The graphs show boat velocity (m/sec; top), stroke efficiency (m/stroke; middle), and ratings (strokes/min; bottom) for the four 500m stretches of winning (solid line) and second placed (broken line) crews. Results represent the averages of all boat categories.
2. Factors determining performance in competition
The competition expresses the complex potential of each athlete to perform. The goalof training is to prepare for the race. We distinguish four main groups of performance determining factors for rowing competition:
- general and specific fitness
- coordinative abilities and technical skills in rowing
- tactical abilities
During training as well as racing all actions are regulated consciously. The athlete has to have a clear understanding of what he is aiming for and has to be able to realize those ideas. The contents of his aims need to be well understood and his actions require consistency. The needs on the personality profile rises with the goals.
General and Specific Fitness
Rowing belongs to the category of strength endurance sports as the 2000m takes between 5.30 and 8 min and about 210-240 strokes at an average rating of 30-38 per min. With its high demand on strength during the drive (about 500Newton (N) per stroke) and a workload of about 1100-1200 Nm/sec, rowing at the top level is a sport requiring well developed sub maximal physiological capacities. The special fitness abilities relevant to rowing include:
(i) specific ability in strength endurance such as aerobic, alactic and lactic capacities
(ii) Maximal strength during the drive
(iii) Specific maximal strength of main muscle groups (arm flexors, hip and back extensors)
(iv) Specific strength endurance abilities of the main muscle groups
(v) Specific strengths of antagonists
The different stages of a race impose specific and differentiated demands on the fitness of athletes. Tasks, contents and proportions of the fitness training are given by the demands of a rowing race, whereby the extent to which one can train these abilities, their orderly relationship, as well as the relative importance of the various conditions for performance have to be considered.
Coordinative abilities and technical skills in rowing
If the rower wants to achieve exceptional results in competition he/she has to have consistent and well established coordinative abilities. For practical reasons these include skills that are determined by technique:
(i) the acquisition of a highly efficient rowing technique to reach maximal acceleration per stroke under conditions of sub maximal work load as in a race
(ii) the consistency in the repetition of the rowing movement in training and races with varying ratings or changes in external conditions such as wind, waves and current
(iii) a certain flexibility in rowing technique necessary to change boat category or tactic for different races.
(iv) Using the individual structure of movements within a certain boat (category), i.e. the choice of seating of each rower within a boat to maximize the performance of the crew.
The results we are aiming for in a rowing event demand technical skills from a rower enabling him/her to use all trained abilities (fitness) for the most efficient acceleration of the boat.
In the light of the steadily growing density of performance in rowing competitions, race tactics and the tactical behavior of athletes becomes increasingly more important. Tactics in this context means goal-orientated and efficient ways of planning a race.
3. The choice of training means and methods based on the physiological analysis of rowing races.
A rower utilizes three different energy providing metabolic patheways during a race:
1) the anaerobic – alactic metabolism – at the start which covers the first 10 strokes
2) the anaerobic – lactic metabolism after the start covering the following strokes for up to 60-90 secs; and
3) the aerobic metabolism predominant from about the second minute to the end of the race.
These different pathways of energy production are not separate metabolic events. Rather, tow or three different forms of energy supply are generally operating at the same time during a work out. The relative percentage of the different energy supplies involved depends on the type of competition and the training condition of the rower. To examine the performance of the rower we normally use the level of lactate as a parameter for anaerobic lactic capacity, and the oxygen intake (VO2) as a parameter for aerobic capacity. According to physiologists, the fast twitch fibers (FTF) are used only partially, i.e. at the start. In contrast, the contribution of slow twitch fibres (STF) as the biological and structural correlate to strength endurance, dominates during the main part of the race – especially in the middle stage (=85 – 90% of the entire race time). Therefore, rowing performance is mainly based on STF and strength endurance. In general the percentage of STF in rowers is 70-80%.
Glycogen and triglycerides (fat) stored in muscle cells represent the most important substrates for the energy supply during a rowing race. Although glycogen is the main energy substrate in muscle cells it does not normally limit performance. Glycogen is utilized as an energy substrate especially during the first third of a race. This can be seen by the levels of accumulating blood lactate, the end product of anaerobic glycolytic metabolism. The increase in blood lactate concentration is greatest during the initial phase of up to 90sec.
Triglycerides – especially those in STF – decrease gradually during the first third and more rapidly during the middle of a race. They partially contribute to the overall energy supply as an energy substrate. Therefore, even when working at maximal capacity during a race, and a stage where medium term endurance is required, rowers are still able to make use of the well adapted fat utilization system as a source of energy. Hence, elevated cellular levels of glycogen and triglycerides within the muscles are an essential energy requirement for competition.
From physiological parameters such as oxygen consumption, heart rate, blood lactate, and respiratory indices, it is possible to draw qualitative conclusions regarding the relative contribution, relation and importance of the various energy supplying components during rowing races. Oxygen consumption as an index of aerobic energy supply reaches its maximum value of 5.5 – 6.5 l/min (steady state) 1.5 – 2 min after the start. The tidal volume (volume of air breathed in) behaves in a similar way, while the heart rate plateaus at its maximal level (between 180-200 strokes/min) 3-40 sec after the start (Fig 3)
The rate of oxygen consumption clearly shows that the energy supply required is covered mainly by (i) alactic and lactic metabolism during the first 1.5-2 min and (ii) aerobic metabolism during the middle and final stages of the race. Therefore, the race speed during the middle stage is determined mainly by the athlete’s aerobic capacity.
Oxygen consumption is a useful parameter representing the oxygen transport capacity of the respiratory and cardiovascular system. To use the oxygen transported for energy supply, the aerobic metabolism of glycogen and triglycerides within the muscle cells has to be increased through adaptation. As the muscles capacity to use oxygen and the energy required for general movement differ from one person to another, rowers with identical maximal oxygen consumption can have differing sporting performances.
The behaviour of lacatate accumulation under racing conditions is of great importance for the planning of training,
In general, physiological analysis reveal that during a race the degradation of glycogen with concomitant accumulation of lactate operate at maximal speed after an initial period of 5 – 10 secs and reach a maximum within 40-60 secs. While oxygen consumption sunsequently increases, the production of lactate decreases sharply. It reaches its lowest rate in the last part of the middle stage before increasing again slightly during the last few strokes. As shown by the curse of blood lactate levels in Figs 4, 5, and 6, and especially by curves 2 and 3, the energy supply
(i) during the first 10-15 sec of the race, i.e. the most demanding part of the entire race (acceleration phase at the start), is covered by alactic metabolism (Feldberg, 1963)
(ii) in the second phase of the start (phase of maximal speed and, to some extent, transition phase to the middle stage) is predominantly lactic
(iii) during the concluding stages of the race still includes some lactic metabolism, however to a lesser degree.
The absolute levels of blood lactate achieved during maximal work in a race are influenced significantly by the rower’s aerobic capacity. Fig 7 shown a comparison of absolute lacate concentrations in the blod of rower(s) with high (curve 1) and poor (curves 2-4) aerobic capacities. As can be seen, blood lactate in rowers with poor aerobic capacity, increases early and steeply, reaches its maximum level during the race (curve 4) and cannot be elevated further at the finish of the race.
Early and high concentrations of lactate in muscles diminish their aerobic production of ATP within mitochondria (power plants of the cell), regeneration of creatine phosphate, glycolytic efficiency, contractibility, and neuromuscular coordination. Because of these biological relationships high concentrations of lactate limit strength endurance and coordinative abilities which are the performance determining conditional abilities in rowing.
The time dependent contributions of aerobic and anaerobic components to the overall energy supply is related closely to the course of performance and oxygen consumption. Thus, between the first 10 and 90 sec of a race i.e. when the physical output reached its highest level, the energy required is covered mainly anaerobically with a contribution of 78.9 at the 10 sec point and 46.8% at the 90sec elapse point. The corresponding oxygen consumptions at these two points are 42.8 and 88.7%, respectively. These percentages can be contrasted to the maximal oxygen consumption achieved at lower stages. The high oxygen deficit produced in the first stages of a race needs to be compensated by an equivalent supply of anaerobic energy.
Oxygen consumption reaches a relative steady state only after the second minute of a race. At this stage, the energy required for an almost constant physical output is covered 84% through aerobic means. However, it becomes clear from Figs 8 and 9 that the overall energy requirements generally exceeds the total energy capacity, and therefore are dependent on additional, continuous alactacidic or alactacidic energy supply.
Although the rower tries to exploit anaerobic capacity to its full extent during the final stages of a race, the remaining output derived from it is relatively small especially if the demand for anaerobic energy was high during the start phase.
Fig 10 shows the relative contribution of each energy component to the total energy supplied during the race. The columns represent the situation at the end of successive time periods during a race and hence show the change in relative importance of the different energy components depending on the length of a rowing event. Time periods were 0-20, 0-90 sec, 0-4, 0-6 and 0-7 min (racing time in a rowing event)
For an event of 7 min duration (corresponding to a 2000m race), the total energy requirement average 70% aerobic and 30% anaerobic. The aerobic portion is compromised of 10% lactic and 20% alactic energy supply. The aerobic and alactacidic energy supply together contribute about 90% of all performance determining, physiological components. Considering quantitative aspects, these tow components must be the main determining factors for competition (Fig 11)
To logically deduct adequate training methods in an aim oriented manner, knowledge of the temporal changes of contributing energy components to the overall energy supply of a competitive workout is needed. In addition, their relative contribution must be considered to develop all biological systems involved.