Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Understanding of, and experience with long-term build-up programs for high performance female and male rowers

Understanding of, and experience with long-term build-up programs for high performance female and male rowers
By Dr Theodor Korner, Rowing Association of the German Democratic Republic, Berlin August 22, 1989


1. Competition as the goal of training and long term build up
2. Factors determining performance in competition
3. The choice of training means and methods based on a physiological analysis of rowing races
4. Selection and application of training means and methods
5. Long term build up
6. Training of talented children
7. Training of talented youths
8. Training of talented juniors
9. Training of adults with a long term build up of performance
10. Long Term build up training for 18 year old novices
11. Periodization of the annual training programme
12. References
13. Abbreviations
14. Glossary

4. Selection and application of training means and methods

The physiological processes relavent to a rowing race are applied to the different forms of training depending on the selection of particular training methods:
- workouts over short distances with maximal speed, such as start sequences or speed training of maximal 10-12 strokes, are alactic. The alactic capacity is important for racing. This part of the training process is highly responsive based on a small potential that is limited by the size of energy depots and the primary involvement of FTF. Therefore this kind of training should be applied for short periods only and to a carefully dosed extent. The development of this capacity in relation to the entire competition is limited though effective in combination with the aerobic potential
- The training of the anaerobic – lactic component is also directed mainly towards competition. Although the size of the lactic ability is also limited it can be trained to a much higher degree than the alactic capacity. Lactic and aerobic capacities should be trained proportionally. As mentioned earlier, and exaggerated lactic training of the racing stages between 250m and 1000m does influence the aerobic capacity. On the other hand, a high aerobic capacity will not be utilized to its full extent during a race if it is not supplemented by anaerobic capacity.
- In the light of the entire training process the aerobic capacity is most important and determining component to be trained.

It is possible to develop aerobic capacity using different methods as can be seen from several successful crews. Although the literature suggests various stimulus thresholds for training, it is generally recommended to work around the aerobic threshold of 4mM.

In the context of this conference I was asked about methods of endurance training in the long term build up in the GDR. For more than 20 years we are practicing aerobic training in the boat in form of extensive long distance training of relatively high volume, and at the aerobic threshold (2mM lactate). The average volume of training session is about 20-25km long distance training (90-120min) with one break to turn around. The average boat speed is selected so that the athlete can keep it constant over the entire training distance. The rating is mostly between 18 and 20 strokes per min, the heart rate 140-160 per min (35-40 beats per 15 sec), and blood lactate about 2mM (Table 1)

The minor differences between different boats result from the specific character of each boat category, their difference in speed, and the resulting feature of the impulse during each stroke.

The heart rate is taken several times during a training session. Lacate levels are checked every 1-2 weeks. The coach checks the speed of the boat by seeking times at defined check points.

This type of extensive training at a steady work load requires a relatively high volume of work. If sufficient time (4-5 hours) for the recovery is allowed, it is possible to conduct two sessions of this type per day. Towards the end of the training session the average boat speed decreases slightly because the rower gets tired. The heart rate, however, remains constant at the required level. On the other hand, if the boat speed is kept constant the heart rate and lactate will ride. We have kept the heart rate constant to allow a second session a day.

As the energy basis of this type of general endurance training is primarily fat, energy stress are not depleted and replenished before the next training session. The result of such training as the aerobic threshold (blood lactate ot 2mM) are:
- highly economical performance of movements
- a well developed oxygen transport system (VO2 capacity of blood to bind oxygen)
- a well developed mitochondrial utilization of oxygen, and
- fat deposits within muscle fiber bundles (as observed by muscle biopsy).

It is important that the threshold of the stimulus is always reached in order to prevent the long distance training from becoming marathon training (Fig 12)

Training stimuli can also be directed with a change of the boat category or the structural features of the stroke (i.e. the way of giving the impulse). To try and elevate the intensity of long distance training to the anaerobic threshold (4mM lactate) results in complex consequences. During long term long distance training as a constant rating of 20-22, the boat speed increases mainly as a result of a change in the structure of the stroke (higher input of strength, change in the strength-time curve, changed usage of the various muscle fibers, higher speed during the drive). As a result, the training volume decreases and recovery times increase.

In the GDR, long distance rowing as a method to train the aerobic capacity, starts with 10-15km per training session for young talent in children’s rowing groups. Once the athletes are 14-15 years old, the volume of each training session sis increased to 20km and further until the senior age where the training volume is maintained.

The training stimulus is originates from the increasing boat speed as the result of a steadily increasing stroke efficiency. Impressive results can be achieved in competitions out of this effective long distance training and without special lactic or alactic workouts. For these reasons the alactic and lactic training generally does not start shortly before the racing season (April). The long distance training is continued throughout the racing season, Long distance training compromises about 90% of the entire work on the water while about 4% is intensive work (including races).

Some thoughts to the structural features of the rowing stroke during endurance training. Both Roth & Schwanitz examined the effect of different strength-time curves used in training on the cellular adaptations of muscles during long term, long distance training. Applying the same defined training conditions, they found four typical strength-time curves in training which they represented schematically as forms A, B, C and D (Fig 13).

The different types of impulse are characterized by equal areas and differently increasing slopes (A and B are retarded while C and D are steep). This means that although the test persons conduct the same total work or impulse. They do it using different characteristic strength-time curves. The work by Roth & Schwanitz showed that under conditions of identical cyclic movements the different strength-time curves shown in Fig 1 caused different demands on the energy supply. While the A and B type of impulse pattern had the tendency to emphasize aerobic adaptation impulse pattern C and D let to a more anaerobic adaptation.

Similar conclusions can also be drawn from experimental results addressing the demands on the oxygen transport system and the metabolism. As the slope of the strength-time curve increases, VO2 heart rate and blood lactate rise in parallel. Table 2 and Fig 14)

Dependent on the characteristics of the impulse applied during the rowing training (strength endurance training), different morphological and metabolic adaptations can occur. These adaptations take place independently of the distribution of the various muscle fiber types and the intended methodological aim.

In practical terms it is important, whether to emphasize the first or middle part of the drive, or whether the athlete trains in the single or eight. The knowledge of the above will help the coach to avoid unwanted training results.

I should not forget to mention general fitness training. All aerobic training sessions like jogging, cross country skiing, swimming or others, are organized methodically and based on the same principle of long distance rowing (2mM lactate).

The general strength endurance training takes up a special part in the training process as a whole. The exercises are characterized to train local strength endurance abilities (leg, back, and abdominal muscles). During the perpetration period we normally have 203 sessions a week. The intensity is directed by the number of repetitions of each exercise, the sum of the repetitions of all exercises, and the speed of movements. In general, there are 10-12 exercises each with 300-400 repetitions of a maximal frequency of 30reps/min. Blood lactate and hearty rate may increase slightly (up to 4mM after completion of exercises).

The above describes how the intensity of training sessions for special and general fitness influences the entire training process. It is necessary to organize and guide these complex effects in a proper way.

5. Long term build up

6. Training of Talented Children

Te first stage of the long term build up begins with the training of 10-14 yaer old children. Their training depends on their situation at school, and emphasizes:
- the early and continuous guarantee for a squad of suitably trained children through developing love and bond to rowing
- te development of rowing skills and abilities ad their application in competitions.
- The increased development of the basic, general foundations of sport as prerequisite for the later development or rowing performances (coordination, fitness and motor skills and abilities).

The annual ratio of general training to rowing training should be 60 : 40% (Table 3)

7. Training of Talented Youths

Centres for high performance (KJS) enable the coordication of sport and school. In these centrres there are two groups of athletes aged 14-15.
a) those who have been a member of the childrens rowing program and thus are more educated already in rowing, and
b) newly recruited athletes who show good general athletic condition but have not yet rowed. They have to catch up quickly with those in the first group with regards to their rowing skills and abilities. Athletes of both groups are normally at about the same level when they are 15-16 years old.

In general, athletes at this stage have to be educated further in their competitive sculling technique. Competitons are conducted in all sculling categories. More emphasis is put on the 1x and 4x. The technique for sweep rowing at a competitive level is not taught until the athletes are 15016 years old. At regattas for 16 year old rowers there only two events in sweep oar categories. Special fitness training for rowing is achieved mainly by the long distance method, with a proportion of aerobic and anaerobic training of 90:5%. Strength training is done in form of a strength endurance weight circuit. The technique for lifting maximal weights is taught with power exercises (50-60% of maximal strength). The general fitness training aims for the development of general technical sport skills, conditional and coordinative abilities. It includes gaes, joggin, calisthenics, cross country skiing, etc.

8. Training of Talented Juniors

The aim at this stage is the successful participation at national and international junior championships in the boat categories of the FISA. Athletes specialize in either sculling or sweep aor rowing when they are 17 years old.
The coaching is directed towards perfect rowing technique. In addition to their special boat category, all rowers master the 1x and 2- at the competitive level. This enables individual training and testing of rowing skills and abilities.

To develop conditional abilities, the volume of specific training increases, using long distance training as the main method. Competitions start in April. The ratio of aerobic to anaerobic training is 95 : 5%, and strength endurance takes up most of the strength training. Maximal strength training is introduced for the first time as a bloc of 4 – 6 weeks training during winter. General fitness, conditional and coordinative training is conducted all year round, especially in winter. Training means are determined as in all other age groups.

9. Training of adults with a long term build up of performance

The rates at which training demands increase are determined through permanently controlled adaptation of the stimulating levels of training volume and intensity. The GDR training system is extensive in principle. This demands a relatively extensive, medium sized stimulus. The aerobic capacity is established slowly but stable, and at a high level.

10. Long term build up of training for 18 year old novices

The following represents the main goals, methods and means of a 4 year build up program for 18-year old novices, according to experiences made in the GDR.

Training objectives for the different years:

1st Year: Build up of the technical and conditional basis for rowing at the competitive level

2nd Year: Reaching top national Senior B level, and approaching the top class at the national Senior A level

3rd Year: Stabilization of performance at the national top level, and approaching international level

4th Year: Achieving and stabilization of performance at international level

The following is an example of a build up program according to my personal experiences as a coach and that of other coaches.

Four year programme for 18 year old novices to international top class rower

First Training Season: Creating the bases for rowing technique and fitness at the competitive level

Second training season: Achieving top national class senior B, and approaching top national senior A level

Third training season: Stabilization of performances at the national top level, and approaching international level

Fourth training season: Achieving and stabilization of performance at the international level

11. Periodisation of the annual training program

The process of training and development of performance has to be planned systematically and in the long term. Such training plan needs to consider natural laws of growth and maturation of athletes, the phases of development of the athlete’s ability to perform, as well as the peak of the athlete’s performance.

The principles of periodization make use of aim oriented development of the sporting abilities towards a peak performance using the most suitable and appropriate developmental stages of the training year. Periodization considered the following:

- the developmental stage of a squad of a particular age group with regards to morphology and function
- the present level of rowing skills and abilities, as well as training means and methods required for further development
- the changing time periods in training effect on performance
- the right combination and succession of training means and methods, and
- the external conditions according to the time of the year (winter, summer, ice and day light).

Periodization of an annual training program is shown in the following example.

Example of an annual training program for Senior A (European conditions)

Both training objectives and the amount of time necessary for their achievement (see Table showing an annual training program), require that the preparation period is further sub divided into smaller sections, often referred to as macrocycles (Harre, D. Matwejew). These sections span over several weeks (meso cycle) and contain several complete micro cycles, i.e. training plans on a weekly, daily, or training sessional basis.

If there are two training sessions per day their order of succession is also important for the overall work load. Aerobic training sessions can succeed each other without any problems. An aerobic work loads following an intensive wok load (strength endurance, lactic training session) does even provide and advantage in assisting the removal of lactate. In contrast, it is not advisable to plan several successive work outs with intensive work loads (strength endurance, lactic rowing session), as both the removal of lactate and restoration of energy stores are not yet completed.

In the light of an entire training program and its periodization, the aerobic training is obviously the central part of long term and annual training processes.

Our own experiences as well as those of Matwejew, Roth and Harre, point out that the endurance capacity requires extraordinarily long-term morphological and functional changes and adaptations of the athlete. The volume and intensity of these long term processes need to be planned, secured and developed carefully, using the appropriate dosage and stimulation throughout the entire training program.

1. Korner & Schwanitz “Rudern”, Sportverlag, Berlin, 1985
2. Training von A-Z, Sportverlag, Berlin
3. Harre, D: “Trainingslehre”, Sportverlag, Berlin
4. Martejew: “Die periodisierung des sportlichen Trainings”, Sportverlag Berlin
5. Roth, W., Schwanitz, P., Pas, P.: “Untersuching zur Gestaltung differenter Kraft-Zeit-Verlaufe”, in “Medizin und Sport” 2.1987.

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