Rowing Machine Training Plan – Starting Winter Training The Right Way

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Rowing Machine Training Plans - Three Workouts For Different Energy Systems(1)

Now that the fall season is mostly behind us, many of us are transitioning to Winter training. Usually, that means lots of work on the rowing machine. I have put together three rowing machine workouts that address different energy systems to provide you with a start point for your winter training. We are a couple of months away from indoor rowing races, so now is the time to make the investment and put in the time and effort to go for that personal best this indoor season.

Winter Training Rowing Machine Training Plan – 3 Core Workouts Download Slides

Warm Up Before Each Workout and Cool Down After Work

Before each of these workouts, it is essential that you do a good ten to fifteen-minute warm-up row at low rates with some stretching. During that 10-15 minute row do three to four warm-up 20 stroke bursts at the following rates. 20 spm, 24 spm, 28 spm, and 32 spm. You can see the stroke rate (spm) in the top left of your performance monitor on the Concept 2 rowing machine.

Additionally, take the time to cool down after your work period. This cool down row is especially crucial for workouts #2 and #3 where significant amounts of lactic acid can pool in your muscles. The cool down helps flush this from your system and provides groundwork so that you can practice well the next day.

Workout #1 – Aerobic Base

The first workout is an aerobic base workout. It is composed of two twenty one minute efforts with three minutes of rest between pieces. The goal of this workout is to keep the rate low but generate good power at that low rate. If you are new to rowing, learning to row your longer and lower intensity workouts consistently and well is something that might take time to develop.

2 x 21 minutes steady state at UT2 pace.

Rest time is 3 minutes between each effort.

1st – 7 min at 16 spm, 7 min @18 spm, 7 min @20 spm

2nd – 7 min at 18 spm, 7 min @20 spm, 7 min @22 spm

Cool Down

10 – 15 min row and stretch

Workout #2 – Anaerobic Work

The second workout in the series is an anaerobic workout. These efforts should be done at maximal effort. In essence, you are trying to create as much power as you can in a short period. You should be working at 95% of max on these pieces. The workout I have displayed below has a protocol of 6 x 500m of work. Rest time is 7 minutes between efforts to allow for quality on each piece. Aim to be consistent on all of the sprints. For example, you are aiming for six 500m times that are all within a second or two for the 500m split.

6 x 500m with 7 minutes rest between each piece. (no rate cap but suggested rate 30-32 spm).

Record 500m splits for each piece.

Cool Down
10 – 15 min row and stretch

Workout #3 – Anaerobic Threshold Work

The third workout in the series will involve you working at the anaerobic threshold. Aim for a pace that you can maintain for the piece. If you were to push a little harder than this pace, you would run out of gas quickly. This workout is hard. The suggested protocol for pacing is shown in the table below.

3 x 2000m – 6-8 minutes rest in between


0-500m 500m – 1000m 1000m – 1500m 1500m – 2000m
+12 seconds of 2k split +10 seconds of 2k split +8 seconds of 2k split +6 seconds of 2k split

Cool Down
10-15 min light paddle and stretching to cool down.


I hope that you find that this training creates value for you and improves your rowing performance. I would try to do two to three longer aerobic sessions and then do a workout like #2 or #3. Take a look at my post on types of training to get more information about the volume of exercise you should be doing in each energy system. You want to be building a system that is good at clearing lactate. An excellent 2k time is accomplished by a volume of long-distance work at a lower intensity and not bashing away relentless at the anaerobic threshold training.

With that said, it’s is vital to put the foot on the gas as well (workouts #2 and #3), but keep this at a lower frequency than your longer lower intensity rows.

Finally, I have a twelve session workout plan that provides three workouts a week for four weeks. If you would like to purchase that plan ($25 via Paypal payment), please email me at, and I can arrange to send you the program.

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