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Product Review: Concept2 Rower

by Racer X Virtual Trainer

The Concept2 Indoor Rower is a great cross-training tool for MX

Row Training for Motocross
In motocross, athletes are always looking for a new and better way to train. The tried and true method for cross-training in MX has long been running and cycling. Both are convenient, portable, easy to do, and don't require much effort to implement each day. However, both of these activities have one big drawback: they completely neglect the upper part of the body. The search to find a cross-training activity that provides both upper and lower body conditioning while working the cardiovascular system has eluded most of the motocross community: until now.

Rowing takes over where other exercises leave off. With firm roots planted in other forms of motorsport like the Indy Racing League and NASCAR, a few of motocross' top trainers like Aldon Baker and John Louch have been utilizing the power of the Rower with their athletes for years. Think motocross is big? Worldwide, Rowing dwarfs motocross. There is an entire community of people who dedicate their lives to rowing. Concept2 Rowing is the leader in the rowing world and is poised and ready to enter the MX/Action Sports Market with their state of the art rowing machines. Incorporating total body movements with intense cardio action, combined with portability and ease of use, the Concept2 Rower is a great piece of equipment that all MX athletes should be using.

Whether you are a casual athlete or a serious competitor, this article will try to answer various questions related to row-training like:
  • What is the best way to use rowing as a cross-trainer for MX?
  • What is the best way to handle variety in one's athletic menu and training schedule while still getting the most out of the Indoor Rower?
  • What minimum amount of rowing will keep one in race shape during peak season?

The less serious athlete can ignore the charts but take the general guidelines to heart and for the serious athlete, this article offers a framework upon which to build an annual training program.

General Guidelines for Row Cross-Training
The number and nature of cross-training workouts you add to your training program will depend on a number of factors. These include:
  • Your training history: If you are just getting back into training after being off the bike for a while, you may find that your legs and feet aren't ready for activities like running every day. At the same time, you know that your aerobic capacity needs all the help it can get. Cross-training with the rower is the perfect solution.
  • Your tendency toward injury: If you are injured, or have recently been injured, row-training can be extremely helpful to you. Rowing will allow you to maintain your cardiovascular capacity while easing or removing the load on your injured parts.
  • Your need for variety: This depends on your personal preference. If your primary form of training ever starts feeling old, something new like row-training can bring back the fire.
  • Your relative strengths/weaknesses: If your weakness is cardiovascular conditioning, row-training can be a great way to strengthen your system with little to no impact on crucial joints like your knees and lower back.
  • The time in your training year relative to the racing season. Some athletes find cross-training most valuable when they are furthest from their competitive season; others use it right up to competition. Row-training is the perfect companion for training all year long in MX. It can be used at the track to warm-up and cool down, away from the track on recovery days and for those intense cardio days.

The Iceman Chuck Liddell uses the Concept2 to prepare for MMA action
Why Cross-Train with Rowing?
At Concept2, they are constantly given feedback from their customers that rowing has improved their performance in a wide range of other sports, including running, biking, canoeing, tennis, car racing and MX. What is it about rowing that makes it such a good cross-training tool for such a variety of sports?
  1. Rowing exercises many muscle groups, providing an alternate way to exercise and strengthen the muscles used in MX, as well as strengthening the muscles which complement those used in MX. This is important because it maintains balance, so the specific sport muscles used in MX don't become relatively too much stronger than the opposing muscles, which can sometimes lead to injury.
  2. Rowing exercises both the upper and lower body as compared to other training activities like running and cycling that stress just the lower body. Along with that, rowing is a non-impact exercise, thus imposing less impact-related wear and tear on the body. This is especially important for high impact sports like MX, but is a nice feature no matter what your primary sport.
  3. Rowing puts many of your major muscles through a wide range of motion, quite possibly wider than your current form of cross-training. This can improve your flexibility. Also rowing can be done indoors anytime, which is especially nice since it is difficult to run or cycle in harsh weather.
  4. Rowing is a superb conditioning tool for any level athlete. The cardiovascular workout offered on the Indoor Rower has been a training tool of Olympic rowers since the Rower was invented in 1981, so it should be enough for anyone. At the same time, because the work is self-paced, athletes of all abilities can also find just the work level that they need.
  5. Rowing on the Concept2 Indoor Rower provides a means for accurately monitoring your level of conditioning, as well as constant feedback during your rowing workouts. This is done with heart rate monitoring, electronic readout of pace and split times as well as the ability to link with other Rowers and race.

Proper Rowing Technique

  • Have someone watch you to help you match your body positions to those shown below.
  • These positions should be blended together to make a smooth and continuous stroke with no stopping at any point in the stroke.
  • Aim for a stroke rate of between 24 and 30 strokes per minute as displayed on the Performance Monitor.
  • Grip should be loose and comfortable; wrists should be level.

The Catch
· Extend arms straight toward the flywheel.
· Keep wrists flat.
· Lean your upper body slightly forward with back straight but not stiff.
· Slide forward on the seat until your shins are vertical (or as close to this as your flexibility will allow).

The Drive
· Begin the drive by pressing down your legs.
· Keep your arms straight and hold your back firm to transfer your leg power up to the handle.
· Gradually bend your arms and swing back with your upper body, prying against the legs until you reach a slight backward lean at the finish.

The Finish
· Pull handle all the way into your abdomen.
· Straighten your legs.
· Lean your upper body back slightly.

The Recovery
· Extend your arms toward the flywheel.
· Lean your upper body forward at the hips to follow the arms.
· Gradually bend legs to slide forward on the seat.

The Catch
· Draw your body forward until the shins are vertical.
· Upper body should be leaning forward at the hips.
· Arms should be fully extended.
· You are ready to take the next stroke.

Developing a Cross-Training Plan
The sections below describe some steps you can take toward developing a cross-training plan suitable for MX.
  1. Establish your annual training calendar.
  2. Determine what kind of training to do in each phase.
  3. Choose your workouts.
Travis Pastrana has Used the C2 Rower for Years!
Establishing Your Annual Training Calendar
  1. Think about your sports year. Make a list of the sports in which you compete or participate and define the "Active" or competitive season(s) for each one. You may have one or more sports, and one or more competitive seasons for each one.
  2. Now define your "Training" season. You can do this by backing up three months from the active season to determine when your major training should take place. If you know from experience that you need a longer or shorter training season, adjust accordingly. Do this for each sport.
  3. Next, define what we’ll call "Groundwork." This is the general conditioning and prep work that gives you a solid base on which to build your focused training. Back up another five months or so for this.
  4. The rest of the year for each sport will be called "Recovery."
  5. Make yourself a training calendar like the one shown below. Transfer the "Active," "Training," "Groundwork," and "Recovery" seasons for all your sports to this calendar. Don’t worry about overlap.
Example 1: Single Sport - Single Season (i.e. MX) - Here’s an example of an annual training calendar for a single competitive sport with a single racing season which extends from April through August.
Activity: Racing MX
Jan Feb March April   May  Jun  July August September October     November     December
Training Active Recovery Groundwork

Training: Here, your workouts should be tailored to best prepare you for the distance and intensity of your upcoming events. In general, you will need to train some at your race pace to develop a sense of pace for your competition. You will also want to include shorter harder work to push your intensity level up, as well as longer, easier work to maintain and improve your endurance. All of this will depend on your specific sport and events. Cross-training can be used for some of this training, but certainly not all of it.

Active/Racing: During your active season, you will want to keep sharp and rested. Between events, it is important to give your body a chance to recover. Your work load can be greater if your events are fewer and further apart; less if they are close together. Cross-training can be a very welcome way to get a workout while still allowing your racing muscles to recover.

Recovery: Variety, fun, whatever pace feels right. Lots of stretching. Keep in contact with the sport by doing a few steady state workouts at a comfortable pace. Do as much cross-training as you like - this is a great time for variety and trying new activities.

Groundwork Phase: Emphasize longer, steadier work, adjusting muscles to the exercise. The goal is to develop a good base of general cardiovascular conditioning, as well as to adjust your muscles to the specific motions of your sport. Cross-training can help a lot with the former, but not as much with the latter. Include plenty of stretching and flexibility work as well as strength training.

Suggested Workouts

MX Specific Workout
Frequency: 2-4 times per week in your "off-season," 1-2 times per week in active season.
Duration: 30-60 minutes; shorter for intense, speed workouts; longer for steady state, aerobic workouts.
Work out Type and Intensity: Include steady state, anaerobic threshold work, as well as more intense intervals and racing pieces.
• 40 minute row (or 10,000 meters)
• 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy for 40 minutes (Intervals)
• 1-2-3-4-3-2-1 minute pyramid, 30 seconds off between segments
• 3 minutes @ 18 SPM, 2 minutes @ 24 SPM, 1 minute @ 28 SPM; for 30-60 minutes

Rowing Workouts for Endurance and Aerobic Development:
• 2, 30 minute segments     
• 10K row in each segment     
• one hour total row

Rowing Workouts for Strength and Power Development:
• 20 seconds hard/40 seconds easy, repeated 10-20 times     
• 30 seconds hard/1 minute easy, repeated 10-20 times

Rowing Workouts for Intensity, Speed and Quickness:
• 500 meters repeated 4-6 times, with 2 minutes rest between segments     
• 1 minute hard/ 1 minute easy, repeated 10-20 times

Rowing Workouts for Race Intensity and Pace:
• 2000 meter time trial     
• 1000 meters with 2-3 minutes rest, repeated 4-6 times     
• 3 minutes hard with 2 minutes rest, repeated 4-6 times

Rowing Workouts for Recovery:
• 20-40 minute rows at an easy pace, perhaps 30-40 seconds slower than your training pace     
• A rowing circuit workout that alternates easy rowing with several minutes of stretching and light weights     
• Other workouts listed above, but at a pace comfortably slower than your training pace

Travis Pastrana has been recognized as one of the more fit athletes in competition today. Not just in the world of motor sports but all sports. Travis is lucky to have a state of the art workout facility at his home where he has two Model E Rowers prominently displayed in the middle of the room. Concept2 employee Greg Hammond was lucky enough to be invited to Davidsonville, MD to the freestyle legend's house to deliver his second Model E. Travis’s father Robert is as amazing as Travis and loves competition and the first thing he asked was "show me the wireless race feature!" This lead to a great race between Greg and Robert which quickly showed how serious the whole family takes its training. Concept2 has become more aware of some of the action/motor sports athletes of today who recognize the amazing workout that can be achieved with the rower and is ready to take the MX industry by storm!

So there you have it; Row-training in a nut shell. There is a whole World out there dedicated to nothing but Rowing. If you want to add this form of cross-training to your routine, visit Concept2 for all the information you will ever need regarding Row-training.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    alex August 12, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    "1-2-3-4-3-2-1 minute pyramid, 30 seconds off between segments"

    I dont understand this part.

  2. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer August 15, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    1 minute as hard as you can, 30 seconds easy, 2 minutes as hard as you can, 30 seconds easy, 3 minutes as hard as you can, 30 seconds easy etc., etc......Make sense?

  3. Gravatar
    Bryson October 04, 2013 at 11:08 am

    How do you do Rowing Workouts for Race Intensity and Pace:

  4. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer October 04, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Bryson - Here is the archive section of rowing workouts. Good luck and have fun rowing!

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