What do Olympic Rowers Workout Programs look like?

Last updated April 27, 2022
Olympic Rowers Workout

Did you ever wonder how Olympic rowers work out and if you can replicate it (maybe at least partially)?

It requires some hard work, consistency, and a good training plan. Olympic rowers follow a very strict workout program, with consistency in their workouts to ensure they get the best results.

The Olympic rower’s workout will focus on strength, endurance, power, and speed - every training program will ensure to cover each of these areas. 

How do Olympic rowers work out?

Olympic rowers at that elite level will do 2 -3 workouts per day, which will involve a combination of actual rowing on the water, rowing machine work as well as strength and conditioning training.

Examples of Training programs

This is an example of a training program taken from the British Rowing organization of what an Olympic rower’s 4-week training program would look like.

Day of weekWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4
Monday1) 16km (3 x 2km UT1; R 20-22)
2) 16km UT2 R 18-19
3) Weights (lower body)
1) 18km UT2 R18–19
2) 18km ergo R18 (3 x 6km)Weights (lower body)
1) 18km UT2 R18–19
2) 18km ergo R18 (3 x 6km)
3) Weights (lower body)
1) 16km UT2 R18–19
2) VO2 Max ergo test (6x4 mins)
3) 30–45 mins cycle
Tuesday1) 18km UT2  R18-19
2) 12km ergo (2x6km)
3) Weights (upper body)
1) 18km UT2 / UT1 2 x 20 mins R22
2) 18km UT2 R18–19
3) Weights (upper body)
1) 20km UT2 / UT1 2 x 20 mins R22
2) 16km UT2 rate 18–19
3) Weights (upper body)
1) 16km UT2 rate 18–19
2) 18km ergo rate 18 (3 x 6km)
3) Weights (full body)
Wednesday1) 16km UT2 R 18-19
2) 30 mins ergo (R20 flat out)
3) 60 mins cycle
1) 18km UT2 R18–19
2) 16km UT2 / AT4 x 1.5km R26–3060 mins cycle
1) 20km UT2 R18–19
2) 10 x 500m ergo
3) 60 mins cycle
1) 16km UT2 R18–19
2) 16km UT14 x 1km R30–32
3) 45 mins cycle
Thursday1) 18km ( 4x2km UT1 R 20-22)
2) 16km UT 2 R18-19
3) Weights (lower body)
1) 20km(4 x 2km UT1 R20–22)
2) 16km UT2 rate 18–193) Weights (lower body)
1) 18km UT2 R18–19
2) 16km UT1 3 x 2km R22
3) Weights (lower body)
1) 16km UT2 R18–19
2) 12km 10 x 100m starts
3) Core stability
Friday1) 16km UT2 R18-19
2) 18km ergo R18 (3 x 6km)
3) Weights (upper body)
1) 20km(4 x 2km UT1 R20–22)
2) 16km UT2 rate 18–19
3) Weights (lower body)
1) 20km UT2 R18–19
2) 18km ergo R18 (3 x 6km)3) Core stability
1) 18km UT2 R18–19
2) 18km ergo R18 (3 x 6km)
Saturday1) 18km     3x 2km, 1 x 1km R24-28
2) 12km UT2 R18-19
1) 18km3 x 2km, 2 x 1km R26–30 
2) 12 UT2 R18–19
1) 18km 4 x 2km R26–32
2) 16km UT2 R18–19
1) 18km2km, 1.5km, 1km, 500m R28–36
2) 12km UT2 R18–19
Sunday22km UT2 R18-19Rest20km UT2 R18–19Rest


U1 = 75-80% maximum heart rate
R = strokes per minute
U2 = 65-75% maximum heart rate

What kind of training do Olympic rowers do besides rowing?

Strength and conditioning is an important element of a good training program. The focus for elite rowers is on core, legs, arms, and gluteal strengthening. They will also do other cardio work, such as cycling or running.

Examples of the types of exercises that are most essential are:

Examples of lower body exercises:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Leg press

Examples of upper body exercises:

  • Bench press and pull
  • Overhead press
  • Overhead plate rotations

Examples of core exercises:

  • Dead bugs
  • Ab rollouts
  • V-holds
  • Russian twists

What else is important?

Journaling

Keeping track of your workout program is an essential part of training like an Olympian. Your memory may not always be accurate, and as well as recording the type and duration of your workout, it is also important to record how you felt during and after the workout. 

By tracking workouts, as well as sleep, and nutrition, you can help to see any patterns in performance. 

Journaling can also help you to manage your training load, to ensure that you don’t overtrain and have an injury. Training load is determined by intensity as well as the duration of workouts. 

Using training calculators can help you keep this in check with your rowing training sessions.

Nutrition

As rowers are training 2 -3 times a day, with a high-intensity workout, they need a large number of calories to ensure they can carry this load. Olympic rowers would have around 4000 calories a day to ensure they have the energy for the workout and recovery. They would focus on mainly healthy foods including vegetables and fruits, good proteins - but have some high-calorie snacks to help to keep their calorie count high.

Sleep

Sleep is an important part of recovery and it helps your body, and brain heal. Olympic athletes will ensure they get good quality and consistent sleep to help them to train better each day. Sleeping is a time when your body can heal and recover front the stresses and the load of a hard day’s workout.

FAQ

How often do Olympic rowers train?

Olympic rowers will train 2 -3 times a day, doing a combination of rowing, rowing machine, running, weight training, and strength and conditioning exercises. Generally, they will do one to two sessions on the water each day, and then the third workout will be either rowing machine, gym weight workout, or other cardio.

Do Olympic rowers lift weights?

Yes, they will do weight training to focus on strengthening the lower back, gluteal muscles, leg muscles, arms, and core muscles. Strengthening these muscles can help with performance and help to prevent injury.

Do Olympic rowers use rowing machines?

Yes, they will use a rowing machine to supplement their workouts on the water. They will ensure they are on the water every day, but the rowing machine can add extra training where there are no variables like wind or current, and in cold winter months when the water may be frozen.
Rowing machines can also help to give you clear distance, pace, and time which may be harder to keep track of when rowing on the water

Conclusion

Olympic rowers are very dedicated and will train 2 to 3 times a day for long hours to achieve the results they wish to achieve. Their main focus is on the consistency of training, and including weight and strength training into their weekly training plan.

About Sarah Engelbrecht
Sarah Engelbrecht is a practicing physiotherapist with over 18 years of experience in healthcare and helping patients with their health, fitness, and wellness. She works in private practice in the UK. Her writing has been featured on various websites in the UK and the US.
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