Planning a Rowing Season for Masters

summarized by David DeWinter
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Mark WilsonCo-Founder, All-American Rowing Camp
Jim DietzOlympian, esteemed Coach, former Vice Chair of USRowing, and co-Founder of All-American Rowing Camp

The 3-Sentence Summary

Successful planning requires masters to be intentional about their goals for each season. Many rowers miss the opportunity during winter training to match their rigging in the boat to their position on the erg, so it is important to be aware of your rigging numbers to make the best of your erg time. Rig for proper posture and comfort to avoid injury and promote longevity in the sport.


Winter Training

2:50 Set targets in at least some of these areas:

  • Days you have to train
  • Time on the erg
  • Cross-training
  • Strength training
  • Flexibility work (yoga)

6:49 Love it or hate it, the erg is a useful tool. Have a plan that allows you to reinforce what you do in the boat. (Example: set the foot stretcher height to be the same that it is in the boat.)

7:56 Erg posture demonstration

13:00 Row with your skeleton, not with your muscle.

14:35 What do you on the erg all winter long will translate to what you will do in the boat in spring. Strive for high-quality meters on the erg.

20:12 The distance between the top of your seat and the bottom of your heel cup (foot stretcher height) is a personal dimension, based on your body. Knowing this number in the boat will help you optimize your erg setup.


22:49 If you’re going to spend thousands on a boat, get it fitted to you! Things to consider:

  • Comfort first (Foot stretcher placement, height, spread, oar length…)
  • Rig for posture

25:04 Finish position in sculling: elbow should be slightly above the handle, and there should be 4+ inches between handles when the body is 5 degrees to bow.

26:17 Oarlock height matters both for optimizing speed and safety of the athlete. Rig for comfort/safety to minimize the risk of injury.

29:51 Examples of body positions in sweep:

  • At the finish, “shake hands with the oar”
  • During the drive, the line between shoulders should be parallel with the oar. A hanging grip will help you row with the skeleton.

34:31 Know how to check for proper oarlock height when you get in a team boat. If you’re too high, you’ll likely wash out at the finish or open a lot with the body too much at the catch. This is about maintaining longevity in the sport, not just optimizing for racing.

37:06 Considerations for foot stretcher position and rigging:

  • Catch and finish angles
  • Ankle flexibility
  • Body proportions of the athlete (rig for comfort)

40:06 How do I voice to my coach that it may be unsafe to push brand new rowers like me to enter races, row at high rates, and practice race starts?

We have to think about our longevity in the sport first. Not everyone needs to race.

44:32 Know how to get back into a boat. Demonstration: velcro strap around the oar handles so you don’t need to hold oars when you kick back in. In the winter, row near the perimeters of the water. Row with others. Put whistles in the boat.

47:05 Scull with your hips past the pin at the catch. Coaches can mark the side of the boat with a piece of tape at the pin to compare that position to your rower’s hip position.

50:14 Oar length and inboard measurement demo. Consider setting up a chart in your boathouse for oar/scull length and inboard based on athlete size (height and body type), not on the size of the boat. Again, rig for individual comfort even in team boats.

56:52 In team boats, establish similar catch and finish angles. When athletes are of different sizes, you’ll need to adjust their oars.

58:29 Rigging numbers for foot stretcher angles (38 – 42 degrees), foot stretcher height (14 – 22 cm), and oarlock height (14 – 18 cm). Athletes with short torsos/long legs should consider investing in a seat pad to avoid their knees hitting their chin toward the catch. Manufacturers are now building adjustable seats.

1:02:08 Ensure your equipment is ready to row after winter: check and experiment with your rigging, check your heel ties are not frayed, check your seat bearings are clean, etc.


1:04:01 Pre-Season: Row in team boats with a stable boat so it’s easy to learn. Considerations:

  • How many days to train
  • Types of workouts to employ
  • Know your goals (streaks can be motivating!)

1:05:48 Example pre-season workouts:

  • 15′ pieces (5′-4′-3′-2′-1 at 16-18-20-22-24)
  • 30′ pieces (15′ repeats)
  • 12K steady state, low heart rate and intensity
  • Power = 200 hard strokes (4 x 10-20-30-40) low rates, equal rest

1:07:29 Try practice race situations, including racing side-by-side with other people if possible to see how changes in technique change your boat speed.

Racing Season

1:09:18 Spring/Summer: intensity increases and volume decreases. Have goals: regattas!

1:10:33 Example workouts:

  • 2 x 1k (500 @ 24, 500 @ 26), (500 @ 28, 500 @ 30)
  • 12 x 1′, equal rest, race pace
  • 6 x 500m (2 with start, 2 at body pace, 2 at finish rate)

1:11:10 Before the workout, have a plan or goal. Afterward, talk with the crew about the success or failure of the workout.

1:12:01 Rowing opportunities: sprints, coastal, rowing tours, destination rowing, head racing

1:12:47 Coastal rowing and racing demos. Same stroke, just a more stable platform.

1:14:07 Have fun and enjoy the moments and memories you create.

1:15:22 Make it your own season. It doesn’t matter where it peaks, as long as it’s something you enjoy.


1:17:41 Rowing on the slides requires a lot more attention to technique. Putting slides together also helps bring rhythm to the crew. The Coffey SimulatOar is a great alternative. Sliders also take the wear and tear off the knees

1:20:11 For masters with knee replacements: elevate the back of your erg so you slide downhill. It helps stretch the ligaments to get you on the water sooner.

1:20:40 It’s hard to create a general “unsafe” temperature rule – it depends on more factors: flow, wind, egress points.

1:22:02 How to mitigate injury potential for someone who opens their back too early?

Static catch drill on the erg or the first stroke on the water – understand the feeling in your core, legs, and lats. One of the primary goals of strength training is injury prevention (stimulate muscle fiber, not lifting heavy weights).

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