Background: Plyometric training has been shown to increase muscle power, running economy, and performance in athletes. Despite its use by rowing coaches, it is unknown whether plyometrics might improve rowing economy or performance. The purpose was to determine if plyometric training, in conjunction with training on the water, would lead to improved rowing economy and performance.
Methods: Eighteen male high school rowers were assigned to perform 4 weeks of either plyometric training (PLYO, n = 9) or steady-state cycling below ventilatory threshold (endurance, E, n = 9), for 30 min prior to practice on the water (matched for training volume) 3 days per week. Rowing performance was assessed through a 500-m rowing time trial (TT) and peak rowing power (RP), while rowing economy (RE) was assessed by measuring the oxygen cost over four work rates (90, 120, 150, and 180 W).
Results: Rowing economy was improved in both PLYO and E (p < 0.05). The 500-m TT performance improved significantly for PLYO (from 99.8 ± 9 s to 94.6 ± 2 s, p < 0.05) but not for E (from 98.8 ± 6 s to 98.7 ± 5 s, p > 0.05). Finally, RP was moderately higher in the PLYO group post-training (E 569 ± 75 W, PLYO 629 ± 51 W, ES = 0.66) CONCLUSIONS: In a season when the athletes performed no rowing sprint training, 4 weeks of plyometric training improved the 500-m rowing performance and moderately improved peak power. This increase in performance may have been mediated by moderate improvements in rowing power, but not economy, and warrants further investigation.
Keywords: Oxygen consumption; Rowing; Stretch shorten cycle.