Physiological and biomechanical aspects of rowing. Implications for training

Sports Med. 1993 Jan;15(1):24-42. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199315010-00004.


The drag force on a racing shell increases with the square of velocity corresponding to a 3.2 power increase in energy expenditure. However, the metabolic cost increases with only an approximately 2.4 power function of shell velocity. During international races the metabolic cost corresponds to an oxygen uptake of 6.7 to 7.0 L/min over 6.5 min. The relative anaerobic contribution to 6.5 min of 'all-out' rowing has not been determined but is estimated to range from 21 to 30%. Because of the large muscle mass involved in rowing, blood variables reach extreme values: adrenaline 19 nmol/L; noradrenaline 74 nmol/L; pH 7.1; and bicarbonate 9.8 mmol/L. Because of the static component of the rowing stroke at the catch, blood pressure increases to near 200mm Hg, and the heart of oarsmen has adapted to this load by increasing wall thickness and internal diameters. The maximal oxygen uptake of oarsmen may reach 6.6 L/min and ventilation 243 L/min. Arterial oxygen tension decreases by 20mm Hg during 'all-out' rowing corresponding to a decrease in pulmonary diffusion capacity. A force of approximately 800 to 900N is developed on the oar. Force generation during rowing is relatively slow, 0.3 to 0.4 sec. Oarsmen are strongest in low velocity movement with 70 to 75% slow twitch fibres in skeletal muscle. Data indicate that rowing technique and training may improve explaining why results become approximately 0.7 sec faster per year.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Altitude
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Respiration
  • Sports / physiology*