The Effect of Concurrent Plyometric Training Versus Submaximal Aerobic Cycling on Rowing Economy, Peak Power, and Performance in Male High School Rowers
Egan-Shuttler et al. Sports Medicine - Open
The Effect of Concurrent Plyometric Training Versus Submaximal Aerobic Cycling on Rowing Economy, Peak Power, and Performance in Male High School Rowers
Julian D. Egan-Shuttler 0
Rohan Edmonds 0
Cassandra Eddy 0
Veronica O'Neill 0
Stephen J. Ives 0
0 Health and Exercise Sciences Department, Skidmore College , Saratoga Springs, NY , USA
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.
Rowing; Stretch shorten cycle; Oxygen consumption
Rowing is a high-intensity sport, requiring high strength,
power, anaerobic, and aerobic capacity [1–4]. Race times
over the typical 2-km rowing race can range from 5.5 to
7 min in elite rowers, indicating a need for a variety of
training intensities . It has been estimated that aerobic
metabolism contributes 67–84% of the energy requirement
during racing , and this relative contribution of aerobic
and anaerobic energy systems is the same for both
on-the© The Author(s). 2017 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
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water and ergometer rowing . Because of the relatively
high reliance on aerobic metabolism in racing performance
[4, 5], endurance training dominates the training programs
of most rowers . However, there are multiple
determinants of rowing performance , indicating that a rower’s
training program must encompass aerobic and anaerobic
training, as well as training methods to develop peak power
such as strength or power training. In fact, Ingham et al. 
indicated that peak force and power over a maximal
fivestroke test were two of the highest correlates to 2-km
ergometer performance. As peak power correlates very highly
with rowing performance, training for power is a part of
many rowers’ training programs  which may consist of
strength training  or heavy rowing , performed
concurrently with aerobic training. While strength training has
been shown to enhance rowing performance [8–10], much
less is known about the effect of power training, such as
plyometrics, on rowing performance. Additionally, given
the minimal equipment required to perform plyometrics
versus weight training, plyometrics might have a greater
potential for implementation.
There is a variety of ways to improve strength and
power, and in many sports, plyometric training is used to
increase movement speed and power . Plyometric
training is a type of physical conditioning that emphasizes
the stretch-shortening cycle and typically involves both
open and closed kinetic chain exercises, such as jumping
or medicine ball throws . A recent meta-analysis by
Sáez-Sáez de Villarreal et al.  suggests that plyometric
training is an effective method to improve strength and
power, even over short periods (<10 weeks). Plyometric
training improves power through increased neural drive,
changes in muscle coordination, changes in the muscle
tendon complex, and changes in muscle size and
architecture . It is known that neural adaptations account for
strength increases in the early phases of strength training
[13, 14]; however, major neural adaptations also occur
with plyometric training and lead to the increases in
explosive force production [15–17]. Plyometrics have also
been shown to increase the cross-sectional areas of both
type I and type II muscle fibers , without change to
the myosin heavy chain ratios [16, 19]. Increased muscle
preparatory activity and muscle activation have also been
found, leading to plyometrics possibly even preventing
injury . However, the application of this training method
has traditionally been applied to relatively narrow
populations (e.g., football or track and field).
Previously, running economy, or the energy cost of
running at a given work rate, has been shown to improve in
response to plyometric training . Running economy
has even been suggested to be a better correlate of
running performance than maximal oxygen consumption
(VO2max) . Paavolainen et al.  were able to show
that when endurance runners incorporated plyometric/
explosive strength training into their training, 5-km
running times and running economy were improved, and all
without a change in VO2max. This increase in running
economy has been suggested to be due to an increase in
stiffness of the musculotendinous system, which allows
the body to momentarily store and utilize energy absorbed
eccentrically by the force of landing , but neural
mechanisms cannot be excluded as potential contributors
[15, 16]. Thus, as plyometrics can improve endurance
performance and power, with no chronic detriment when
performed concurrently , plyometrics has the potential
to be an effective means to improve performance in
rowers, where the legs contribute significantly to
generating stroke power.
To this end, Kramer et al.  investigated whether adding
20 min of plyometric training to rowing training would
improve rowing performance. After 9 weeks of training,
improvement in rowing performance, assessed via a 2.5-km
time trial, did not differ between the control and
experimental groups . However, there were several limitations
to this study: first, the training stimulus or volume of
20 min 3×/week may have been insufficient; second, the
2.5-km time trial (TT) is atypical of rowing; third, training
volume was not matched between groups; fourth, the
exercise selection was not optimal for rowers; and finally,
rowing economy or power were not measured. Interestingly,
while the previous study was unable to demonstrate a
benefit of plyometrics on rowing performance , an estimated
50% of rowing coaches continue to include plyometric
training into their training programs to improve rowing
power . Coaches that do use plyometrics often perform
other strength training methods in addition, as concurrent
training has been shown to increase rowing performance
. However, it remains to be seen whether plyometrics
alone can improve rowing performance and thus validate
their use by rowing coaches .
Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine
if 4 weeks of plyometric training, versus submaximal
aerobic training matched for volume, would increase
rowing economy, peak power, or performance in
experienced youth rowers when combined with on-the-water
training. We hypothesized that rowers who performed
plyometric training would improve rowing economy,
peak power, and performance over those conducting
submaximal steady-state exercise.
Eighteen male rowers with a minimum of 1 year’s
competitive rowing experience were recruited from a local
competitive (i.e., multiple state and national
championship medals) high school rowing program. The
participants had no previous experience with plyometric
training. The experimental plyometric (PLYO) and the
endurance (E) group each consisted of nine
high-schoolaged male rowers. The groups were matched with regard
to pretraining 500-m times (endurance, E = 98.8 ± 5.8 s;
PLYO = 99.8 ± 9.6 s, p > 0.05). As a result, there was also
no difference in biological age or training age between
groups. The physical characteristics of both groups are
presented in Table 1. Unfortunately, recent 2000-m
rowing performance times for the group were not available,
but the team had achieved several state and national
medals. All participants, and their legal guardians,
provided written informed consent prior to inclusion in this
study. This study was approved by the Institutional
Review Board of Skidmore College and therefore was
performed in accordance with the ethical standards set
forth in the Declaration of Helsinki.
The intervention lasted for 4 weeks, which is defined as a
short-term plyometric period [11, 12] and is long enough
to elicit significant physiological and/or performance
changes [17, 25]. All testing and training was conducted
during the fall competition season (September to
November). These 4 weeks of training was also selected so that
training could be completed before the major
competitions for the rowers. Both groups performed 30 min of
cross-training before on-the-water practice, 3 days/week,
with 48 h in between sessions (e.g., Monday, Wednesday,
and Friday). The PLYO group performed 30 min of
plyometric exercise, while E performed steady-state cycling.
All plyometric sessions contained exercises focusing on
vertical explosiveness, such as box jumps, depth jumps,
multiple box-to-box jumps, and double leg hops.
Furthermore, as the rowing stroke involves opening of the trunk,
backwards and overhead throws of medicine balls (10 lbs)
were included to train explosive triple extensions. Sessions
ranged from 100- to 150-ft contacts in week 1 to 125- to
170-ft contacts in week 4. Medicine ball exercise
repetitions were periodized to progressive overload. The volume
(number of foot contacts) conforms to recommended
guidelines . The full training program can be found in
Table 2. A trained member of the research team oversaw
every plyometric session and provided feedback on the
quality of the movements.
The endurance group performed 30 min of
steadystate cycling at ventilatory threshold at the same time as
the experimental group. The “Talk Test” (cycling at an
intensity at which a conversation was possible) was used
to prescribe cycling intensity and has been shown to be
a valid approximation of ventilatory threshold . The
athletes were also familiar with this method, as it was
used at their club to prescribe low-intensity aerobic
workouts. Cycling was used so that one group was not
provided with a higher volume of rowing-specific
training than the other and is also a common cross-training
method for rowers. The endurance group was also
supervised. After each group completed the 30 min of
training, they proceeded to their on-the-water rowing
practice. All subjects completed the same on-the-water
workouts, and members from the PLYO and E groups
rowed together in mixed boats. As all rowers were on
the same team, outside of the training intervention
(endurance or plyometric), rowing volume and intensity
were identical for each member of the study.
All measurements were taken during a single testing
session on the Saturdays before and after the 4 weeks of
training. Testing occurred over a 90-min period for each
participant. All post-testing was performed at least 48 h
since the last plyometric or biking session, allowing
adequate recovery and avoiding undue influence of the last
Upon arrival, participants had their stature (seca 217,
UK), mass (Belfour Inc., WI, USA), and thigh and calf
circumferences measured (Gulick tape measure). These
measurements were taken by the same member of the research
team for pre- and post-testing and were taken half way up
the thigh and calf, as has been done in previous plyometric
studies . Rowing economy (RE) was assessed with a
submaximal 8-min step test on a rowing ergometer (Model
D, Concept2, VT, USA), which consisted of four 2-min
stages at 90, 120, 150, and 180 W. The Concept2 rowing
ergometer is considered to be an accurate rowing
ergometer  and is the gold standard. Expired gases were
collected using a one-way non-rebreathe mouthpiece to
determine oxygen consumption (VO2), a known measure
Table 1 The participant characteristics at baseline and following the 4-week intervention
Thigh Circumference (cm)
Calf Circumference (cm)
Data are presented as mean ± SD
Table 2 The plyometric program performed for 30 min, 3 days a week, for 4 weeks
Multiple box-to-box jumps
Standing jump over barrier
Lateral jump over barrier
of energy expenditure (TrueOne 2400, Parvo Medics,
Sandy, UT, USA). The accuracy of the O2 analyzer is 0.1%,
the flowmeter and analyzers were calibrated to less than 1%
variance, and typical repeatability (coefficient of variation)
in our lab for VO2 is ~5%. VO2 was obtained during the
last 15 s of the 2-min stage, and based upon previous
testing and pilot work, we determined participants were able to
achieve steady state within the 2-min stages. Rating of
perceived exertion (RPE) was measured using the Borgs Scale
(RPE 0–10) . Participants completed a 2-min warm-up
and cooldown before and after the test, respectively.
After the RE measurements, participants rested for
30 min and then performed a maximal 500-m TT on the
rowing ergometer. All participants were familiar with
performing maximal 500-m trials as these were performed
frequently as part of their normal training and/or
performance assessments, prior to enrollment in the study,
but none were performed during the intervention period.
Stroke rate was not capped for the participants. Time,
stroke rate, and average watts were measured during the
TT. A 2-min warm-up and cooldown was completed
before and after the TT, with participants asked to rest for
another 30 min following the TT. Peak rowing power (RP)
was then measured over three maximal trials of 15 s on
the rowing ergometer. The recorded value for peak power
was the highest wattage observed during the 15-s period.
For both the RE and TT, the participants were instructed
that they could self-select the ergometer resistances,
which had to be the same for both the pre- and
posttesting. However, as each rower was on the same team,
they selected the same ergometer resistances (control 4.4
± 0.2 vs. plyometrics 4.5 ± 0.0, arbitrary units, p > 0.05)
which are also in accordance with US National Team
testing guidelines. For the RP test, the resistance was set to
the highest value (10) on the rowing ergometer.
All statistics were performed using commercially available
software (SPSS v. 23, Armonk, NY). Pre-planned t test
comparisons were used to determine significance at
baseline, in changes within the PLYO and E groups,
and at post-test for stature, mass, circumferences, TT
performance, and RP. In the case of violating normality, a
non-parametric alternative method was employed. In
addition, the magnitude of the change from
pretraining to post-training was also determined using
standardized differences in means (i.e., effect size, ES,
Cohen’s d) [31, 32]. Threshold values were established
as small (0.2), moderate (0.6), large (1.2), and very large
(2.0). A mixed-model analysis of variance (ANOVA)
was used to determine differences in RE. Linear
regression analysis was used to determine the slope of the
line for VO2 across work rate and the intercept for each
individual. The level of significance was established at
p ≤ 0.05. To understand the potential relationships
between rowing power, rowing economy, and
performance, Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated.
Data are reported as means ± standard deviation.
During the training period, one subject from the PLYO and
one subject from the E group dropped out due to injuries,
which were incurred during their on-the-water rowing
training and were unrelated to the intervention. Acceptable
adherence to the training program was set at 85%, and all
remaining participants achieved this or higher. There were
no differences in age, stature, mass, or thigh and calf
circumferences between or within the groups at baseline prior
to training (p > 0.05) (Table 1). There no were significant
changes in any of the anthropometric measures within
either group (p > 0.05); as such, at post-testing, there were
no differences between the groups for the stature, mass,
and thigh and calf circumferences (p > 0.05).
Rowing economy (Fig. 1) did not differ significantly
between PLYO and E at all of the work rates before
training. In response to training, the analysis of variance
indicated no significant interaction effects for VO2
values between the two groups at all of the work rates
(90, 120, 150, 180 W, Fig. 1, p > 0.05) but a main effect
for time was found to be significant (p < 0.05) indicating
a generally lower VO2 or energy cost from pre- to
postintervention. Additionally, linear regression analysis
indicated no group differences in the slope (VO2/watt
relationship) at baseline, in response to training, or at
post-intervention in either group (PLYO: p = 0.17, p =
0.18; E: p = 0.2, p = 0.18). RPE was also taken in the last
minute of each stage, and there was a significant
reduction in RPE following training in the PLYO group after
training (p = 0.05), but not for the CON group (Fig. 2).
500-m Time Trial Performance
There was no difference in the 500-m times between the
groups before training (p = 0.32). TT performance did
not change for E after training (p = 0.83, ES = −0.08);
however, the TT performance was significantly improved
in PLYO (Fig. 3, p < 0.05, ES = −0.91). Furthermore,
difference in TT performance was statistically different
between the groups at post-testing. The average power
output during the 500-m TT was not different between
Fig. 1 Rowing economy of the endurance (E) and experimental (PLYO) groups recorded during an 8-min steady-state rowing step test (2-min
stages at 90, 120, 150, and 190 W), before (n = 9/group) and after 4 weeks of plyometric training (n = 8/group). * indicates significant main effect
of time (pre vs. post). Data are presented as means and error bars were omitted for visual clarity
Fig. 2 Rating of perceived exertion (RPE) during the rowing economy test in the endurance (E) and experimental (PLYO) groups before (n = 9/
group) and after 4 weeks of plyometric training (n = 8/group). * indicates significant main effect of time (pre vs. post). Data are presented as
means and error bars were omitted for visual clarity
groups at baseline (363 ± 54 W vs. 372 ± 75 W, E vs.
PLYO, respectively, p = 0.77), but PLYO significantly
increased power output, and thus, the groups were
significantly different post-training (368 ± 46 W vs. 414 ±
24 W, E vs. PLYO, respectively, p = 0.02, ES = −1.89).
Finally, there were no group differences in the average
stroke rate during the 500-m TT, at baseline (E 37 ± 4
strokes/min vs. PLYO 38 ± 3 strokes/min, p = 0.52), in
response to training, or post-training (E 38 ± 4 strokes/
min vs. PLYO 39 ± 5 strokes/min, p = 0.52).
Peak Rowing Power
There was no difference in RP between the groups before
training (p = 0.69, ES = −0.07). After training, there was no
change in RP within PLYO or E (Fig. 4; p = 0.18, ES = 0.14,
p = 0.12, ES = 0.11). Although, there was a trend for a
Fig. 3 The 500-m rowing ergometer time trial performance of the experimental (PLYO) and endurance (E) groups recorded before (n = 9/group)
and after 4 weeks of plyometric training (n = 8/group). Data are expressed as means ± SD, * indicates significance within group compared to
pre (p ≤ 0.05)
Fig. 4 Peak rowing power observed during three trials of 15-s maximal rowing ergometer tests in the experimental (PLYO) and endurance (E)
groups, performed before (n = 9/group) and after 4 weeks of plyometric training (n = 8/group). Data are expressed as means ± SD
difference in RP between the groups following training (p =
0.08, ES = 0.66), with a tendency for greater power output
in the PLYO group. RP was negatively correlated to VO2
(energy expenditure) during work rates 90–180 W before
training (r = −0.549, −0.879, −0.745, −0.736, p = 0.34, p =
0.0, p = 0.001, p = 0.002, for each work rate, respectively). In
addition, post-training RP was negatively correlated to the
VO2/watt slope during the RE test (r = −0.576, p = 0.039).
Finally, peak rowing power was negatively correlated with
500-m time performance before (r = −0.92, p = 0.0) and
after training (r = −0.78, p = 0.0). Finally, the peak power
responses were also highly reliable, and exploration of the
three baseline trials indicated a significant reliability
coefficient (Cronbach’s α = 0.99, p = 0.00).
In the current study, we sought to determine if 4 weeks
of plyometric training would increase rowing economy,
peak power, or performance in experienced youth rowers
when combined with on-the-water training. After the
4week intervention, rowing economy for both groups was
significantly improved, but no group differences were
found. Peak rowing power was moderately changed as
there was a tendency for difference between groups
post-training with higher peak power in the plyometric
group in response to this relatively short intervention.
However, the main finding of this study is that the
rowers who performed plyometric training significantly
improved their 500-m TT, while this did not change for
the endurance group. This study provides the first
instance in which plyometric training significantly
improved rowing sprint performance.
Plyometric Training and Rowing Economy
In the current study, rowing economy across work rate
was significantly improved in both groups (Fig. 1), possibly
indicating that plyometric and aerobic training had a
similar effect on rowing economy. Previously, running
economy has been shown to improve after plyometric training
[21, 24, 28], and the reason for this improvement has been
suggested to be increased musculotendinous stiffness
(MTS) in the legs of runners . A high MTS increases
an individual’s ability to absorb, harness, and recoil force
during the stretch-shortening cycle, such as in running
. An increase in MTS is thus beneficial for a sport such
as running, which involves an eccentric contraction when
the runner’s foot makes contact with the ground, where
after plyometric training, the increased MTS results in
more stored energy in the series elastic elements and
reduces eccentric muscle demand. However, the beginning
of the rowing stroke (known as the catch), is an anticipated
motion in which the athlete is actually pulling themselves
towards their feet, followed by a rapid press of the legs to
apply power . As there is not so much of a reactive
movement, or ground reaction force in rowing when
compared with running, increased MTS is likely less beneficial
in rowing. Although, plyometric training has also been
shown to increase muscle activation  and muscle force
 and decrease ground reaction times  suggesting
plyometrics might alter the work to rest ratio of rowing,
through improved drive speed, allowing more time of the
stroke cycle to be spent in recovery for a given stroke rate.
Such a change, perhaps independent of economy, might
correspond to improved boat speed, allowing for greater
maintenance of the forward propulsion or “run” of the
rowing shell in the water from each stroke. It is worth
noting that these hypotheses warrant further investigation to
confirm if this is, in fact, the case.
Plyometric Training and Rowing Power
Plyometric training has been suggested to improve power
 in adults and in youth . Results from the current
study indicate that plyometric training in this athlete
cohort (youth rowers), for this length of time (4 weeks), may
elicit a moderate increase in rowing power (Fig. 4). This is
in agreement with previous research as plyometrics are
typically used to improve power [2, 11, 12]. It has been
suggested by rowing biomechanics experts that elasticity
stored in the tendons of rowers could be beneficial or
initiating the drive sequence of the stroke . The fact that
the moderate improvement in rowing power did not reach
statistical significance may be attributed to a number of
potential factors. The training period was relatively short
compared to other studies in the field of plyometrics, so
with further training, there could have been a greater and/
or significant change in rowing power. The sample size
was also relatively small, possibly lacking the statistical
power necessary to observe an increase in rowing power.
Changes in RP also varied within the groups, suggesting
that some individuals may have been better at performing
the 15-s peak power ergometer test or possess the innate
physiological traits or training acumen to achieve high
rowing powers. Also, the motor coordination trained
using plyometrics (jumping) is vastly different to the
patterns used during the maximal peak power test, with a
high rowing resistance. Furthermore, muscle coordination
could have differed greatly between individuals due to the
athletes being at varying stages of athletic maturity.
However, it should be noted that with a greater sample size,
and/or a longer training period, a significant difference in
peak rowing power could be observed.
The peak rowing power test is a valuable test and
predictor of rowing performance, as suggested by Ingham et
al. . However, the athletes whom Ingham et al. used were
all elite rowers (current or former World Championship
Finalists), who have a significantly higher athletic maturity
and training history  when compared with the athletes in
the current study. Therefore, the younger age and relatively
lower training history (i.e., coordination and technical
mastery) of the athletes utilized in the current study could
explain the moderate improvement in rowing power.
Specifically, these athletes may not have completed the
physical and technical development to truly achieve
maximum power, thus perhaps underestimating the possible
changes with the training. However, we did find a
significant inverse correlation between rowing power and rowing
economy, that is, a greater rowing power was associated
with lower energy expenditure for a given power output.
This is suggestive that rowers with greater power may be
Plyometric Training and Rowing Sprint Performance
Plyometric training has been shown to improve short
running sprint performance , and results from the current
study indicate that plyometric training is able to improve
rowing sprint performance (Fig. 3). These findings are in
contrast to a study performed by Kramer et al. in , in
which 20 min of simple double leg plyometric exercises
were added at the end of the strength training sessions
completed by female collegiate rowers. Their rowing
measures were a 2.5-km ergometer test, and the distance in
meters achieved in 90 s. As a comparison with the current
investigation, the 90-s rowing test is very similar to the
500-m TT. The average time for the plyometric group to
perform the 500-m TT after training was ~95 s. Kramer et
al. found no changes in the 90-s test after 9 weeks of
training, whereas we observed a significant improvement in
500-m performance . There are several potential
reasons for this discrepancy.
The plyometric exercises used in the earlier study of
Kramer et al.  were more simplistic than in the current
investigation (e.g., no rotation or multiple jumps or upper
body involvement). Indeed, the authors did indicate that
the exercises they selected may not have been the best for
improving rowing performance  and were performed
following strength training, likely in a semi-fatigued state,
suboptimal conditions for plyometric training.
Additionally, in comparison to the study by Kramer et al., the
current study contained more foot contacts (Table 2.) and
focused on plyometric training versus steady-state
training, matched for training volume (time) between groups.
Kramer et al. did not match training volume . To avoid
this, training times were matched for volume of the
dryland training in the present investigation. All on the water
rowing training was also matched as all participants were
members of the same team. Finally, Kramer et al. 
recruited collegiate female rowers who were older than the
high school male participants in the current study (mean
age of 21 compared with a mean age of 16 years). As such,
when prescribing plyometric training, it is important to
consider factors such as performing these exercises in a
non-fatigued state, foot contacts, and load in order to
optimize any potential performance improvements.
Nonetheless, the current investigation was able to
demonstrate that plyometric training improved 500-m rowing
performance (Fig. 3). However, it remains to be seen if
plyometric training is capable of improving rowing
performance of a more gold standard distance, such as 2- or
6-km TT. As peak power was only moderately increased
for the plyometric group, but rowing economy did not
differ between pre- and post-training, the improvement in
rowing performance could be due to increased rowing
power but also to other mechanisms not measured in the
current study (e.g., muscle coordination, activation, and
rate of force development). Alternatively, the rating of
perceived exertion, while not different prior to the
intervention, was significantly reduced post-training in the PLYO
group only (Fig. 2), which suggests a possible shift in
maximal work rate, or the plyometric training may have
increased the tolerance for work, thereby reducing
perceived effort, and either phenomena might have
contributed to the increased performance.
The current study is not provided without limitation or
further consideration. While the 500-m TT was shown to
improve as a result of the plyometric training, the training
program (three 30-min sessions/week) might be
considered time consuming for coaches that are usually working
under stringent time constraints. Although, the results
from the current study indicate that plyometric training
does not impair rowing economy; thus, if on-the-water or
ergometer training is not available (e.g., weather or time
constraints), plyometric training might serve as an
effective substitute or adjunct.
As the purpose of the study was to highlight the effects
of plyometric training, we cannot ascertain whether
inclusion of strength training or strength training alone would
provide additional or superior benefit. Plyometrics are
often performed in conjunction with weight training (also
known as complex training) and have been shown to
cause greater improvements in power than either modality
alone . Whether or not complex training is beneficial
for rowing performance has yet to be evaluated.
The 500-m TT measure used here is not the gold
standard rowing performance test used by rowing coaches. The
2-km ergometer time trial is the most common rowing
performance measure . This test not only measures
rowing ability, fitness, and technique but also mental
fortitude. For this last reason, the 2-km test was not used to
evaluate rowing performance of the young athletes in the
current study. In young rowers, 2-km performances can
vary greatly due to it being mentally challenging so the
much shorter 500-m test was used to provide a more
objective measure of whether the plyometric program
improved rowing performance. Although it is worth
mentioning that the reliability of the 500-m TT was not
tested, the athletes were very accustomed to the test
distance as it is included in training and assessment.
Additionally, the athletes were not periodized for the 2-km
test, which typically occurs in the spring season. As the
2km test was not performed in the current study, further
research is needed to definitively demonstrate whether
improvements in 500-m performance due to plyometrics
can be translated into the full 2-km test. The results of the
current study can only be applied to youth males, and it
remains to be seen if such training responses would be
seen in older and/or more developed athletes. Although
the 500-m test is not a gold standard measure for rowing,
the fact that the athletes were able to significantly improve
performance with plyometric training is important. First,
because the athletes were able to improve their rowing
sprint performance during a time in which no rowing
sprint training was being undertaken, this might be a way
to preserve anaerobic performance without detriment to
aerobic performance (i.e., rowing economy). Second,
coaches can also use the 500-m performance to estimate the
2000-m performance, as some coaches consider the
wattage produced over 500 m to be 138% of 2000-m watts.
Finally, more detailed exploration of the possible changes in
muscle will provide greater insight into the training
responses to plyometrics in rowers (e.g., hop test and
The purpose of this study was to determine whether
plyometrics, a form of power training already used by
rowing coaches, could improve rowing performance and
the physiological measures of rowing economy and
rowing power. Plyometrics significantly improved the 500-m
TT rowing performance and moderately improved peak
rowing power, but did not improve rowing economy,
suggesting that improved rowing power and other
factors could be responsible for the observed increased
performance. These results suggest that plyometrics are
able to improve rowing performance in young rowers
and possibly in older/elite rowers and that rowing
coaches should continue using this form of training.
Plyometrics can be performed by coaches in conjunction
with other methods of strength training or as a warm-up
before beginning rowing-specific training. However,
further research is needed to determine whether
plyometrics can improve 2-km rowing performance and
performance of other populations (i.e., elite rowers).
We are very grateful to the coaches and rowers of the Saratoga Rowing
Association for allowing us to perform this investigation with them.
JE-S, RE, SI, CE, and VO all made substantial contributions to the conception
and design, acquisition of the data, or analysis and interpretation of the data.
JE-S, RE, SI, CE, and VO were all involved in the drafting of the manuscript or
in revising it critically for important intellectual content. JE-S, RE, SI, CE, and
VO all agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that
questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are
appropriately investigated and resolved. JE-S, RE, SI, CE, and VO all approved
the final version of the manuscript.
Julian Egan-Shuttler, Rohan Edmonds, Cassandra Eddy, Veronica O’Neill, and
Stephen J. Ives declare that they have no conflict of interest. No financial
support was received for the conduct of this study or preparation of this
manuscript. The findings and data presented in this study are presented
honestly, without fabrication and data manipulation.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in
accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national
research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later
amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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