Concept2 Rowing Performance Can Be Improved With Greater Rowing Frequency and Less Rowing Resistance

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Introduction and Objectives: Concept2 land rowing competition has become a worldwide sport. Commonly used rowing frequencies are ranged between 30 to 40 strokes per minute with a resistance level set at level 4 on the machine. The purpose of the study was to investigate the effect of increase rowing frequency and reduce rowing resistance on rowing performance. We have hypothesized that a higher frequency and lower resistance rowing pattern can increase rowing power output and improve rowing performance.

Methods: With the approval of local IRB committee we have recruited 14 male college students, 20 ± 3 years old, 178±7 cm tall, with body mass of 71 ± 6 kg. There were a total of nine rowing trials. Three rowing frequencies (40, 50, and 60 strokes per minute) were tested at each of the three different resistances at levels 2, 3, and 4. The order of the nine testing trials was randomized. The rowing tests were conducted on a Concept2 rowing machine (Concept2, Inc., Morrisville, VT, USA). Following the ticktack of the metronome, the participants were instructed to pull the handle as forceful as possible at every tick. The range of the pull was adjusted based on metronome to achieve the best possible synchronization with the targeted rowing frequency. Each rowing condition was tested for 20 seconds with a 5 minutes rest period in between. The effects of frequency and resistance on each of the outcome variables (distance, estimated 500 m time, energy expenditure and mean power output) were examined using two-factor (resistance X frequency) multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) with repeated measures. Post-Hoc analysis (pairwise comparison and trend analysis) used if necessary. Alpha level was set at .05.

Results: The observed rowing frequencies were 41.4±.2, 50.3±.3, 60.0±.4 when targeting at 40, 50, and 60 strokes per minute, those rates were significantly different from each other (F2,13=0.426, p =.66). Rowing frequencies were not affected by resistances (F2,13=0.426, p =.66). For rowing distance within 20 seconds, there was no significant resistance X frequency interaction observed. However, distance was significantly influenced by both resistance (F2,13=6.64, p < .007) and frequency (F(2,13)=7.22, p < .009). Further, the linear by linear contrast of resistance * frequency (F1,13 = 4.777, p = 0.048) was significant. Here are the results for rowing distance (mean ± standard error of the mean) at three different levels of resistance: 85.3±1.1, 86.1±1.5 and 88.2±1.2 m for levels 2, 3, and 4, respectively. Rowing distance for resistance level 4 was significantly greater that of level 2. The rowing distances at three different frequencies were: 83.7±1.7, 86.8±1.4 and 89.1±1.3 m for 40, 50, and 60 strokes per minute, respectively. Greatest rowing distance was observed at the highest stroke rate (60), which was significantly longer than that of the lowest rate (40). The combination of highest frequency (60) with lowest resistance (level 2) resulted with the greatest distance (89.6±1.6 m), where the combination of lowest frequency (40) with lowest resistance (level 2) resulted with the least distance (81.3±1.4). The Estimated 500m Time exhibited the same results as the rowing distance, where the no significant interaction observed but significant resistance (F2,13=4.47, p < .05) and frequency (F2,13=7.04, p < .004) influences observed. The estimated time for resistance levels 2, 3, and 4 were 118±1, 117±2 and 114±2, respectively. The estimated time for frequencies at 40, 50 and 60 strokes per minute were 120.3±2.6, 116.0±1.8, and 112.6±1.6 sec, respectively. The effects of the rowing frequency and resistance could be explained, partially, by the energy expenditure during the tests. Both energy expenditure and mean power output were increase with both frequency (Energy: F2,13=6.67, p < .005; Power: F2,13=6.64, p < .005) and resistance (Energy: F2,13=7.79, p < .002; Power: F2,13=7.92, p < .002). The linear by linear contrast of resistance*frequency for both energy and power were significant (Energy: F1,13= 5.009, p = .042; Power: F1,13=5.146, p = 0.041). The greatest energy expenditure (power output) occurred with the combination of highest frequency (60) with lowest resistance (level 2) at 1176±48 J (255±14W), where least energy expenditure (power output) occurred with the combination of lowest frequency (40) with lowest resistance (level 2) at 951±34 J (189±10W).

Conclusion: During 20 seconds all out rowing tests with Concept2 rowing machine higher rowing stroke per minute, combined with lower resistance, produced faster performance. This result is supported by greater power output observed with this condition.


International Society of Biomechanics Annual Conference (ISB)


Glasgow, United Kingdom