Do Rowing Camps Maximize 2K Performance? Part 1

By Patrick Rufo | May 1, 2015

If you’re a high school rower and you’re looking to maximize your training this summer, you may consider attending a rowing camp. Summer rowing camps take place all over the country and it may be difficult to determine which camp is the right fit. Every camp provides training, however training will vary depending on the length, size, and goals of the camp. This article will review the different types of rowing camps and the type of training an athlete goes through and how it can affect your 2K performance.

Summer rowing camps can be broken into five different types:
  • 5 Day Collegiate Camps
  • 3-Week Camps and Junior National Team Development Camps
  • 5-6 Week Competitive Camps
  • Junior National Team Camps
  • Online/Virtual Camps
  • 5-Day Collegiate Camps

5-day collegiate camps are typically hosted by a university as a way to provide high school rowers exposure to training and coaching at the collegiate level. They give rowers the opportunity to row with athletes from different rowing programs. By learning how to row well technically with other rowers who have been coached differently, an athlete can increase skills and become more adaptable. College coaches can also provide a different perspective and terminology to add to your rowing knowledge.

Camp Size20 – 60 athletes
Pros:
1. Rowing with athletes from many different programs.
2. Collegiate coaches provide different perspectives on technique, training, and racing.
3. Athletes will experience mostly aerobic capacity training (i.e. steady state) combined with technique training and rowing drills.

Cons:
1. Camps will not provide enough time for anaerobic capacity (i.e. sprint training) or anaerobic power training (i.e. 2k training).
2. These camps don't encompass a full training cycle and will not include all types of training.
3. Large camp rosters make it harder to get individualized coaching.
4. Other rowers at camp may have different training/rowing goals.

2K Improvement
2K improvement will vary for the novices because the camp is only five days. If the rower arrives in good rowing shape prior to camp, there may be a 1-5 second improvement on a 2k test following camp thanks to technical improvement. There will not be much improvement for the experienced rower/sculler because the camp will not address the additional training components needed for 2k testing.

3-Week Competitive Camps and Junior National Team Development Camps

3-week competitive camps are for rowers who want to get some race experience during the summer, but can’t commit the entire summer to training. Camps are usually hosted by a local club and culminate in racing at a local regatta. There are some overnight 3-week competitive camps. Coaches of these camps will be competitive club coaches or college coaches.

Junior National Team Development Camps are slightly different because the camp is designed to identify future talent for the Junior National Team. Athletes will need to apply and submit erg scores to be accepted to the program. Athletes get the benefit of having more time to row together, and have more consistent coaching from the same coaches. Training for this type of camp will be a good mix of steady state training, technique training, and anaerobic power.

Camp Size: 20 – 40 athletes

Pros:
1. Ability to row with different athletes.
2. Collegiate/club coaches provide different perspectives on technique, training, and racing.
3. Goals of the camp are clear: Train and compete at local regattas.
4. Athletes at camp may have similar training goals and are motivated to race.
5. Valuable summer racing experience.

Cons:
1. Camps may not provide enough time on 2K Training
2. Camps are not long enough for full physiological adaptations necessary during a training cycle.
3. Training cycle will be interrupted to allow time to prepare for racing.
4. Large camp rosters make it difficult to get individualized training and coaching.
5. Success of the camp depends on athletes that attend and ability to row well together in a short amount of time.

2K Improvement 
Rowers who attend a 3-week competitive camp may expect to drop their 2K time 1-5 seconds following camp. Training addresses both the aerobic and anaerobic components necessary to perform well on a 2K test. Athletes experience “seat racing” on the water. Seat racing combined with racing experience from the regatta will allow athletes to improve 2K times. Athletes may expect an even greater improvement if they show up to camp in shape.

5-6 Week Competitive Camps

5-6 week competitive camps are hosted by rowing clubs looking to develop and prepare athletes for collegiate rowing and racing. Athletes will compete at local regattas and major summer regattas (US Rowing Club Nationals, Royal Canadian Henley, Junior National Team Trials). Athletes receive the benefit of training and rowing with the same athletes for the entire duration of camp. They also work with the same coaches with the goal of contributing to the club’s goals of competing and winning club championships.

Coaches will be competitive club coaches and college coaches. Rowers will need to apply to these camps and submit ergometer scores. Athletes will go through at least two training cycles and can improve almost all training components: steady state, anaerobic power training, and 2K training. Training will be geared towards peaking at major regattas.

Camp Size: 20 – 40 athletes

Pros:
1. Ability to row with different athletes.
2. Collegiate/club coaches provide different perspective on technique, training, and racing.
3. Athletes at camp have similar training goals and are motivated to race.
4. Valuable summer racing experience
5. One or two opportunities to test on the ergometers
6. One or two full cycles of training

Cons:
1. Training cycle will be interrupted to allow time to prepare for racing at the regatta
2. Large camp rosters will make it difficult to get individualized training and coaching
3. Free time will be focused on recovery, with no opportunities for extra training
4. Potential for over-training
5. Physical and emotional fatigue from training, racing, and travel

2K Improvement
Provided the camp is well organized, and the training program is balanced, athletes may expect to drop 2K times by 5-10 seconds following a 5-6 camp. Success is more likely if athletes are in excellent shape prior to camp. Athletes should allow a week or two of transition training after camp to recover from racing. Racing multiple times over the course of camp will cause the athletes’ training capacities to decrease.

Junior National Team Camp

The sole purpose of Junior National Team Camp is to select the US Rowing Junior National Team that will compete at the Junior World Rowing Championships. Athletes selected to these camps have been identified during the year prior through Junior ID Camps and ergometer testing submissions. Selected athletes are expected to arrive in top shape to help coaches select boat line-ups. Athletes will spend the first few weeks of camp going through ergometer testing as well as seat racing. Athletes may be cut from camp once it is determined they will not make the team. Coaching is limited, as coaches are focusing more on identifying the top athletes and getting these line-ups ready for trials and the Junior World Rowing Championships. Athletes can be at camp for the entire duration or cut after a few weeks.

Camp Size: 20-30 athletes (may be less following trials and boat selection).

Pros:
1. Ability to row with different athletes.
2. Junior National Team coaches provide world-class perspective on technique, training, and racing.
3. Training/rowing with athletes with the goal of representing the United States at the Junior World Rowing Championships.
4. Intense training environment.
5. Several opportunities to test on the ergometers.
6. Opportunities to race at international regattas, provided athlete makes the team.
7. One to four full cycles of training.

Cons:
1. Camp duration varies on whether athlete is cut.
2. Training cycles will be interrupted multiple times to allow time to prepare for racing at trials and for traveling and racing at the Junior World Championships.
3. Large camp rosters make it difficult to get individualized training and coaching (until an athlete is named to the Junior National Team).
4. Potential for overtraining.
5. Physical and emotional fatigue from training, racing, and travel.
6. No post camp feedback (especially for athletes that are cut).

2K Improvement
Athletes will need to go into camp at peak physical condition to be prepared for the selection process. Athletes may be able to pull their best 2K at camp during selection. However, as the selection process goes on the athlete may get slower due a lot of seat racing and high intensity workouts.

Athletes that make the Junior National Team typically pull their best 2K a few weeks after Worlds after recovering from the fatigue of racing. Athletes that are cut from camp will need a few weeks of training to get their training components back to normal levels. Athletes are more likely to PR during camp than right after camp. Improvement will vary from 1 to 10 seconds.

Online Rowing Training Camps

Recently, online rowing camps have become popular. Online training camps or virtual camps are simply online training programs where rowing coaches analyze your rowing video and provide technical feedback. Participants purchase an online training program to follow for the summer, which allows them to peak for an ergometer test or regatta. This program benefits the single sculler or small boat rower who wishes to train on their own schedule. Training will depend on the goal of the athlete.

Pros:
1. Individualized training programs.
2. Online coach will adapt/modify program to keep athletes on schedule.
3. Accountability for both athlete and online coach.

Cons:
1. No interaction with other athletes.
2. Coach’s schedules may be limited for online consultations.
3. Daily communication can be difficult.
4. Virtual training is not the same as live in person training.

2K Improvement
2K improvements depend on the type of training program. If the athlete and coach are in constant communication and agree on attainable goals, then athletes can see improvements of 5-10 seconds. A big plus is that the partnership can continue through the school year so the coach can help the athlete maneuver through the school season and prepare for the next summer.

Conclusion
Choosing a summer rowing camp can be a daunting task. Look closely at factors like your training goals, budget, and time availability to make the best decision. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll examine how junior rowers can maximize their experience at summer camps.

Click Here for Part 2

For more advice on rowing, strength training, rowing and erging technique, and training programs, please reach out to us at camp@sparksconsult.com. Find Pat on FACEBOOK