Get better results in 2014

March 4, 2014

Like most athletes, my fitness goals have changed over time and one of the keys to achieving the success I want from my body now, require that I stick to the same key training principles I learned long ago as a competitive athlete.  Following these key principles, no matter what your level of fitness, will maximize results and reduce or eliminate the risk of getting injured.  Several elements that I make sure to include when planning a typical week of training include;

–          Working on muscle strengthening to improve fitness in the muscles that oppose the ones that move you forward when running, rowing, or cycling, which are basically the same muscle groups for all three sports.

–          Avoid increasing weekly training volume by more than 10% from the previous week.

–          Making sure to include about 5 to 10 moderate to aggressive 20 to 30 second bursts during say a 30 to 40 minute workout, with a minimum of one minute rest between bursts.

The time I now have to train per week is about ten percent of my competitive peak (30+ hrs) as it seems between work, and spending time with my kids and wife leaves me a paltry three hours to keep fit.  It’s not that I miss all that training, I really don’t, but it does force me to plan those three hours carefully.

Being consistent with what you are doing is key here, meaning don’t all of a sudden do a 90-minute bike ride on the first warm weekend when all your training up to that point has been running.  However if you are like me and love to constantly mix up your training program then make sure you include those elements (run, strength training, cycling, rowing) into your weekly routine.  And make sure your volume does not change more than 10% per week from the previous week.

Spend time on strengthening the muscles that support or oppose the primary movers of the sports you participate in.  I spend about 10 to 15 minutes strengthening these muscles which are generally doing little work when moving the body forward in the sporting activity you are participating in.  For many sports those opposing muscles are usually the hamstring, hip flexors, and the abdominal muscles, and while others exist we will just focus on these larger muscle groups.  Hitting these muscles two to three times per week with a quick strengthening routine will really help cut down on injuries, and often giving you a boost of speed at the same time.

Another element of training I try and avoid is training long and slow, because it makes you long and slow.  My personal training goals do not include being a sloth so, if you are tired of running a 10 minute mile for example, every time you head out then you will want to include some sort of short speed bursts into your future training sessions.  This strategy can be used for any sport.  One way to do this is to run easy (say at 60% to 70% of your max speed) for say 40 seconds then do a 10 to 20 second bursts (at about 80 to 85% of your max speed).  You can start with 5 to 8 bouts (I often do 10 to 15 bursts) during a 30 to 40 minute run as it is a great way to rev up your body.  Start slowly and increase the volume of this burst training at no more than 10% of the previous weeks training.

Challenging your body by offering some targeted strength training can be a smart way so you can remain injury free while getting faster.  Adding bursts to your current cardio exercises is great way to rev up your body and stimulate good stress.  I have never seen an athlete who got a better result by just training really hard if compared to that same athlete training hard while also training SMART at the same time.  It’s better to train smart and hard then just hard.


“Dedicated to Making You Faster, Stronger, and More Resistant to Injury”

Do You Roll Like A Baby?

April 20, 2013

I had a meeting today with my financial adviser who is 33 years-old and keeps fit with regular training like Crossfit and biking.  He told me that he was having back and shoulder pain since buying a new Tempurpedic mattress about three weeks ago.  He wanted to know my opinion about the mattress, so I told him flat out that I do not like them.  Sure they are nice and fluffy and conform to your bodies’ weight distribution which is all great until you have to change position.   This is where the problems start and it is because many people have forgotten how to roll properly.

All infants with normal motor development learn how to roll exactly the same way.  I am going with Nature on this one.   I explained to him that unless you have the strength and flexibility like you did when you were and infant, rolling like a log could be a challenge.  Thankfully for most you just need to relearn how to roll, simple enough.  The reality is many adults have lost their flexibility and strength balance and they are forced to use a poor movement strategy and that’s probably why they get hurt.

Once I explained to him that he was probably not coordinating his body properly like he did when he was an infant where the shoulders and hips move together as one unit (log roll), it made sense to him.  Hey I am not going to fight Nature on this one and since all infants with normal motor skills use the log rolling method why deviate.

As a spine and sports specialist for most of my 18 year physical therapy career I can tell you that most patients who have injured their low backs have lost this innate skill.   So the next time you roll over in bed make sure you move your shoulder and hips together as one unit.  You can practice this by lying flat on your back and rolling to the left 10 times and repeat to the right.

To emulate the way an infant rolls over (rolling to the left); start on your back and reach your left arm as if you were going to grab onto a bed rail while simultaneously  pulling your left  knee towards your chest (stop at 90 degrees of bend like when you are in a chair).  Repeat 10 times then do the same to the right.  This is one of Nature’s best core exercises.  Once you re-learn how to roll any mattress choice would be fine.


Training Manifest Sales Letter

March 11, 2013

Coach Kaehler – Body Balance Expert

Are You Letting Key Areas

Undermine Your Training and Racing Results?

Do you…

  • Struggle through your weekly workouts?

  • Lack clarity about what you should really be doing?

  • Train harder and longer and still feel frustrated with your results?

  • Feel confused on whether or not to include Pilates, Yoga, or programs like Crossfit and PX90 in your training routine?

Chances are you don’t understand essential training principles that I call key areas.

The bad news is that by neglecting these key areas of training, you’re likely sabotaging your overall training progress.  And the longer you ignore key areas, the more likely you’ll suffer from reduced power, speed, strength, and training-related injuries.

The good news is that you’re not alone.  And I’m here to help.

If you really want to take control of your training, eliminate obstacles that limit your progress, and get on the fast-track to RESULTS, then keep reading.

The clients I work with struggle their training, and are frustrated with their race results. They suffer from training-related injuries, or they’re just not making any progress with their programs.  They’ve lost speed, strength, and power despite all the training hours they’ve invested, all the effort they’ve committed, and all the training methods they’ve used.

If you’re like my clients and share their frustrations, it’s most likely because your training program is neglecting one or more of these key training areas.

These hidden threats slow your training, and limit your training potential.  And, if you’re constantly battling injuries, neglecting one or more key training areas is the likely culprit.  And once you’re injured, the road to recovery and pain-free training is long and hard — if ever you reach that level again.

If you don’t address these critical key areas early on, your training and race results are doomed to be sub-optimal.

With so many training approaches available, it’s often confusing to understand which ones are ideal for you.  Even worse, which may even slow you down.   Navigating the hundreds of training options available today is a real challenge, and without an understanding of these key areas, making an informed decision becomes nearly impossible.

Having a solid coaching mentor who really understands the key areas, will help you understand which training approaches will help you reach your personal goals.  Who has the time for inefficient training methods in their weekly routine?  Or worse, who can afford to skip essential elements that will lead to better results?

You may be considering building yoga, Pilates, or one of the latest training fads such as Crossfit or PX90 into your training program.  Without first addressing the key areas, you may be wasting your time.  Reading the Training Manifest will help you better understand what you should focus on to get the most out of your training time.

Doing exercise for exercise sake is not a smart training strategy.  The best strategy that supports real results is having a clear understanding of what your individual strengths and deficits are.  Yoga, Pilates, Crossfit, and PX 90 and other training methods can be very useful and enjoyable training methods once you’ve first addressed the key areas discussed in my Training Manifest.  Otherwise, you may actually be holding yourself back from reaching your true potential.

Remember: the most effective training methods are always based on sound training principles. 

Understanding your individual strength and flexibility imbalances is critical when planning your training program.  Otherwise, you’re training in an indiscriminate way.  In other words – you’re guessing.  In fact, you may actually be making your imbalances worse without even knowing it.

I say this with confidence.  Not to brag, but my findings are grounded in my work with over a thousand endurance athletes – runners, triathletes, rowers and cyclists —  and nearly two decades physical therapy.

Real results come when you address whole body flexibility and strength deficit imbalances that can only be determined through my full body evaluation.   More than 50% of the endurance athletes I’ve evaluated using my Body Balance Evaluation, come to me because they suffer from chronic training-related injuries that have not responded to traditional medicine.  Most of these athletes have used one or more of the training methods discussed earlier.

Their immediate goal was straightforward: to once again train pain-free.

Unfortunately using random training methods never guarantees you’ll be resistant to injury, or improve your speed and power.  Without knowing where you are, how can you know how to improve your results?

A better, more informed understanding of how key training principles influence the success of your training will help you take control and become a more effective endurance athlete.  You’ll learn proven-effective training concepts that improve your strength, speed, and power.  Most important, understanding key principles will help you become more resistant to injury.

Have you struggled with your training?  Felt really flat and noticed that you’ve actually been getting slower?  Then it’s time to re-evaluate what you’re doing.

You may start questioning your training program, nutrition, sleep, and your strength and flexibility program.  But where should you start?

First, you need to determine if your program incorporates the key training elements which are discussed in my Training Manifest.  Skipping just one of these critical elements can dramatically impact your entire performance.

Are you experiencing any of the following?

  • Tightness during and after training sessions?
  • Loss of power while training, especially as your session progresses?
  • Recurring training-related injuries that limit your time on the road?
  • Inability to generate good sustained speed?
  • A lack of endurance, especially with longer training sessions?
  • A loss of strength or the feeling that you’re getting weaker?
  • Trouble recovering after a training sessions?

If you answered YES to any of the above questions, please keep reading.

My Training Manifest explains what elements you must include when you plan your training program.

The concepts presented in my Training Manifest are built on a solid foundation.  When you build them into your program and commit to them, they will help you become faster, stronger, and more injury resistant.  Using these strategies will give you a peace of mind knowing that you’re optimizing your training time, and getting the most out of your daily workouts.

I wrote my Training Manifest to help my fitness followers better understand the training process, and to focus on what really matters.  The Manifest covers a lot of ground and is more of a summary, as entire books have been written on many of the topics I discuss.  My goal is to help my readers ask better questions about what they’re doing with their training programs.

Be confident that I use the same training concepts on myself as I do with all my private one-on-one clients.  Applying these concepts will systematically improve your speed, strength, and flexibility, and make you more resistant to training-related injuries.

So, you may ask why I’m giving away some of my biggest training secrets — for free?  Because I was blessed to have worked with so many great coaches who shared their best secrets with me, and it only cost me my time and commitment.  And now, its my turn to share them with you.

Back in 2008, I decided to sell my interest in my physical therapy practice so I could share all my experience and knowledge with the endurance world.  I realized that my real passion and talent centered in human sports performance, and I wanted to share this with as many endurance athletes as possible.

Now, I devote all my energy toward helping people excel in their training and racing.

Since October of 2008 I have worked with more than 1,000 endurance athletes as a Body Balance expert, and have helped each of them to progress to the next level.  The Training Manifest enables me to share part of my expertise with a far greater number of endurance athletes — many of whom, for a variety of reasons, I can’t work with on a personal level.  I hope that after reading my Manifest, you too will start asking better and more focused questions about how you can improve your training program.

While entire books have been written on many of the topics I discuss, I felt it better to give condensed summaries of the key areas that lead to success.  The benefit is that you can immediately starting using these ideas to improve your training.   All of the concepts discussed form the basis for developing a solid training program, and are the same elements I use with my private clients.  You must include these concepts if you want to get incredible training and race results every time.

Whether you want to get faster, stronger, and more powerful, or you just want to remain injury free, you must focus on these key areas to improve your training condition.  Take the step today to make your training far more efficient, fun, and effective!

I can’t take full credit for discovering most of the principles mentioned in my Training Manifest.  But …

My endurance sports career started at the ripe old age of nine when I ran 2.25 miles with my dad.  I really did those first few runs just so I could drink some Gatorade.  You see, my dad would only let me have Gatorade if I ran with him.

So that got me started.

That was back in 1973 when Gatorade was the latest cool drink and I had to have some.  Soon, I was hooked on any endurance activity — running, cycling, rowing, and swimming — and I gladly did it without the Gatorade incentive.

My life was soon revolved around rowing, which ultimately lead me to competing on three Olympic Teams (92, 96, and 00), and winning four world championships for the United States.

My passion for endurance sports and the human body did not stop on the water.  I became a licensed physical therapist (Columbia University) in 1991, and practiced (16 of my 18 year career) at two world class hospitals — The Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in NYC, and The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP).

These experiences lead me to a point where I became frustrated hearing clients tell me time and again that their doctors had advised them to give up their sports because of recurring injuries. Equally frustrating was that many patients with chronic training-related injuries failed to respond to traditional medicine.  What I began to realize was that most people didn’t understand key areas of training.

My job now is to educate athletes and share my key training principles with them.

When I left my physical therapy practice, I started my Body Balance business with no customers or income.  Giving up a stable source of income when you have a wife, three kids, mortgages, etc. is quite stressful.  But I was very confident in the powerful training system I had created which had already helped many endurance athletes to succeed on many levels.  Whether they had suffered from chronic training-related injuries, or just wanted to become faster, stronger and more powerful.

Have you ever been told by a doctor to stop your endurance sport and find something else to do?

I can’t tell you how many endurance athletes I’ve seen over two decades of practice that were told by their physicians to give up their sporting activity because of a chronic training pain.  Once we began applying these principled training methods, they completely recovered and returned to their favorite sport — pain-free.

If you’ve ever been told by your doctor to give up the endurance sport you love and didn’t’ apply the concepts discussed, then it’s possible you stopped unnecessarily.  Or, have you spent several months in physical therapy doing rehabilitation, or tried the latest exercise methods — all to no avail?  Maybe you just feel ‘stuck’ and feel like you’re not improving.  Then there is a good chance that you’re skipping one or more of the key areas discussed in the Manifest.

As an endurance athlete, you get a rush when you’re out on the road going as fast as you can.  The reality is no endurance athlete wants to spend all day in the gym doing ineffective training exercises, or focusing on things that don’t produce significant results.   But that’s what many endurance athletes do each and every day when they don’t include these key concepts into their daily routine.

Now, I’m finally sharing the same key training concepts that I use for myself and my private clients. 

You’re probably asking why I would share the same concepts with you?   Well to be honest, I can’t work with that many private clients, and I feel that it is my obligation to share these concepts with as many endurance athletes as possible.  You see, I know how critical it is to be focused on the right things with your training.

When I started training with the best coaches in the world, I started to understand all the mistakes I had been making.  Before I got to the elite level, I was not privy to many of these same concepts.  Some of the concepts I share in the Training Manifest come from my own personal work — things I’ve uncovered — and aren’t common knowledge.

If you have questions like, how can I get rid of my chronic related training pain without spending months in therapy or just quitting the sport?  Or, how can I get the results I want without spending all day doing a bunch of random strengthening and flexibility exercises that never seem to create positive results?  While I strongly recommend that clients with chronic training-related injuries seek out medical professionals who have personal experience and actually participate in endurance sports, using the concepts in my Training Manifest will help you start training longer, going faster, and avoiding injuries.

The Training Manifest will help you:

  • Increase your strength in a more balanced way
  • Understand how to improve your overall strength and endurance
  • Create more power when you’re out on the road
  • Efficiently improve your flexibility
  • Become more injury resistant
  • Feel stronger during training

Applying these concepts to your training program will help organize your training into a more systemic approach.  They are the same concepts I use with private clients, such as Eric Esposito — a typical endurance who was suffering from chronic training related pain in his back that failed to get better following nine months of physical therapy.

The fact is the treatment he received failed to include some of the key concepts covered in my Training Manifest.  Because of this, his results were inconsistent and he was unable to return to rowing without moderate pain.

Eric talks below about how he benefited from my Body Balance Evaluation Process (discussed in the Training Manifest) and how it changed his rowing career options.  Before he went through the process, he had no options.  Now — he’s being recruited by top collegiate rowing programs!

I am a Body Balance Believer!

High School Sculler Overcomes Months of

Chronic Low Back Pain After Body Balance Evaluation.

As a junior sculler, I struggled with back pain through the fall season of 2011.  It soon began affecting my performance on and off the water.  After several trips to the orthopedist and several months of physical therapy, I was still having back pain. With the approaching spring season, the lack of results was extremely frustrating.  My coach attended one of Coach Kaehler’s 2-Day Body Balance Clinics for coaches and rowers, and thought that he (Coach K) could help me.

I went to see Coach K in February, for one visit, where he identified my strength and flexibility deficiencies.  After about six weeks of doing the individualized “Body Balance” corrective exercise program I received on that first visit, I began to row, again, with much less pain. I kept up my exercises through the spring season, and by May, I was rowing pain free.

I saw Coach K, again, at the end of May, and we added erging and strength training into my program.  

By the end of June, I had a new 2k PR on the erg and in July, my quad earned a gold medal at Club Nationals. Coach K’s Body Balance program really does work.

-Eric Esposito, RI

The concepts discussed in the Training Manifest apply to all endurance athletes including runner, triathletes, cyclists, swimmers, and rowers.  By applying these simple but powerful concepts, I’ve been able to help many triathletes, runners, cyclist and even swimmers not only improve their performance, but also in many cases return to pain-free training.

Using an exercise system (Body Balance process) that’s based on many of the key areas discussed in the Manifest, will always lead to consistent improvement.

In 2007-08, I had the opportunity to work with the Men’s National Rowing Team as they prepared for the summer Olympics in Beijing.  The first step in working with the team was to test each and every athlete using my Body Balance Evaluation Process (whole-body strength and flexibility assessment).

In a short period of time (six weeks), training-related injuries began to disappear while individual performances quickly improved.

The Training Manifest helps you focus on what matters most for your training program.  When you apply these key training elements, you’ll begin to make changes that you never thought were possible.

“This past year, I along with the entire US Olympic Men’s Heavyweight Sweep Team, worked with Bob on strength and conditioning as well as his Body Balance Process.  I found Bob’s knowledge of the sport of rowing, biomechanics, physiology, and his overall demeanor to be most impressive.  Bob’s program helped improve my power and mechanic coordination. And as a result, I was able to pull a personal best on my 2k erg score this year — and I did so while wearing a V02 mask.  

Obviously it is up to you to put in the work and fulfill your end of the bargain, but in terms of teachers — Bob is one of the best.”

Tyler Winklevoss
2008 US Olympic Team
Finalist Men’s Pair (6th) in Beijing

If you’re looking for a document that cuts out all the guess work, gets right to the point, and lets you know what the critical components of training are, then you’ll want to get my Training Manifest.

If you think reaching your true training potential is going to be easy, or that you can ‘wing-it’, then the Training Manifest is not for you.  Do not waste your time downloading it if you believe you can get top results without much effort, or that you can make training up as you go along.

This document will save you lots of time and effort, and help you focus on what really matters.

When you apply these ideas results will improve!

Do YOU Feel Like You Are Doing a Bunch of Random Strength Training Exercises and Not Getting The Results You Want?

The Training Manifest will help you to:

  • Get laser focused on what’s truly important when it comes to training
  • Better integrate the training elements that best suit your current needs
  • Learn some of the key training principles that all successful training programs use
  • Be more efficient with your training
  • Properly Integrate rest periods and apply basic nutrition to your life


Who is the Training Manifest for?

I hate to sound so direct, but you need to hear the truth about what really matters, and I just want to make sure that you’re the right person to download the Training Manifest.

If you’re not serious about training, or taking care of your body in a disciplined manner, then this document is not for you.  If your goals are to lose a few pounds, or tone your arms, you’d be better off heading to the salon or gym than reading my Manifest.

This document is for endurance athletes who are dead serious about their training, and want to know how to properly develop their bodies.  It’s geared to those endurance athletes who understand that the road to success requires a lot of commitment and perseverance.

Dedicated to Making You Faster, Stronger, and More Injury Resistant!

Coach Kaehler

P.S. Watch for my upcoming document on basic self-assessment techniques.   These simple tests will give you a general idea of your current condition.




Acceleration and Deceleration in Rowing – Feature Article

March 7, 2011

Don’t Forget your Springs when you’re Training your Engine and Pump.

By Bob Kaehler MSPT,CSCS

Rowing, like all sports, involves acceleration and deceleration of the body.   To make this happen, our muscles assume the role of springs – they apply and absorb force to a given object.   If we think of our body as a car, then our muscular system would be our engine and shock absorbers, our cardiovascular system would provide our fuel, and our bones, ligaments and tendons would serve as our frame.  Endurance training tends to focus primarily on improving our engines and fuel – rightly so.  However, the flip-side of this kind of conditioning is that we often neglect our shock absorbers.   And weakness in the shock absorbers can then result in injuries to the frame.

Regardless of the activity, the majority of sports-related injuries occur at the peak points of acceleration or deceleration of the body.  The forces required to control these sudden changes in body momentum can create an overwhelming stress to the frame.  If your springs (muscle strength) are too weak to absorb to these forces, then your frame gets damaged.  Based on the magnitude and repetition of the stresses involved, frame injuries could include joint pain (spine or extremities), stress or complete fractures, ruptured tendons or ligaments, and tendonitis.    While the magnitude of acceleration and deceleration in a rowing stroke might not compare to that of cutting sports like football or basketball, typical rowing workouts do involve a high number repetitions performed at lower magnitudes of force.  And, though more complete fractures or torn ligaments occur with higher magnitude sports, we do observe more overuse joint pain and spine-related injuries as well as stress fractures (ribs) and tendinosis issues in lower magnitude, higher repetitions sports like rowing.  Therefore improving spring strength is essential to reducing risk-of-injury in both types of repetition sports.

Athletes in all sports can improve their base level of strength by performing that particular activity.  Sometimes however, this is not enough to prevent injury to the frame.  Additional training – sport-specific or resistance work — may be required to improve spring strength to an appropriate level.  Springs, like the engine and fuel, must receive enough weekly stimuli to ensure appropriate strength to tolerate training volume and intensities.  The need for additional strength becomes more critical as training intensity and volume increase.  When we start to see training injuries such as low back pain, rib stress reactions / fractures, or other joint pain, there is a strong chance that part of this is due to insufficient strength in the shocks.

In rowing, the majority of training volume is done at lower ratings (22spm or lower), so the amount of stress in the shock is lower, while the volume is larger. And while the absolute strength required to control momentum at lower rating is less than at higher ratings, the volume is much greater, so the need for good strength-endurance is also important.  The largest changes in body momentum occur at the catch (acceleration) and the finish (deceleration), and the magnitude increases as the rating goes up.  By adding some extra sessions of power training at higher rates (24-28spm), we can improve the strength of the muscles used to help control body momentum.   One session of higher rate training (typical weekly AT session) may not be enough to provide the necessary improvement in spring strength.

In racing season, there tends to be a larger volume of higher rating work on a weekly basis.  In the off-season, however, there is a significant reduction in this type of work.  Anaerobic threshold work is usually done at the 24-30SPM range.  If you are only doing this type of work once a week, add a few extra sessions of higher rating work to keep your spring strength properly stressed.    One suggestion would be to add in one or two sessions of burst work (8-10 strokes) at the 24-30 range.  This can be done within a steady state workout, with long rest intervals between bursts.  The rest intervals should be long enough that the steady state HR is not altered during a steady state session.  If you strength train on land, try including a power session either on the erg or water, that coincides with your strength workout.   Work to rest ratios will depend upon your goals for that session and time of year.

Body control is essential to achieving success in any sport.  Having a balanced training program that also addresses your strength requirements will help you enjoy steady athletic improvement and reduce your risk of training-related injuries.

Rowing News – November Article – Cram Session

November 15, 2010

Build strength, endurance, and power by combining your weights and water workouts.
By Bob Kaehler

While we all want to be stronger and faster, finding time to add strength training into your current rowing program is a common problem. One option is to combine your strength training and rowing into one session. Choosing which comes first depends on your goals for the workout. Some prefer rowing after their muscles are already fatigued from a strength-training session. Others will want to row while they are fresh. And there will be some who are fine alternating which comes first.
Getting your strength-training session in before you row is a great way to warm up. It also helps improve your strength and flexibility. Circuit training with light (10 to 30 percent of body weight) to moderate (30 to 65 percent) weight is an excellent way to stress the neuromuscular system without over taxing it just before a session on the water or erg. Strength training using heavier resistance (80 percent of body weight) puts greater stress on the neuromuscular system, which can impede proper rowing technique. Plan on getting your row out of the way first if you are going to be combining a heavy strength-training session with a paddle.
A short to moderate (20- to 40-minute) strength-training session improves muscular endurance, strength, and power under conditions of fatigue. Training your muscles when fatigued is an excellent way to improve muscular endurance while simulating end-of-race conditions. Make sure you factor in your level of fatigue when choosing the resistance for a particular session. I recommend a routine that features light to moderate weights following a row; lifting heavy weights immediately after a rowing session increases the risk of injury. But if you absolutely must combine heavy weights with a session on the water, select resistance levels that are less than what you would do when fresh.
For those who have never combined rowing and strength training together in one session, I recommend giving your body eight to 12 weeks to adjust. Start by rowing for 25 to 30 minutes and then lifting for 20-25-minutes, or vice versa. It’s up to you what you do first, but if you’re new to strength training, consider beginning with it. If you are resuming training after a layoff, try to keep the total combined strength and rowing session to no more than 30 or 40 minutes.  Remember when starting out to choose strength exercises that you are familiar with and keep the load on the lower side (10 to 30 percent of body weight). More experienced athletes can increase the volume based on their current training programs and levels of fitness.
Performing at your best requires that you train both the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems.  Adding land-based strength training to your current program helps to improve the strength and power of your rowing stroke.  The research shows that gains in strength occur when strength training and endurance sports training sessions are combined.   Regardless of the net effect on your rowing performance, combining strength-training and rowing sessions is an excellent way to improve strength, endurance, and power.

Rowing News – October Article – A Balanced Approach

October 15, 2010

“When working your core, remember to pay attention to your posterior muscles”

By Bob Kaehler, MSPT, CSCS

If your training program includes core exercises, make sure you also incorporate posterior core work to keep your routine balanced. With core training focusing largely on the abdominal and anterior trunk musculature, the posterior muscles tend to get less attention. These include the thoracic and lumbar paraspinal muscles—muscles on either side of the spine—the glutes, and the hamstrings. Each of these groups play an important role in helping to control the spine when the upper and/or lower extremities resist against it, with or without movement and with or without external weight.
The posterior-trunk, hip, and lower-extremity musculature create an extension moment (a tendency to extend or arch the low back) around the lumbar spine when these muscles are contracting.   This counteracts the flexion moment (curling of the spine), which is created by the anterior muscle groups of the core. Posterior core exercises fall into four categories: fixed trunk with moving legs; fixed legs with moving trunk, where arms and legs are fixed; and with all extremities moving.
Fixed trunk with moving legs exercises include prone leg lifts, which can be done while lying prone (on the stomach) over an exercise ball, on a bench with your waist at the edge and feet on the floor, or on the floor. The arms are fixed either on the floor or on the edges of the bench and the legs are raised off the floor to the ideal height until the body is in at least a straight line (standing position) or the feet are slightly higher than the hips.  Fixed legs moving trunk exercises are done just as they sound: by fixing the legs and moving the trunk. Readers will recognize these as back extensions. Exercises include straight-leg dead lifts and back extensions. Back extensions are done on a chair, hyperextension machine, exercise ball, or on the floor. In each case, the feet are fixed to a solid object.
Because the hands are free, you can easily add resistance to this category of exercises. Exercises in which all four extremities are moving include the Superman exercise, where you lie on your stomach, on the floor or atop an exercise ball, and lift your arms and legs off the floor together. This category allows you to add resistance to all four extremities at once for increased resistance. The fourth and final category of exercises has all four extremities fixed on the floor. A posterior plank or bridge is a common exercise here. Start by lying in a hook position with your knees bent-up, feet flat on the floor, and your arms at your sides, palms down. Once you have set your starting position, raise your hips off the floor until your shoulders, hips, and knees are in a straight line. For an added challenge, do these exercises with your feet placed atop an exercise ball instead of the floor.
While there are many different core exercises, you should aim for as much variety in your program as possible. This means choosing exercises from as many categories as you can. The goal of posterior-core strengthening is to make the spine the stability point when you are moving the extremities, hips, and trunk around it. By improving strength and control around your spine, you will not only improve your rowing performance but also help reduce the risk of injury. When adding resistance to the hands or feet, make sure that you are able to keep the spine under control. Too much resistance can lead to poor technique and spine positioning.

Rowing News – September Article – Core Beliefs

September 22, 2010

To increase power and reduce the risk of injury, focus on your trunk strength.
By Bob Kaehler, MSPT, CSCS

Are you incorporating core- or trunk-strengthening exercises into your training program? And if so, what are you actually trying to accomplish with them? Your body’s core consists of the musculature around the trunk that controls anterior, posterior, and lateral forces placed through the spine when rowing, lifting, exercising, or performing other body movements. Making the trunk or core the point of stability for the legs and arms to work from is key to improving your rowing power and helps reduce the risk of low-back injury.
There are four categories of core exercises: fixed trunk with moving legs; fixed legs with moving trunk; fixed arms and legs; and all extremities moving. We can then break down each category according to how the trunk is positioned to the work or gravity (anterior, posterior, standing, lateral, etc) and how the work is applied to the trunk. Improving trunk strength is one way to increase rowing power, and using exercises from each of the above categories will help you develop balanced trunk strength. (Many training programs focus solely on improving anterior trunk strength.)
The most common anterior trunk strengthening exercises feature fixed legs and a moving trunk. These include: sit-ups and oblique twists with fixed feet; crunches performed on the floor; crunches performed with an exercise ball; and crunches performed with a core wheel (knees or feet fixed with trunk moving). You can also strengthen the anterior trunk by fixing the upper body (no movement either on the ground or by holding onto a pull-up bar or another solid object on the floor). These exercises include: knees to elbows (on the floor or from a pull-up bar); single or double leg lifts off the floor; stationary bike exercises; and using a power wheel attached to the feet.
Another way to help strengthen the anterior trunk is to fix all four extremities on the floor, either by holding a front plank or by doing a push-up. These types of movements tend to be isometric but are excellent at teaching spine control. Finally, you can also perform exercises where all four extremities are moving, such as scullers or v-ups, or by touching both hands and feet together when lying on your back. These are great for coordination and require good abdominal balance. Avoid doing only your favorite abdominal exercises and focus on a more balanced approach to your anterior trunk strengthening program—especially if you are not sure of your anterior trunk strength balance. Using a blend of exercises from each of the four categories is a good way to cover your bases. Because the abdominals are postural muscles, they are designed to tolerate a higher volume of repetitions without fatigue (3 x 25 reps or more) than your extremities can take. When working on your abdominal muscle groups, focus on improving your endurance by using higher reps rather than going for maximum strength. In addition, abdominal muscles recover from strength training faster the extremities so they can be trained daily with less concern of overtraining.
A comprehensive program to strengthen your trunk by using core exercises must also include movements that work on the posterior and lateral trunk as well. Finding a good balance between anterior, posterior, and lateral trunk strength is essential to reduce the risk of injury while at the same time improving your rowing power and strength.

RN August Article – Squats and Deadlifts are similar but different

August 29, 2010

By Bob Kaehler MSPT, CSCS

Squats and deadlifts are common lifting techniques used to help improve rowing strength and power.   While they look similar in appearance, recent research has shown that back squats and the dead lift recruit muscles around the hips, knees and trunk in different ways.   The squat tends to be a synergistic or simultaneous movement of the hips, knees and trunk, whereas the deadlift is a sequential or segmented movement.   Using all three of these lifts may be a more inclusive way to develop complete rowing power; however certain physical conditions may exclude use of one or all of these techniques.

The back squat is a commonly used strength training technique to help improve rowing power and it helps develop strength in the glutes, quads and hamstrings and to a lesser extent in the low back and abdominal muscles.   A back squat is done by placing the bar behind the neck at the C7 vertebral level securing the bar with the hands.   The weight is lowered to the desired depth (hole) and returned to the starting position.  Hip and knee angles change equally, both working at similar rates, throughout the entire upward movement of the squat, with little change in trunk angle (body) during the entire lift.  The squat is an excellent simultaneous exercise and it develops quad, glute and hamstring strength with little strain placed on the low back.   This technique is used by athletes returning from, or those with previous back conditions because of the reduced force placed on the low back, it does however it does tend to have increased knee joint pressure because of the vertical trunk position.  Using a more vertical trunk position does make it more difficult to get the thighs below 90 degrees (parallel to the floor) without significant knee pressure.

There are two basic strategies for deadlifts (lifting weight off the ground), the leg-lift method and the back-lift method.  The leg-lift deadlift is done in a synergistic way where by the hips and knees are used together through the entire lift, like in the back squat.  This technique requires greater knee flexion (bend) which allows the lifter to keep the trunk in a relatively straight (vertical) position when performing the lift.  This technique does place more stress on the knees however there is a reduction in the force placed through the low back.   The back-lift is method is broken up into three segments based on dominant joint action; knee extension, hip extension, and knee/hip extension.   The first part of the lift is done by driving the hips upward  without any trunk movement and is done by extending the knees, then the hips begin to extend which forces the trunk to come upright, and then both the hips and knees come together to complete the movement which is  an upright standing position.   This technique places greater force on the low back and less strain on the knees.   When doing a deadlift with heavier loads (<80% 1RM) the back method appears to be the most commonly used technique.   Both methods are used to lift weight off the floor and each distributes forces to the low back and knees in different proportions.

Squats and deadlifts are excellent strength training techniques and they can help improve your rowing strength and power.   Deciding which areas of the body you want to strengthen will help you choose the best lift technique.   If you want to strengthen the quads, glutes and hamstrings but want to place minimal stress on the low back then use the leg- lift deadlift and the back squat.  For those who want to improve the strength of the low back while still working the quads, glutes and hamstrings then the back-lift deadlift is a good choice.   If you have a pre-existing low back or knee dysfunction choosing the appropriate lift will help you reduce the risk of re-injuring that area.  Make sure to consult with a medical professional if you are strength training especially if you have a current or pre-existing musculoskeletal injury, and ensure you are using the proper lifting technique by receiving instruction from a professional lifting coach.

Rowing News – July Issue: Stretch Yourself – When selecting a stretching routine, consider the work ahead of you.

July 2, 2010

Everyone knows that stretching is an essential part of training, but for many people, their knowledge of the subject ends there. Is it best to stretch before or after training? How long should a stretch be held? These are simple but fundamental questions that every athlete should be able to answer. Here’s a hint: It all depends on the type of stretching you’re doing and what you want to accomplish.
Athletes have two unassisted stretching methods to improve flexibility: static and ballistic. Static stretching is the most common method for improving muscle flexibility; ballistic stretching helps improve mobility. Selecting a technique depends on whether you are just warming up or are looking for more permanent changes in your flexibility. You also need to consider the intensity of the activity taking place immediately following your stretching routine.
To perform a static stretch, which is most commonly used as part of a warm-up routine, isolate a muscle group or groups and apply a passive hold with multiple repetitions. Typical holds last between three to five seconds and are repeated five to 10 times.  Longer-duration holds of 30 to 60 seconds are better performed away from training and are best suited to those looking to make permanent changes in joint flexibility. Long-duration stretching is done daily for five minutes or longer per extremity and performed on both sides of the body. Recent studies have found that long-duration stretching significantly reduces maximum strength. Because of this, it makes more sense to do short-duration stretches prior to hard training or racing to ensure that your peak muscle performance is not compromised. Save the longer stretches for less intense training sessions or another time altogether.
Ballistic stretching is another self-stretching method that athletes use prior to training and competition. It’s practiced by moving in and out of the hold position in 1:1-second cycles for one minute. The research has shown that while the ballistic method is not as effective as the static technique in increasing flexibility, it does not negatively affect maximum strength and is better before maximum-effort bouts of exercise. One potential drawback, however, is that it is more likely to produce muscle soreness than static stretching.
Stretching is used as a warm-up activity to help improve athletic performance, reduce the risk of injury, and help reduce post-exercise muscle soreness. It can also be used to create long-term adaptations in joint flexibility. Regardless of your stretching method of choice, though, be sure to increase your core temperature by performing a cardiovascular exercise such as running, biking, or erging five to 10 minutes beforehand. Daily sessions of long-duration stretching (30 to 60 seconds) have been shown to induce more permanent changes in flexibility and are done away from maximal-effort bouts, while short-duration (three to five seconds of up to 10 reps) or ballistic stretches are better suited as a warm up before aggressive training.
When you are looking to create permanent changes in joint range of motion, make sure you are stretching daily—several times per day if possible—and are willing to make it a part of your normal routine for months or even years.  Short-duration stretches are great for warming your body up, but keep in mind that the changes to your joint range of motion are temporary.

Rowing News April Article – Check Yourself

March 11, 2010

There are two ways to monitor how hard you’re working, and neither tells the whole story.

By Bob Kaehler

Looking for an effective way to measure proper intensity levels while training?  Coaches use two different methods to keep tabs on their athletes: heart rate monitors and a combination of speed, wattage, and split averages.  Both methods have certain inherent advantages and have been used to great effect by world-class coaches and athletes.  Regardless of the one you use, it is important that you consider additional external and internal factors which could affect actual intensity levels.

Heart-rate monitors are a popular method for tracking intensity levels during a training session.  But knowing your current maximum heart rate is essential if you want to train effectively.  Karvonen’s formula (220- age) is often used to establish maximum heart rate, but can be 15 beats or more per minute above or below your actual maximum heart rate.   A better way to establish  maximum heart rate is through a step test guided by a physiologist’s plan, or by rowing a 2,000-meter test.   After accurately measuring maximum heart rate, you can then set correct heart-rate training zones.  Many coaches and physiologists break training intensity into a minimum of three levels or zones: easy work (65-80 percent of max heart rate), threshold work (88-92 percent of max), and interval work (98-100 percent of max).  Before you begin training with heart-rate monitors and zone targets, however, you’ll need to consider a slew of other factors.

External environmental conditions such as air temperature, humidity, wind, and even the amount of clothes you wear can affect your heart rate.  Internal conditions such as how well hydrated you are before and during your workout can also play a role.  This is why it is so important to remain properly hydrated when training.  Cardiac drift, the natural tendency for one’s heart rate to creep upward as training progresses, must also be considered during training sessions lasting longer than 30 minutes.  The likelihood of cardiac drift occurring in shorter workouts can increase if the external and/or internal conditions are not ideal before or during your training session.  If this happens, you may need to reduce your training intensity to keep the heart rate within the desired zone.

Some athletes and coaches, meanwhile, prefer measuring speed, wattage, and average splits to determine workout intensity.  This method works particularly well when training indoors on rowing machines, where conditions remain consistent.  Power and speed measurements can be taken accurately, free of external factors such as wind speed, water current, and air and water temperatures.   When training outdoors, these external conditions can influence speed and therefore must be taken into proper consideration when assessing the intensity of a particular workout.  Periodic testing, such as a 2,000-meter-or 6000-meter test, is often used to set training speeds and average splits.  Using these benchmarking tools will allow you to find your appropriate pace and can be an effective way to monitor specific intensities for a given training session.

Heart-rate monitors may be a better choice for self-coached athletes versus the speed, wattage, and split average method, which is best conducted under the guidance of a coach who can continuously regulate intensity levels based on the changing conditions and external factors.  Regardless of which method you choose to determine intensity levels for training, pay attention to the conditions within your control by staying properly hydrated, using fans when indoors, and wearing the appropriate workout gear.

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