Rowing and Sport Science

General discussion on Training. How to get better on your erg, how to use your erg to get better at another sport, or anything else about improving your abilities.

Rowing and Sport Science

Postby RowingScience » July 6th, 2006, 1:46 am

I have enjoyed a number of the threads on this board for a while now.

I thought that I would mention a new weblog "Rowing Science" located at the (not so properly named) :

http://daily-erg-workout.blogspot.com

A nice discussion has crept up in the comments on "What if Lance Armstrong Could Row", started on the UK Concept 2 Forums.

Daily posts on issues of rowing and sport science will be available and might provide food for thought on this forum so I hope that it can be of mutual benefit.
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Postby Carl Henrik » July 6th, 2006, 6:13 am

Surely this is not the first time for the discussion about Lance being a rower.

A few points:

Cycling wattages does not compare well to rowing wattages and I will explain why:

-During racing you have to add 50w to erging scores for the energy going up and down the slide.

- Looking at the whole body, 90% of the effort is delivered through 40 % of the time. In cycling you are always rather close to the mean power output, rendering more physiological and mechanical efficincy.

-Looking at just parts of the body for local overloads the rower for example uses his quads for only 25% of a stroke cycle. Meaning he must push harder and create an inefficient overload. The cyclist should be at 30% + .

-The cadence rowing is also only about a third of cycling, meaning still more deviation from the mean output and physiological inefficiencies.

- The rower has to sustain the power produced over more joints meaning inneficiency. Try standing with straight or bent arms holding 100kg over your head. This costs zero energy mechanically. But it sure would make you tired physiologically. Compare this to rowing where you have to sustain a 250kg squat from the legs with your back and arms.

- The pedaling motion in cycling is a motion we are born to do (we can do it before we can even walk), rowing is not. So very likely we are "highly optimized for cycling wattages".

- Efficiencies has been calculated as 18% vs 23%. Taking 500 cycling watts to 391 rowing, but then there are those physiological inefficiencies above that has not been addressed in those numbers.

If you can't look at Lance's cycling wattages to get a hint at his rowing capacity you can try to look at Lances physiology. It's obvious he would have to compete in the lwt division to have a chance, given his relatively low VO2 max, and abysmal anaerobic capacity, especially in his upper body. He does not have the efficiency gains from length needed in the hwt division either. So the question should be how Lance would stack up against the best lwt rowers.

He could probably develop just as good a heart for rowing (special pressure demands) as the best lwt rower, but suffers from the wrong body proportions. My guess is that if he trained he could go 6:15 or below, but sub 6:05? Very doubtful.

I would have more hopes in a 75kg x-country skier with 7L VO2max.
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Postby johnlvs2run » July 6th, 2006, 10:31 am

Carl Henrik wrote:he would have to compete in the lwt division to have a chance, given his relatively low VO2 max, and abysmal anaerobic capacity, especially in his upper body.


You must be referring to his absolute vo2 max, not per weight.

Where did you find his anaerobic capacity?
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Postby remador » July 6th, 2006, 11:27 am

Carl,

Great analysis!

I would add something more: cyclists do not have breathing constraints as rowers... that's why when I run or cycle a bit, I feel 'free like a bird'... but, this is hardly a bad thing; besides making you become harder, it strengthens your heart as no other endurance sport does (because of chest compression during the drive).

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But wait, there's more....

Postby RowingScience » July 13th, 2006, 1:59 pm

I would love to hear more information from Mr. Henrik, because the data I have does not agree with his assessment of Lance's VO2 and anaerobic abilities. I have posted my detailed discussion (rebuttal?) on the Rowing Science blog:

http://daily-erg-workout.blogspot.com

I do think that Mr. Henrik does raise several good points - nice to see because when I originally floated this idea, that was wat I was looking for.[/url]
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Postby tomhz » July 13th, 2006, 3:31 pm

Carl Henrik wrote:He could probably develop just as good a heart for rowing (special pressure demands) as the best lwt rower, but suffers from the wrong body proportions. My guess is that if he trained he could go 6:15 or below, but sub 6:05? Very doubtful.

I would have more hopes in a 75kg x-country skier with 7L VO2max.


Nice post Carl,

In my opinion you are even optimistic about Lance potential rowing performance. I don't think he could do 6:15, only 10 sec slower than a world class LWT. I would count him in for 6:20-6:25 after a few months specific training.

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Postby Carl Henrik » July 13th, 2006, 5:37 pm

Rowing Science,

I will post a response here (through editing this post) when I feel I have put my thoughts down well. Right now it's too late in evening to do the discussion justice, so I'll be posting tomorrow.

Edit:
Since there has been a few posts since I wrote this I will now put my response below.
Last edited by Carl Henrik on July 14th, 2006, 8:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby LateinEarlyOut » July 13th, 2006, 8:17 pm

Lance's 2k score can be estimated fairly well using this formula.

"Klusiewicz, A. Faff, J.
Title Indirect methods of estimating maximal oxygen uptake on the rowing ergometer.

male (VO2 = 1.1328+0.0113W) and female (VO2 = 0.6652+0.0128W) athletes.
VO2max (1.min-1) in the males = 1.682+0.0097 WM; VO2max (1.min-1) in the females = 1.631+0.0088 WM."

If we use a VO2 Max number of 6.2 l/min we get 448 watts to 465 watts for a 2k. In split that works out to 1:32-1:31. That sounds like a close to 6 minute 2k score from a guy who is very similar to a lightweight in body size and weight.

That actually makes a lot of sense considering that several former lightweight rowers have switched to cycling and done well. I would expect cyclists with large absolute VO2 to be able to pull good lightweight erg scores with some training.

VO2 is not really apples and oranges, it is more like different kinds of apples. It is true that when running people tend to get higher numbers on VO2 test than say biking or rowing, but in well trained bikers and rowers this difference is very small. So the VO2 from cycling would probably tend to be fairly accurate for rowing. It would be just about developing Lance's motor program to effectivily take a ergometer stroke, which in reality is not that hard compared to a real rowing stroke in a boat.
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Lance's 2K

Postby RowingScience » July 13th, 2006, 9:44 pm

Thanks for the comment on the blog...if you have more info on that article, I'd love to see it.
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Postby GeorgeD » July 13th, 2006, 10:07 pm

LateinEarlyOut wrote:Lance's 2k score can be estimated fairly well using this formula.

....................................


VO2 is not really apples and oranges, it is more like different kinds of apples. It is true that when running people tend to get higher numbers on VO2 test than say biking or rowing, but in well trained bikers and rowers this difference is very small. So the VO2 from cycling would probably tend to be fairly accurate for rowing. It would be just about developing Lance's motor program to effectivily take a ergometer stroke, which in reality is not that hard compared to a real rowing stroke in a boat.


First of all excuse me for editing out the middle portion of the post is was just for the sake of space not out of disagreement.

I think it is an oversimplification to say that all we have to do is teach Lance the stroke. I think that is would take a fair bit of time for the body to develop those energy pathways required by the 'rowing' muscles for Lance to churn out a decent 2k time comensurate with his Vo2max performance on a bike.

I tend to agree with the following:

2. The Principle of Specificity

I think it is safe to say that the media and shoe makers have combined to confuse many young and older athletes about the Principle of Specificity. Nike, and all the folks who sell exercise equipment would like you to believe that "Cross-training" is a key to peak performance. The concept sells more sports shoes and exercise machines, but is it true? Well, no. Any sport you pursue places highly specific demands on your body in at least two major ways. First, the exercise will have a very specific pattern of joint and muscle coordination. For a rower, there is absolutely no substitute for rowing. Ditto for swimming. Even when we try to duplicate the basic movement of a sports skill with strength training exercises, the transfer of increased strength to the actual sports movement is often small or absent. In the worst case this type of training can detract from performance of the real skill due to disruption of technique. Second, the exercise will place high metabolic demands on a very specific group of muscles. For example, running and cross-country skiing appear to involve many of the same muscles, used in a similar movement pattern. Yet, several research studies have demonstrated that there is NO relationship between VO2 max measured by treadmill running and VO2 max measured by cross country skiing in a group of elite-trained skiers. In contrast, there is a strong relationship between on snow skiing and performance on a skiing specific test such as the douple poling
test.
A high endurance capacity in a specific sport requires both 1) high oxygen delivery (cardiac output) and 2) high local blood flow and mitochondrial density in the precise muscles used. The only way to optimally develop the second component of endurance is to train those exact muscles by doing your sport! Copyright © 1996 Stephen Seiler. All Rights Reserved


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Specificity

Postby RowingScience » July 14th, 2006, 12:17 am

Couldn't agree more - well said. That is why if you read Coyle's Book "Lance Armstorng's War" you'll see he mentions that elite cyclists who refuse to walk anywhere can get winded walking up the stairs - I'll assume he's exaggerating a little here but the point is there. I do know most could not handle going for much of a run.

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Postby LateinEarlyOut » July 14th, 2006, 1:33 am

GeorgeD-When developing Lance's motor program relating to rowing and more specifically to him rowing at 2k pace it would be impossible to not train his energy systems. It takes energy to erg. To develop a good motor program that will work effectively you must training in situations that are similar to those that you will compete in. It is not as though that when you are working on his stoke that you would not also be developing sport specific physiological adaptations.

For instance, if I taught Lance how to row a decent erg stroke but we only did it at low pressure and rates then I would not have developed him properly for his 2k. For Lance's physiological and motor programs to be properly adapted for him to perform at a high level of his potential he would have to train and be able to perform at and around race pace for significant periods of time.

Learning of technique is somewhat velocity specific as are physiological adaptations. So I am not questioning the principle of specificity, I am supporting it.
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Lance and specificity

Postby RowingScience » July 14th, 2006, 1:40 am

OK, you would develop him through trainign and teaching - but don't forget - we began this comparing his physiology developed after many years of cycling to his rowing potential.

Consider the article quoted in the post I made today on the blog - which showed huge improvements for Lance - and that was before ll the tours he won...you just can't get that adaptaion without years of training - which wouldn't come from teaching him to row. He can be in my 8+ for sure...but I doubt he'd come close to reaching the potential he has in rowing - that is the potential performance had he begun training many years ago.
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Re: Lance and specificity

Postby ragiarn » July 14th, 2006, 7:04 am

RowingScience wrote:OK, you would develop him through trainign and teaching - but don't forget - we began this comparing his physiology developed after many years of cycling to his rowing potential.

Consider the article quoted in the post I made today on the blog - which showed huge improvements for Lance - and that was before ll the tours he won...you just can't get that adaptaion without years of training - which wouldn't come from teaching him to row. He can be in my 8+ for sure...but I doubt he'd come close to reaching the potential he has in rowing - that is the potential performance had he begun training many years ago.


This is an interesting discusssion but I think that the point that everyone seems to be missing is the fact that perhaps 90% of the power generated for cycling is from the legs and hips and the upper body muscles other than those associated with breathing. are not very well developed. In a cyclist and in particular a good climber any extra upper body mass is a liability.

If you follow the Tour De France you will have realized that the winner of the flat stages, namely the sprinters, are at the backof the peloton once the race hits the mountain stages.

While Lance has a tremendous Aerobic and Anaerobic capacity it would probably take several years of re-training his upper body to be able to reach his rowing potential.

On the other hand what would happen if we were to take the most accomplished light weight world class rower, put him on a bike and ask him to do a single stage of the Tour up the Alp D'Huez? With all due respect I doubt that he would even finish the stage.

I am sure that if Lance put in the same effort into rowing that he has for cycling, and for as many years he would probably be amongst the elite of the rowing community. He had been racing biycles for at least 10 years before he won his first Tour De France. It took him 10 years to reach his full potential and the real wonder is that he was able to maintain that level of potential for a full 7 years.

I have not looked at the world records for rowing recently but as I recall the fastest rowers are in their mid-20's to early 30's. Which indicates that they probably have been rowing quite a few years before they reached their higest potential.

When we compare cyclists to rowers we are trying to compare apples to oranges. Specificity of training is what seperates athletes.
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Postby Carl Henrik » July 14th, 2006, 8:18 am

The points that were being discussed was my claim that Lance Armstrong has a "relatively low VO2 max, and abysmal anaerobic capacity". This should be read in the context of the comparison that was made to the rowers who are internationally best, like Lance himself is in cycling.

Lance's absolute VO2 max.
On Lance Armstrongs website you can read his relative V02 max is 83.8 ml/kg. This is very probably his best value ever achieved.

In order to get Lance's absolute VO2 max we could just multiply by his weight. So what was his weight during the test which gave him his highest VO2 to weight ratio ever? Meaning the test which gave him his lowest weight to VO2 value ever. I think it's a safe guess that Lance was unusually light at this point.

Rowing Science writes about Lance's absolute VO2Max:
"it works out to 6.285 L/min".

At Cycling Hall Of Fame one can read about Lance:
-"He turned pro after the Olympics in 1992. His height is 5’10½” (179 cm) and racing weight was 158-165 pounds (72-75 kg)"

75*83.8 = 6.285.
Did Rowing Science choose 75kg to "work things out"?

Continuing reading Cycling Hall Of Fame:
-"After the cancer, however, his body dropped most of its muscle mass. Through training, Armstrong further streamlined his body and rebuilt himself into a Tour de France contender. His weight after the rebuild was 15 pounds (7 kg) less than his racing weight prior to the cancer."

This would have Lance at a 68 - 65kg!

The articles linked by Rowing Science also says that after the cancer Lance's weight was around 70kg and VO2 6l/min. And that before that he was normally in the 5.56 l/min to 5.82 l/min range, but had a value of 6.1 l/min during racing sesaon 1993.

If Lances 83.8 was achieved at 68kg it would have Lance's VO2 at 5698ml/min. This is in line with "the pack" of internationally competing lightweight rowers, but not at the top. Even if Lance weighed 72kg it mean he was just at 6.0 l/min, which is the same as the highest values from lwt rowers. It is way below the highest results reported for heavyweight rowers, hovering over 7000 ml/min with Sir Matthew Clive Pinsent in the top spot with 8.5l/min according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Pinsent.




Lance's anaerobic capacity

I agree my saying that Lance has an abysmal anaerobic capacity is a bit harsh. Too many times, though, I've met the attitude that rowing does not demand exceptional pshysiology. The anaerobic energy is proportional to muscle mass, but physological efficiency varies between individuals. I fired back at the proposal that an extremely fit 70kg man, with most mass on his legs, could challenge an extremely fit 105kg man, with evenly distibuted mass, in absolute amounts of anaerobic energy available for a full body excercise for which this 105kg man has proved to be the best among thousands of other extremely athletic 105kg men. Especially since all of those 105kg men has beaten all those thousands of extremely fit 70kg men that also have proven to be extremly efficient and well suited for the excercise, in relation to their weight. Lance at 70kg has not proven anything in rowing.

Lance has not even been known for being an anaerobic monster, as far as I know, in the cyling world. On the contrary, he's a Tour de France specialist where the duration is much longer than 1 minute, which is a typical test for anaerobic energy available.

Based on knowledge of weight and appearance I think it's safe to say Lance would be far behind both the best heavyweight and lightweight rowers in anaerobic capacity for rowing.
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