Biofeedback Testing for Rowing

I looked across the gym and instantly recognized the strange lift. There was a guy doing a Jefferson deadlift. I wasn’t in my own gym, so how could this be? I legit had a moment of glory thinking that my quest to make the Jefferson deadlift universally known and adopted was reaching a critical mass before I remembered that the guy doing the Jefferson was my friend Greg Kowal, a physical therapist who is currently working in northern Minnesota, whom I had brought with me to this gym. Oh well, maybe next time.

Asymmetrical training, using lifts like the Jefferson deadlift, is one of the things I have become known for being a big proponent of. The interesting thing is not that I necessarily think that asymmetrical training is ideologically or automatically better, it’s simply that once you start following your biofeedback you find that asymmetrical is often better.

Towards the end of my lift, Greg was finishing up a session on the ergometer. He waved me over and started telling me about what he had been doing lately in his rowing sessions. Immediately I knew this was too useful not to share, so I had him back up and shot a video. I’ll let Greg take it from here:

Big ups to the moron doing half-rep barbell glute bridges and grunting for the sound effects toward the end.

Off camera, Greg and I went on to discuss some of his other thoughts on rowing training. I will be the first to tell you that I know nothing about competitive rowing – but I do know some things about movement and despite what indoctrinated sport coaches like to think, sports are not special — they are just movements.

In addition to testing the slight asymmetry on the actual erg, smart rowers would be wise to test their gym training. When it comes to sport training, the gym is an opportunity to hit contra-specific or opposition patterns. For example, Greg enlightened me, in sweep rowing the athlete is getting hundreds of repetitions per session of a very uni-lateral movement in one direction. This is a prime candidate for testing opposition rotation and extension patterns in the opposite direction to the rowing position.

Greg’s application of biofeedback testing to rowing is a perfect example of asking better questions. Rowing may test well, but Greg wondered if he could make it test even better for him. Better questions lead to, as you heard him say, better results. What if you were to apply biofeedback testing to your sport or activity?


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  1. Ron Hekier says:

    I’m not a serious rower any longer, but a few years ago when I was avidly rowing I enlisted coaching from Xeno Muller, a gold and silver medalist over two Olympic games in the single man scull.
    One of his training techniques includes rowing with one leg down on the ground.
    He doesn’t incorporate biofeedback testing, but this is an example of asymmetric training in rowing by a world class athlete. He is also a fan of pistol squats, another asymmetric movement under a load.
    Thanks for the article!

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