What is CrossFit HQ thinking?  Three 2K Rows in just over a week?  It’s enough to give a coach fits!  Sure, I understand the why of it but most of our members probably did not read the linked CrossFit Journal article that explains Glassman’s rationale.  As a result, many will be bored or feel tempted to skip that day believing they already know the 2K row.

I had 8 hours on an AMTRAK to ponder this dilemma.  A 2K row takes about 10 minutes.  Even running 2 heats it leaves us with 40 minutes of class time.  What to do?  My first choice would be to program some skill work like SLIPS (stretching, L-sits, inversions, planks, scales) or a technical movement like the TGU.  But The Touch already did things like this the first two times that the 2K row was programmed.  To do so again would devalue the row or suggest that we, as coaches, have nothing else to offer regarding the row.

Instead, I decided to challenge myself to dedicate the full hour to rowing.  My goals: 1) to deliver new information on the row to every member, new or veteran, that could help them improve their rowing in the long run and, 2) get athletes personal bests in the 2K row – a particularly audacious goal considering many had established or failed to establish new personal bests in the last few days (in the first case they’d feel they couldn’t likely push any faster, in the second case their confidence would be low based on recent failure).

We started off by teaching athletes how to correctly set the drag factor.  There was, understandably, some resistance to this.  It feels intuitively wrong.  In the short-term, it feels too slow.  In the end we earned converts.  After all, there is no accident that Olympians do this.

Then we warmed up using a tempo row getting our athletes familiar with using the strokes/minute reading to measure their effort.  It is another tool in our pacing arsenal.

We spent some time looking at the rowing points of performance just as we break them down for a barbell or gymnastics movements:
1) Midline stabilization – this is always our priority, losing a neutral spine impairs transfer of force from our legs into the wheel, predisposes us to injury and restricts our breathing.
2) Core-to-extremity – Legs-hips-arms is the correct sequence, leaning back (using low back) or pulling early with the arms limit power transfer and lead to injury.
3) Plane of execution – in this context we discussed keeping the chain level throughout the stroke to maximize efficiency
4) Posterior chain engagement – hamstrings, glutes, lats should be our primary drivers in this movement, we’re looking for good foot contact on the plate, no pushing off from the toes
5) Good Hip Activation – Hips open at the back of stroke and close upon the return, we are looking for a 30 degree change in back angle
6) Active shoulders – at the back of the stroke we’re looking for shoulder blade engagement
7) Full Range of Motion – reaching all the way forward (while maintaining neutral spine) and fully extending legs at back of stroke while pulling handle all the way to the sternum
8) Effective Grip & Stance – the feet are locked in but people get funny with their hands, we want correct hand position to ensure correct muscles are being utilized

With all this in our heads we used a new screen on our rowers to measure the smoothness of our stroke as we tried to create a smooth power dome avoiding herky-jerky pulls that are top or bottom heavy.  It’s a great visual, immediate feedback tool for improving your stroke and seeing exactly where your form breaks down.

It was a lot to cover in one short hour but we weren’t quite done.  As we set up for the WOD, we taught athletes how to set up a pace boat and calculate the correct pace to guide them to a new personal best.  And we hit some big ones!

Dr. T, Point Break, Crusher, Road Warrior, Motor, Livewire, Professor X, G-Money, Mufasa, Hard Rock, KMT, Sprite, Pepper, Sam I Am, Mr. International, Mom, Super Mario, Doc Disc & CPA all established new bests in the 2K row making it a very successful Friday and proving that there is still room to grow in the 2K row!