Episode #6 – How To Row Like A VIKING

So you wanna be a rower? Ask yourself the following questions:

1) Are you doing HEAVY strength work using basic exercises?  e.g. squat, deadlifts, pull-ups

2) Are you doing sport specific conditioning? AKA do you get in the boat often enough?!

3) Are you complementing your HEAVY strength training with assistance exercises for the correct movements?

You MUST be answering all 3 of the above questions with a resounding YES in order to succeed in rowing. Not to mention other questions on diet, recovery, sleep, tactics, teamwork. But as I’m going to assume that you are constantly rowing throughout each week lets just look at how to get as strong as a VIKING!



Simply; the rower is constantly pushing with the legs and pulling with the upper body.

So all of your training MUST centre around standing up with and pulling heavy weights.


To intensely stimulate the correct muscles in a similar movement pattern your basic strength training must include:

1) Deadlifts 

2) Pull-ups

3) Horizontal Pulling; e.g. bench supported rows, bent – over rows, inverted rows

This will ensure that you are loading the body with f**king heavy weights (deadlifts), whilst maintaining a great strength to bodyweight ratio (can’t do pull-ups if you’re a fatty), AND you are training the upper body in the correct movement patterns (horizontal pulling).


ROWING must take priority over any other strength and conditioning work as it will have the best carryover to competition. But like I said, I’m assuming you’re constantly kicking ass in the boat and you wanna get crazy STRONG. Here’s your plan!

Twice a week go and lift some weights

  • Warm-up and go find a bar and a huge stack of weights
  • Deadlift in sets of 5 reps and gradually increase the weight until you reach your 5 rep max
  • Now go and work in some pull-ups for a total of 30-50 reps, however many sets you need. Vary your grips, add weight if and when you can
  • Finally, finish off with some horizontal pulling, whatever you like, do 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps

An example workout may look like:

1. Deadlifts: 5 sets of 5 reps – worked up to 150kg for a set of 5 reps

2. Pull-ups: 5 sets of 6 reps – added 10kg to the first 2 sets, 5kg to the last 3 sets

3. Inverted Row using a rope or towel grip: 3 sets of 8 reps – focused on speed and squeezing the rope for grip strength

YOU CAN CHANGE THESE EXERCISES….but only to variations of them. E.g. romanian deadlifts, pull-ups with a rope or towel, various inverted rowing movements.

Keep your deadlifting HEAVY and your other pulling movements as FAST as humanly possible, even if it seems like you’re moving real slow, if the intent to move at SPEED is there, you’ll progress faster.

NOW, I must make it clear that ‘strength circuits’ or any fast paced workout in the weight room will NOT help your strength. It may seem like you must be sweating and bleeding constantly with the weights to progress ‘cos that’s how you feel when rowing. YOU ARE WRONG! Get strong in the gym, take a rest, don’t take all day but have a few minutes between sets and focus on QUALITY and break some damn records!

Strength is the basis of all fitness. Look in any textbook.

Oh, and I made a little video below of 3 strength drills which make nice assistance exercises to do AFTER you’ve lifted the entire gym for a 5 rep max in your deadlift.


In the video you will see 3 drills you can use to add variety and fun to your workouts:

1) Power cleans vs Pull-ups (neutral grip)

2) Romanian Deadlifts vs Bent Over Row

3) Seated Pull-ups with rope grip vs Inverted Rows with rope grip

*Notice how I combine HEAVY basic exercises, I do the hardest exercise first and no exercise is done for more than 5 reps total*



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Anthony Shaw

Raw Strength