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Sports Scientist (PhD),
Ex rower and rowing coach,
Rowing Academy Scientist
TESTING FOR MAXIMAL
What is maximal aerobic power?
Maximal aerobic power refers to the power output that the rower can generate using
mainly aerobic energy pathways. It is a power output that corresponds to the maximal
oxygen consumption intensity.
As maximal oxygen consumption is one of the most important determinants of being a
successful rower, this parameter is one of the most frequently tested. Compared to other
endurance disciplines, maximal oxygen consumption in rowers is one of the highest.
Discipline VO2max (L/min)
Rowing 6.7 4.6
X-country skiing 6.1 4.3
Kayaking 5.3 4.1
Running 5.1 4.0
Cycling 5.4 4.1
Maximal oxygen consumption is described as a paramater that can level off. It has been
found (Steinacker et al., 1998) that when rowers reach approximately 5000 km per year
the indices of VO2max may not correlate well with rowing performance, while peak power
during incremental test is much better predictor (Messonnier et al., 1997).
It is usually noted that year-round changes in VO2max are often smaller than changes in
peak power. Therefore, taking into account the previous concerns, performing the
incremental test without oxygen mask to measure peak power only, can be of high
importance in practical setting.
Parameter Oct Jan Apr June
VO2max 5.8 6.0 6.1 6.0
Pmax 399 408 420 428
2000m 6:02 5:58 5:53 5:51
Table 1. An example of the change in VO2max, peak power and 2000m
ergometer performance during the annual cycle.
Aerobic power testing with the peak power
of the incremental test
Rowers usually perform at approx. 95-97% intensity of their maximal aerobic power
during a classical 2000 m distance. As maximal aerobic power and peak power during
the incremental test are highly correlated (especially in younger rowers, Jürimäe et al.,
2000), we can take the 95% of the peak power as a reference.
The rower should perform this constant load test as long as possible. The test result will
be the time – how long the rower can hold the test intensity.
For example: The heavyweight male rower has a peak power during the incremental test
of 425 W. Now we calcualate 95% of it (404 W) and the next test will be to row as long as
possible at constant 404 W load.
If we compare peak power and 95% peak power test, the last one would be even more
sensitive for describing performance changes. It has been shown that besides elite
rowers having higher peak power values, they are also able to row at 95% test for longer
time compared to lower performance rowers (Jürimäe et al., 2000).
95% power test
1. As the test intensity reflects the power that the rower uses during the 2000 m, it is a
very precise measure of competitive performance.
2. The test has shown higher predictive value compared to VO2 max testing (Jürimae
et al., 2000)
3. It is very practical to use for coaches for routine testing, even for young rowers who
perform incremental test with VO2 measurements rarely.
4. The best way to track 95% test result is to make an incremental test shortly before it.
However, if not possible the peak power value from the last incremental test can also
be used for several tests.
• Jürimäe J, Mäestu J, Jürimäe T, Pihl E. Prediction of rowing performance on single
sculls from metabolic and anthropometric variables. J Hum Mov Stud 2000; 38: 123-
• Messonnier L, Freund H, Bourdin M, Belli A, Lacour JR. Lactate exchange and
removal abilities in rowing performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1997; 29: 396-401.
• Steinacker JM, Lormes W, Lehmann M, Altenburg D. Training of rowers before world
championships. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998; 30: 1158-63.
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• Testing for individual anaerobic threshold (slideshow)
• Incremental testing in rowing (slideshow)
• Anaerobic threshold in rowing (slideshow)
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