Training Volume for Endurance Sports

June 7, 2010

Training volume is the amount of work that is performed. Many coaches and athletes use the number of miles or kilometers covered as the measure of training volume. While this is an acceptable measure it does not always give the full picture of training. For example if athlete A does a 20 km workout in 90 minutes and athlete B covers the same 20 km in 60 minutes they are not doing the same workout and won’t get the same training effect even though the volume as measured by distance is the same. Time is a better measure of training volume as it is allows athletes of varying level to be compared on an equal level.

Annual training volume has a direct effect on performance. For many athletes work, school, and family commitments influence their training volume, limiting them to four or five hours of training per week. As in almost every sport you get out of rowing what you put in, your training goals and time commitment need to be compatible; expecting to win an Olympic medal by training six hours per week is unrealistic as is winning a national championship on three hours per week of training. Table 1 shows the desired training volume by competitive level. In order to continue to improve within your competition level or move to a higher level you must increase training volume from year to year. Even at the elite level there has been a steady increase in total training volume over the past 30 years, increasing from and average of 924 hours per year in the 1970’s to 1128 hours per year in the late 1990’s, a 20% increase.

Increasing training volume must be done gradually, rapid increases in training volume can quickly lead to overtraining and injuries; this is very common when an athlete makes the jump from one competitive level to another without having planned for the transition the previous year. High school students who jump to top college programs may experience a doubling of their training volume without being adequately prepared. A college student who makes the jump to a national team often finds himself or herself in the same situation particularly if they make the jump in an Olympic year when training volume tends to be the highest. As a rule of thumb annual increases in training volume should not exceed 5-10% of the previous year’s volume. If you are currently a high school athlete who eventually wants to row at national level it is going to take at least five years of progressive volume increases to get there.

Competitive Level Training Volume for Men (hrs/year) Training Volume for Women (hrs/year) Training

Weeks per year

Hours per week Days per week Sessions per day
Elite International 1000-1200 850-1000 48 21-25 6 1-4
National 800-1000 700-850 48 17-21 6 1-4
Provincial 600-800 600-700 44-46 13-18 5-6 1-3
Club 500-600 500-600 42-44 10-15 4-6 1
High School 300-500 300-500 10-30 2-10 3-4 1
Novice High School 100-300 100-300 2-10 1-4 1-2 1
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