Boosting threshold power

*This post is geared toward rowers, but the workout series is also ideal for cyclocross racers (in summer and fall) and for road racers and TTers (in winter and early spring). 

If you’re preparing for a fall head race, you should already be working to boost your threshold power. Anyone who has rowed for a while knows that threshold power sessions are real work. These workouts are long and they’re hard. To do them well, it’s important to be fresh and mentally focused. The return on investment, though, is huge.

Weekly progression or “repeat” workouts are ideal for boosting threshold power: same workout, 1x per week, performed for three consecutive weeks.

Threshold power is a bigger performance indicator for head races than VO2max, and is also more trainable. 

Threshold power is a bigger performance indicator for head races than VO2max, and is also more trainable. 

To get the most out of this series, set a goal pace based on your individual level of fitness and experience—this ensures precision in your training and allows you to directly target threshold power. Fortunately, most rowers have access to one of the best tools available for individualizing workouts: a power meter built right into the erg.  (For those who hate the erg, consider this: runners don’t have the luxury of measuring their progress with this tool, and cyclists have to pay big bucks to install power meters on their bikes). 

Make sure this workout series fits into your team's training plan. Pick a consistent day of the week for the session—a day when you're fresh and fired up for a challenge. To set yourself up for success, warm up well. (Suggested w/up included below). 

Intermediate version:

2 x 15’ of (2:15 at goal race pace: 15’’ easy) repeat for 15’ total
5’ rest interval between efforts

Advanced version:

2 x 20’ of (2:20 at goal race pace: 10’’ easy) repeat for 20’ total
3’ rest interval between efforts


This workout should be hard. It’s also important to target a goal pace that is sustainable for both pieces. If you take a nosedive midway through your second efforts, calculate your average wattage at the end of the session (for both pieces combined), then use that average to assign your goal pace for next week's workout (hint: set a rest interval on the erg so you’re not factoring in the 10-15’’ rest intervals into your average wattage). On the flip side, if you find your were able to complete both pieces without having had to really dig deep to hit your goal pace, you’d benefit from increasing the level of challenge next week.

Consistency is key.  Commit to the full series.

After three weeks of work, it's time to either race or reassess your goal pace. 
With consecutive weeks of threshold power work under your belt, expect to roll up to the start line feeling better prepared and more confident. Go get 'em!


*Suggested warm-up:
Start with a 15' dry land, aerobic warm-up which incorporates any rehab, stretching, and core activation exercises you have in your repertoire. Break a sweat before even getting on the erg.

Erg w/up:
--10’ at endurance pace, allowing your body and mind time to wake up
--80 strokes of (10 strokes on: 10 strokes easy)
Gradually build intensity up to your goal race pace
--1’ easy
--3’ hard, at goal pace or slightly higher
--1’ easy

Stretch, grab a drink, and get ready to rock and roll.  Take no more than 5’ between the end of your warm-up and the start of your work.