Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sailing Fitness with Bow Down Training

Testing your fitness to guide your program design
By Chris Herrera

Racers everywhere are looking for that competitive edge. During the offseason, sailors are turning to physical fitness training that specifically targets their needs, maximizes their abilities and improves their performances. As the official physical trainer of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, Bow Down Training has been developing innovative training techniques that suit sailors needs. Chris Herrera, President and Head Trainer of Bow Down Training has provided US Sailing with a guide on planning your program design.

One of the most important aspects of determining your fitness is finding where you currently are physically, so you can track your improvement and chart your progress accurately. Sailing has unique physical characteristics that combine muscular endurance, power, core strength and cardiovascular endurance. You must test all of these factors in order to give you a complete picture of what you need to improve.

Whether you are out on the wire or hiking, muscular endurance is essential. Muscular endurance is the ability to hold or use a muscle for duration of time. An easy example is seeing how many bicep curls you could do with 10 pound weights. The total amount of repetitions would give you a muscular endurance measure. Important muscular endurance measures and tests for sailors are:

Muscular Endurance Measures
  • Quadriceps - helps test hiking agility
    • Seated leg extension repetitions with 75% of your body weight
  • Hip Flexors - helps test hiking agility
    • Machine hip flexion repetitions with 50% of your body weight
  • Chin ups - all upper body pulling
    • Maximum chin up repetitions
  • Plank - core stability
    • How long can you hold plank position
  • Push ups - general upper body endurance measure
    • Push up repetitions within 1 minute
Power measures help see how quickly and efficiently you can change direction, explode up from the side of the boat, and how much control you have over your boat. Some test include:

Power Measures
  • Broad jump - tests power in the hips
    • From a standing position jump as far forward as you can
  • Vertical jump - test power in the hips
    • From a standing position jump straight up and see how high you can jump 
  • 40 second power rowing test
    • Maximum Watts produced within 40 seconds with the C2 concept rower on level 10
Core strength is usually regarded as the most important of the three components. Forces must be transferred through your core in order to produce movement. So whether you are trimming or hiking you must engage and use your core to produce and transfer energy. Some tests include:

Core Measures
  • Plank - tests abdominals, low back and shoulder stabilization
    • Hold as long as you can in a perfect plank position. No dipping, shaking, or tilting hips.
  • Crunches - maximum amount of crunches in 1 minute.
    • A full crunch must be completed, from shoulder blades on the ground to elbows touching thighs
Finally, cardiovascular endurance is a component of fitness that is probably trained most by sailing athletes. Some of you will road bike for over a hundred miles a week. You must make sure that you are testing your cardiovascular endurance and not training it blindly. In fact, by just riding with no guidance or strategy you might be actually inhibiting your cardiovascular system when it relates to carrying over improvements to actually sailing.
  • 4 Minute Rowing Test - stresses both upper and lower body
    • How many meters can you row in 4 minutes on a C2 rower with resistance on level 10
All of these tests are extremely important. By completing these tests and following up and re-testing after a training cycle you will be able to see if you have improved your fitness and by how much. With these measures you are also able to adjust and progress your program to continue to help you reach your goals. Stay tuned for more sailing fitness tips from Bow Down Training on the US Sailing Blog.


  1. What kind of numbers are the sailors posting? Would be nice to know and be able to compare our own efforts!

  2. I will be giving you some of the top scores from the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics so you are able to compare your fitness levels with some of the best in the world!

  3. It would be most interesting if you would post all the scores rather than the elete few. No need to identify the athletetes, just Male or Female. Most of your tests are easily reproduced in a regular gym and it would be really interesting to be able to see if we are within or close to the range for any of the tests. Would be very motivating for the majority of us participants who are eager and enthusiastis sailors but do not have the access to either the specialists or the facilities of the chosen Olympic aspirants.
    Please share and help us all. Thanks

  4. Well really USA solders are really cool in fitness.

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