Q&A with World Class Olympic Rower: Robbie Manson (2016)

Q&A with World Class Olympic Rower: Robbie Manson

On this site we like to talk about strength sports such as Powerlifter, strongman, Olympic lifting, gymnastics, sprinting and other sports of that nature. Nowadays we are trying to expand our horizons on the site by getting a multitude of other athletes because I have been getting some requests about other sports too so from time to time I will be posting Q&A’s with other athletes.

Today I will be doing a Q&A with a professional rower who goes by the name of Moe Sbihi. Moe is a British rower who has competed in the 2012 Olympic games in London and he has also won gold world championships in places like Amsterdam, Chungju and Aiguebelette.

If you know a thing or two about this site then you know that barbel rows are probably my favorite back builder and their sport revolves around rowing, its even in the name! Rowers also have a very unique kind of build and they are usually very developed in the back, bicep and forearm region. A lot of people think that all that they do for their sport is the rowing machine for high reps, but the truth is that it could be a very difficult sport and this is especially true at the advanced level so its always interesting to learn about their philosophies and where exactly they are coming from.

What made you get into rowing as opposed to something like sprinting or swimming?

I started rowing because my younger brother had started, mum was coaching him and both Mum and Dad rowed. Mum tried to get me into swimming when I was younger but I was stubborn and refused to go. Before I rowed I rode horses, competing mainly in show jumping and eventing, however that was almost too expensive.

What are your current goals in the sport of rowing and what do you feel like you need to work on?

My current goal is to do well in the double at the Rio Olympics, I don’t like putting an outcome result as my goal, I want to have the absolute best race that I can on the day. We are working on technique everyday as I believe that technique is the most important factor when it comes to rowing.

What does your program look like as far as the set up is concerned? Also how are the weights implemented into your routine as far as the frequency and volume is concerned? What rep ranges do you like to work in for the most part?

I can’t give away too much information about our training program but I generally row twice a day and do two sessions a week in the gym on top of that. I don’t lift heavy weights as I’ve had a niggly back the past couple of years, it’s more just maintenance.

I’m assuming that rowers incorporate a lot of rowing variations into their programming, what kind of rows do you like to incorporate in the gym?

Occasionally we do seated rows or bench pulls, but they are more of a secondary exercise.

What was the most weight that you’ve ever barbell rowed and do you use straps?

Off the top of my head about 80kg on the bench pull, but nothing impressive.

What are 5 weight training exercises that NEED to be in every rowers routine?

If I wasn’t limited because of my back I would say, deadlift, power clean, squats, RDL and bench pull.

Do you ever incorporate any vertical pulling exercises into your programs?


What does your leg training look like for rowing and what do you do for core work?

I do squats, but only about 60kgs because of my back, working on technique more than anything. I do a few core exercises in my warm up, it’s all stability sort of stuff, no crunches or anything like that.

What are the most common injuries in rowing and what do you do to prevent common swimming injuries from occurring as much as possible?

The most common rowing injury is to do with the back and the second most common would be rib stress fractures. I try to warm up well each day using the rowing machine, then do some stretches and core work before I get on the water. It seems to help a lot.

Is there any benefit to being a heavier rower for extra strength or does the extra weight just weigh the boat down more?

Too much weight definitely slows the boat down, I usually sit around 88kgs. Being fast is a balance of technique, fitness and strength. With the amount of long aerobic training we do on the water it is hard to put on a lot of muscle.

How do you warm-up for a big rowing competition?

I do a warm up on the rowing machine for about 20mins then get on the water about half an hour before the race start time doing a few bursts and practice starts before the race.

What are some big rowing mistakes that you typically see in novice rowers?

It always takes time to master the basic technique. Not getting the set up right off the back is a common mistake. The correct sequence is arms, then body, then slide forward. It is then the opposite on the drive phase, legs then body then arms. It is the worst seeing people at the gym who have no idea what they are doing.

What are some of the top myths with regards to competitive rowing?

That rowing is an arm sport is a myth. Rowing is a leg driven sport and requires strong gluts and core, the arms are almost irrelevant, they are just there to hang off the oar and take it out of the water smoothly.

What was your best moment that you have ever experienced in your rowing career up to date and what do you want your legacy to be when you retire?

One of the best moments was winning a bronze medal at last years world champs, it is my first medal at the world champs. Also winning the double at the under 23 world champs in 2009 was a huge highlight, it was my first international regatta. I want to be the best athlete that I can be, to be an Olympic champion is the ultimate goal!

Thank you for your time! If you would like to see more of Robbie then you could check him out at: