One of the oldest competitive events in the world, rowing has evolved greatly from its humble roots. If we look at our recent past and compare those athletes with their modern-day counterparts, we can see an increase in speed on both water and land. Analysis of the winning Olympic times (graph 1) reveals a clear trend: speed has increased over time.
There are two major contributors to this phenomenon: one being boat technology and the other being the athlete. While the evolution of the rowing shell, oars, etc. is critical and their contributions undeniable, this review focuses on the human element.
A superficial analysis of the changes humans have undergone will show bigger, taller athletes. While this suggests a correlation between size and speed, the exact causation has not been deeply explored. Additionally, the underlying physiological differences have little research, and while scientific the reasoning behind these adaptations is well known, the explanation in terms of training changes has not. This report will explore the deeper reasoning and analyze the exact changes that have occurred over time.
Doherty, Christopher, "Improvements in Rowing Performance: A Biomechanical and Physiological Review" (2017). Honors Projects. 636.