Two things the ergometer and land training cannot help us with is bladework and balance.
Discomfort in rowing will lead to technical problems and balance is a key factor to comfort.
A boat on its own will set level in the
water. It is the movements of those in a boat, which causes it to roll. You use the oars to keep the boat level, but if used incorrectly, the roll will be accentuated.
In the early stages of being back in the
boat, it is important to keep the oars moving through the same position with no attempt to make adjustments to the height of the blade off the water. (That is, the handle should make the same motion, travel the same
path every stroke; the blade should travel the same path every stroke).
After the finish, the hands drop down to the thighs, feather the blade, and move away from the body until the hands are clear of the
knees at which point the hands should gradually rise and square for the next stroke.
The blade, on leaving the water, will travel forward CLEAR of the surface to the halfway position. From here it will
gradually move down close to the water ready for the next stroke.
The whole crew should reach the half way point (the point at which it has the most effect on the balance) at the same time (and same hand height
and blade height).
A common fault is to carry the blades forward too close to the surface, which reduces freedom for the rowers who then lean out of line to make room for themselves. When the crew is able to
control these movements the boat will run level.
The boat will only travel as fast as the blades that drive it. The more accurate the bladework, the more efficient will be your power.
The task of the blade is to achieve a firm grip on the water, past which the boat is levered. Water will not compress, and the faster the blade enters the water, the greater will be grip.
important, but it is the point at which the blade grips and releases the water which determines the effective length of the stroke. Once locked in the water, the blades must be worked in a straight line directly
opposite the boat. Any deviation from that line will detract from its effectiveness. Common faults are allowing the blade to go deep or rise out of the water.
The blades must accelerate to keep pace and
leave the water cleanly to avoid taking run off the boat at the release. It is the speed at which the boat is sent away at the finish which is most important of all.
If there is one part of technique that is more important than the others it is RHYTHM. It helps us perform better as a single unit. Even when individual
techniques are different, a crew which moves in rhythm together will perform close to its potential. What is important is that everyone in the crew rows the same rhythm.
The stroke has two phases: Power and Recovery
Power is the time in the water. This represents the speed the blade is driven through the stroke, which determines how fast the boat will travel.
Recovery is the time out of the water. This is the relaxation period between strokes where the body can achieve some recovery. This helps
the body produce power for the distance of the race. Rhythm is based on a powerful stroke to move the boat fast and the longest possible rest between strokes.
Remember: rhythm can be practiced in the boat or on the erg. The fundamental principle is that the seat travels faster through the stroke
(from front stops to back stops) than it does on the recovery (from back stops to front stops). The greater the difference between moving
forward and backward, the better the rhythm. It is important that stroke length is maintained, and that the seat does not stop once it leaves the back stops.
At no time should the seat travel faster forward (from back stop to front stop) than it does through the stroke or power phase (from front stop
to back stop), with the exception of the first few strokes of a high rate piece (i.e. 20 strokes at a 38). The seat stopping at the backstops is
unavoidable, but the time lag can be reduced by moving the hands and body away without pause. The sooner the seat leaves the backstops,
the slower it can travel forward. The seat must not leave the backstops before the hands and body have completed the first part of the
recovery. The momentum from the stroke helps these movements to be lively while remaining smooth and unhurried.
Matching body motions and acceleration...hand levels, and hand/shoulder speed into the bow and out of bow; then matching the start and speed of the seats makes for rhythm.
Other focuses along with rhythm:
Strong FINISHES... which lead into rotating but level BODY PREPARATION with the heads, eyes and chins UP.
Power on the second half of the drive. Add a strong FINISH to the stroke. Accelerating the body, the handle and the blade through the second half with POWER, yet a smooth and unhurried movement.
When rates reach the higher thirties, technique begins to deteriorate and the first weakness to appear is the blades rising out of the water before the finish of the stroke.
The trunk should open soon after the catch, and swing toward the bow while the hands draw the blade through. Use the arms to draw in a
straight line to the body and finish with the handle at the second rib from the bottom. Use BOTH hands to accelerate the handle more and
more through the power phase. The outside hand draws high and keeps the handle level, and the inside hand draws firm but loose (so there is no tension in the shoulders).
This power and strong finish, with the matching RHYTHM (hands, shoulders and seats continuing to move in unison) lead to BODY PREPARATION for the next stroke.
Body preparation is the same as rhythm. It must be done in unison and it will lead to a stable boat and a powerful crew.
BODY PREPARATION is a function of
Matching rhythm (slides/hand/shoulder speeds out of bow)
Establishing length and shoulder angle with supported posture early on the recovery
Strong finishes, unified rhythm and one position of preparedness for the catch are the keys to good catches.
The faster the blade is driven into the water, the more positive will be the grip it achieves, the longer will be the stroke, and the faster the boat will travel.
For a good catch the rower must be in a strong position, well prepared for a powerful drive from the foot stretcher.
To find this position, the hands move first and the body swings forward before the seat moves away from the back stops. The body angle is
held during the slide forward and there must be almost no further trunk movement once the seat has left the back stops.
While the length of the stroke is important, the temptation to stretch for more must be resisted. Reaching out over the front stops will put the body in a weaker position and the extra length will not be effective.
Length should be achieved by reaching from the HIPS while still at the back stops. This allows the rower to relax and prepare for next stroke
while sliding to the front stops. In the forward position the shins should be vertical, the chest against the thighs, shoulders relaxed, head up, alert and poised like a cat ready to spring.
Both hands guide the blade in and the body and arms provide the linkage between legs and blade. The catch is achieved by kicking the blade
into the water with the legs. Immediate suspension of the body weight between the feet and hands without swatting or slipping is the goal.
Matching the rhythm (power of the drive with ratio on the recovery) as one and matching the height of the handles on both drive and recovery is critical.
POWER, LENGTH, AND RATE
Three factors determine the speed of the boat. They are:
1. POWER- How FAST the boat travels each stroke
2. LENGTH- How FAR the boat travels each stroke
3. RATE- How MANY strokes are rowed.
If a crew rowed at maximum capacity in all three of these components at the same time, it is doubtful they could row 10 strokes before
technique withered and boat speed faded. The number of strokes required to complete 2000 meters is from 200 to 250 and clearly, an
equilibrium of power, length and rate must be achieved. Rowing is basically a power endurance sport, but it requires a high level of skill.
Choosing the "right" technique and then teaching it is a coaching skill and there are many differing opinions about which method is the best.
Whatever the method preferred, power, length and rate are the basic ingredients.
Rate is the easiest to achieve. Keeping it at its optimum in a race is not the main problem. Length and power are the first to deteriorate when the pressure of the race reaches its peak.
The most efficient part of the stroke is when the blade is passing at 90 degrees to the boat. Only when it is at this angle is its force propelling
the boat wholly in the correct direction. In theory an efficient length of the stroke is from 45 degrees at the catch to 135 degrees at the finish. In
practice the body prevents the oar from reaching more than 125 degrees. To achieve 45 degrees at the catch, the reach must extend beyond
this angle. A longer finish can be drawn in a sculling boat but it is inefficient to draw more than 130 degrees.
Maximal power is achieved by appropriate sequencing of the contributing muscles from strongest to weakest.
LEGS FIRST......The quadriceps and gluteals
Then the BACK..... The lower back
Then the SHOULDERS and ARMS... The latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, and biceps.
The boat is only as fast as the blades drive it.
The power transferred through the blade to the boat is only as much as the legs supply.
A good technique is based on the work of the legs to create most of the total power.
"FIND the POST in the WATER"
The faster the blade inters the water the more positive will be the grip, the longer will be the stroke and the faster the boat will travel. The important points are:
1. Hands guide the blade into the water.
2. Legs apply the power
3. Trunk and arms link legs to blade
MIDDLE of the STROKE
"the most efficient part"
All the muscles are working through their middle range and the blade is at its most efficient point in the stroke. Make full use of this advantage
by beginning the draw with the arms before midway. The arms must start to draw well before the legs reach the backstops.
"send the boat away"
Retain pressure on the blade through to the finish by pressing toes on the footboard, by using the leverage of the trunk, and by keeping the
arms working with the body. Although legs reach backstops before the arms and trunk have finished working, the toes should continue
pressing hard to give support with the legs until the blade is extracted. The trunk should be moving towards the bow until the moment before
the hands reach the body. (if the arm draw starts too late, this timing will be delayed.)
The rowing stroke comprises fast movements and slow movements. The essence of good rhythm in the boat is the contrast between them.
Done well, a good motions looks smooth, continuous, and unhurried, so it can be difficult to see that contrast. The FAST movements begin
with the entry of the blade and continue through the stroke and the movement of the hands away from the body after blade extraction (the
finish). The slower movements begin when the hands pass over the knees and continue until the next stroke. The inertia created by the power
of the stroke carries the hands down and away from the body when the seat is at the backstops. The body relaxes immediately as the blade
leaves the water so there is no interference with this natural free-flowing movement. The seat moves SLOWLY forwards in contrast to its speed
during the stroke. The rower prepares by gathering, ready to spring from the stretcher onto the next stroke. The movement of the seat must
be faster during the stroke than it is during the recovery. The sooner it leaves the backstops after the finish, the more time it has to reach the
front stops and the slower it can travel. The hands and then the body move lively away from the finish to allow the seat to start on its way forwards.
"Let the boat run, rest, and prepare for the next stroke"
Hands, Body, Slide
1. Move the hands down and away over the knees
2. Pivot the body forward onto the feet
3. Move the seat away from the backstops
4. Move forward, rest the body and let the boat run underneath you.
PREPARE FOR THE STROKE
To achieve optimum position for the application of power and good forward length. Note the following points.
1. Head High- encourages good posture for body and spine
2. Chest against thighs- Rotation should be centered around the hip joint, not the upper or lower
3. Shins vertical- strong position for the quadriceps
4. Relaxed but alert- poised like a cat ready to spring
THE HAND POSITIONS
The oar handles should be held in the fingers, not the palms. The hands should generally be at the tips of the oars to maximize
inboard leverage, with the thumbs pressed against the handle nub to generate sufficient outward pressure against the oarlock. As Frank
Cunningham said, "The handles should be grasped like one was holding a small bird: Firmly enough to hold on, but not so hard as to kill it."
The grip of the fingers around the oar will automatically increase sufficiently when contact with the water is made. The arms and hands should
extend along a horizontal plane out well over the gunnels as the blade angle is increased in preparation for the grasping of the water. The
entry of the blade into the water will be accomplished with a relaxation or slightly positive "flick" of the hands and arms while maintaining the back angle (not opening the back to achieve the catch).
Sweep - Hold the oar with the hands 4 to 6 inches apart (11 to 15 cm).
Turn the blade with the inside hand.
Apply power with the outside hand
Contract only those muscles needed to perform a specific function. This is achieved by relaxation of the hands, arms and shoulders, the areas
where tension will be most prevalent. The muscles of the upper body will be more effective if they enter into the catch in a relaxed condition. Muscles will contract instantly when a load is forced upon them.
The importance of bladework must be appreciated. Only the blades move the boat, therefore an important part of the technique is the skill with which the blade is controlled.
A good blade is described as:
1. A long stroke in the water
Minimum loss of reach forward
Quickly grips the water
Covered throughout the stroke.
2. Utilizes power
Grips the water with minimum loss of leg drive.
Works in a horizontal plane
Covered throughout the stroke
3. Does not interfere with the run of the boat
Carried forward clear of the water
Balances the boat
Rhythm-Where to Poise
It is always necessary to compose before any dynamic action (i.e throwing a discuss, lifting a weight, hitting a ball, or rowing a stroke). The
question is, Where is the best place to "poise" prior to the action? There are different schools of thought in rowing on where the poise should
be and currently, it is popular that it be during the first half of the recovery. The attack on the stroke begins before well before the slide has
reached front stops. The seat accelerates forward from the poise position into the stroke and is thought to be the best way of achieving a fast catch. The poise can be at the backstops or it can be halfway forwards.
The disadvantages are.... The movement is robust and energy consuming.
The method taught by me is to poise during the last part of the movement towards the front stops. The inertia created by the draw at the finish
is used to carry the hands away from the body, the trunk into the catch angle and the seat from backstops. The rower has time to relax, let the
boat run under the seat, and to prepare for the next stroke. The poise just before blade entry is sufficient to achieve a very fast catch.
Rowing styles differ in where emphasis is placed. The emphasis, for example, may be the catch, the finish, or the rhythm. Body positions and
movements will be influenced by this emphasis. The method I prefer is based on rhythm. The stroke is divided into two phases: 1) The
STROKE or power phase, and 2) The RECOVERY or resting phase. The oarsmen are trained to apply full power to each stroke and to rest
during the recovery, which will help them apply power to 200 strokes or the number required to complete the race.
The ability to apply power is an essential physical requirement. Physical capacity is acquired by training, but the coordination of muscular contraction in the rowing stroke is the essence of good technique.
Rowing Technique Guide - The Mike Spracklen Method