Rowing Fast: Rhythm & Flow
Here's footage of training on Varese in the Four. The rhythm looks a bit extreme but its what was creating the best max speed given our power.
Have been asked a lot lately about how we rowed the four or how I describe rowing fast. There is an audio of my rant about how much of what we are taught when developing might be good as a start point but to make a boat go really fast. Now I appreciate the various methods which get debated but should simple explain why I have come to certain realisations in thinking about boat speed.
This was some footage during paddling in Varese. Its at rate 19.5 and from memory we were doing about 1.40 splits per 500m which was about 85% of WBT, but 84% of 5.36min for 2000m. To do this ideal our effort would be still keeping us in our aerobic training zones. For me below 160 heart rate was achievable.
So to explain the rhythm you see you need to consider how fast the boat is moving and then how you take time to keep under rate 20. The boats moving pretty quick for the rate and so the best way to keep this speed up without having to over work the drive phase it becomes critical to look after the boat speed as much as possible.
The main thing to look at is the body momentum I think. With the bodies staying still and patient at the release and then letting the boat flow back under us as we have the boat slide towards us all the way to the catch. Catch timing is key because if missed timing occurs then boat speed can be negatively effected. This interesting though as higher check on the boat is ok if it happens in a shorter time. I like the feeling for centre of mass (CM) rowing. Dr. Valery Kleshnev mentions this on his site and we worked with him from 1996 - 2004. How it works is about CM momentum which which impacts boat speed of the whole stroke cycle. The idea then of boat acceleration after the release by pushing the hands away and getting the body over onto the feet quickly provides an increase early in the recovery but I wonder at what cost. Its true time needs to be taken some where during the recovery and the fast the boat speed the more time there is on the recovery.
Here's an example of why I think this things works. When I jump off the ground or a trampoline I notice that after leaving the surface ground or tramp that my body extends up towards where the force has been directed. The thing is to get higher off the ground, father from the contact point and this requires more power from the ground then patience to let the body mass to reach a max point.
When I have tested this if at the time of leaving the surface or contact point and I collapse my body to soon to get back towards my feet, then momentum is killed. That is the CM momentum is absorbed by the body movement but the hips do get higher and can look like they accelerate or do accelerate.
This may be confusing but if you bring it back in the boat then after all the good work driving the boat past the blade placement is done you need to be careful with the CM momentum. If the hands and body jump forward its true you get an acceleration of the boat but I suspect it comes at a cost as the body mass or CM momentum is stopped. The way I think of it is CM momentum is key and how the boat accelerates and decelerates around that is influenced by the nature of the movements including sequencing, rhythm, ration etc.
Paddling Pair 2007
I rehash this short clip. It was reverse seating with Duncan Free in the bow. The rhythm in the boat was more patient at the release. Watch the hips during the recovery and how we break the knees softly then allow the boat to come to us as we roll and catch the water out over the toes. You can hear the speeds being called out as we go from 1.52 down to 1.49 splits per 500m. Now when we had the boat rigger with Duncan in the stroke seat we would regularly be able to paddle at 1.48 splits in still water. Our best was 2000m at 1.45 splits with a very slight tail wind. Once your paddling that fast in a pair you have to take time to let the boat run while the body mass does the work and then the recover required a silent body swing and from there we found the slight acceleration was about getting the feeling of roll and catch to be one movement. The boat speed stayed higher for longer in the recovery and with out killing the CM or body mass momentum we found these speed were also pretty transferable up through the rates. As speed increased, rate went up and so to did the handle speed. This means we worked to honour speed first and rate and the movement visually come with it.
Now give all this I appreciate there are different views out there about how to row best and to make a boat go fast. I am not hear to debate but have only every shared the experiences. We have good data about higher boat speed with less effort. So I know what I trust.
Would I tell others to row the same way? NO
What I tell others to do is experiment with how they produce power, how they connect to the water. How they can move the boat further in the drive phase, and how to relax and let a boat work for them during the recovery. I believe in sequencing in general terms but also feel each boat once on a speed has a rhythm to it and each crews movement has a rhythm to it. Each day is subtly different, just like each stroke so it requires awareness and adaptation. I love great rowing. I am passionate about seeing boats go fast. I am also someone who likes to challenge my own assumptions and those of people around me. I have long held that once you work out just how fast you can drive a boat at a given rate then the game becomes how long you can keep it close to the maximal speed for the rate. Efficiency is a cool reward once boat speed is achieved. Doing anything thats so call fancy with out first driving the boat leaves the athlete or crew searching for gains with out the biggest ingredient. Learning to drive the boat first is essential then once thats in place enjoying finding ways to go even faster is where all the magic happens.