I have mentioned before that when coaching or being coached it is useful to understand whether the technical point is one of mechanics or feel. Well posture is largely a mechanical issue since it’s about position, shape, and angles, yet you have to have great inner control to have visibly good posture. Balance and control are more about feel, but still trainable, and you can certainly see a crew with these attributes versus one without. Two good reasons for working on posture are 1) to make your back the best lever it can be and 2) to prevent injury. Good posture doesn’t mean wandering around with a pile of books balanced on your head or having a dead straight back. It means making sure you use your back the way nature intended, curves and all, but it’s usually the lumbar area which needs attention in rowing terms. Alignment Take a look at the pictures of the spine on the opposite page. One is with a back slumped, discs bulging in a worrying manner, the other is the back correctly aligned. It still has curves but each vertebra is sharing the load evenly which is a better way of transferring force. Posture is often lost at the entry and finish because people are off balance in those places. At the finish a phrase I like is ‘recover off your finish pressure’. In other words, your legs can only push you away from the footboard; your back can only pull you away from it; but your arm draw can keep you in contact with the feet (as with feet out drills). So if you pull the arms too early in the stroke you probably won’t have enough arm draw left when it’s needed. When athlete posture is lost at the finish the blade often ‘pancakes’ on its back instead of leaving the water square and in a continuous movement – a tell-tale sign. At the front end, posture is lost for two reasons: 1) if people rush the slide the momentum usually drags their upper body
out of shape at the front causing overreaching and the mis-timing of entry;
2) if they lack flexibility, particularly in the
hamstrings, then after about three-quarters
slide they lose their forward pelvic tilt (as
in the picture) and ‘tuck under’.
Good exercises for posture...
Sit at back-stops, arms straight and
practise rocking back and forth, getting
the feel for pelvic anterior / posterior tilt
Feet out work, because it makes your
handle pressure stay connected to the
footboard at the finish
On the ergo, sit with both feet on the
floor – it’s easy to get good forward
pelvic tilt; then put both feet on the
board and slowly move up the slide
seeing if you can maintain the hip angle
without tucking under
Then do some ‘nudges’ if you can, where
you practise moving off the first few inches
of the front, ‘engaging’ with good posture.
A useful concept in the boat is that you set
your posture in the early recovery and,
once sliding, your trunk angle stays the
same (i.e. in the ‘catch’ position) all the way
forward and as you initiate the stroke itself.
Nothing changes in position terms.
If you can achieve this then your back
becomes a major source of power in the
mid-drive as it joins to the existing leg
push. This powerful movement also makes
the rhythm feel very strong because of the
acceleration it brings.
Coming on to balance. I am not referring to
stroke side / bow side balance but balance
of movement. If you do a squat jump on the
gym floor, you don’t drop down and
collapse – you control your drop with the
feet and change direction with a spring. You
start with your feet and calves, then quads,
hips, trunk, shoulders and finally arms. Just
like in rowing. So at rate 38 balance of
movement becomes really important.
Assuming you have given the boat plenty of
acceleration there will be enough
momentum to take your handle around the
back turn, draw you out past your knees and
initiate the first couple of turns of the
wheels. But then you can sit still and allow
the boat to carry you up the slide. This
means that even at high rates your mass is
relatively still at the front but if you slide
faster than the speed of the boat (rush) then
you lack control of your mass when it’s time
to change direction and kill the boat speed.
Drills for balance
Air strokes because no work goes on the
oar but you have to maintain posture
against the momentum of your own mass
at either end of the stroke. As you get
better try them at higher rates
Quarter-slide rate work – allows you to
practise the balance of movement off the
finish, full use of trunk and arms but only
partial legs. Try doing six minutes at
quarter-slide rate 34-36!
Front end nudges where you hold your
catch position throughout
It is important to develop a strong trunk for
the catch position (especially via land
training) because your legs can only
connect as much pressure to the handle as
your trunk can hold.
Useful exercises for control...
‘Cutting the cake’ or double
Length pyramids – e.g. five at full
length, three-quarters, half, a quarter,
a half, three-quarters, full
Low rate rowing (R10) / very
January 2011 | Rowing & Regatta 43
Eyes shut rowing
Posture, balance and control allow you to
row long, transfer your leg pressure to the
handle via your trunk, have useful back angle
to use against the legs mid stroke onwards,
maintain contact with the oar at the release
and recover your mass efficiently, prepare
for the next stroke early, and to do all this
under all conditions including rough water.