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Posture, balance, control

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.

Balanced movement

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

finish movements

Length pyramids – e.g. five at full

length, three-quarters, half, a quarter,

a half, three-quarters, full

Low rate rowing (R10) / very

light pressure

coaching Technique

January 2011 | Rowing & Regatta 43

Square blades

Legs only

Eyes shut rowing

Summing up

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.

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