Be a Self Coach: Rowing Warm-Up with the Concept2 Power Curve

Using the Concept2 Performance Monitor to gain rowing feedback and coach yourself is a great use of warm up time before jumping into class.  This article will give you the ideal power curve, common faults you might see, and a couple of challenges to try in a 5 minute warmup pre-class or training session.  Here’s a quick video on the power curve to get things started.  Check it out and then read through the rest of the article for tips and challenges to try.

1. The Ideal Power Curve

Ideal Power CurveSet the monitor to display the power curve (or force curve) during your next warmup to really dial in body awareness and technique.  The ideal curve is a smooth inverted parabola with the peak located in the center of the curve.  If you can make this happen then your technique has a nice smooth transition of force being applied to the handle from the legs, hips, and arms.  Everything from your head to your toes is working together in a nice smooth sequence that results in an efficient application of power.

2. Common Faults

Self Coach Power CurveIf you ever see a double peak or a curve that looks like the profile of the Green Mountains in Vermont there is something missing or room for improvement in your technique.  The power curve represents your rowing technique graphically and that is why it can be used to self coach.  If you were to divide the graph into three sections along the horizontal, the curve at each of those sections would represent how you’re legs, body, and arms are being used to produce force.  If the valley of a double peak curve is in the middle, then you know there is something lacking or missing from how your body/hips are being used through the middle of the drive.  Try to focus on making the curve smoother, eliminating chatter/inefficiency, while emphasizing the swing of your body through the middle.  Can you keep the force/pressure on the handle constant through the middle of the stroke?

3. 5 Minute Warm-Up Challenge

Set the monitor to display the power curve (or force curve) during your next warmup and try the following challenges during each consecutive minute.  Can you create an ideal power curve during each stroke no matter what the challenge?  See the video above for what this warm-up  should look like.

  1. 1min – Legs Only Rowing (Consistent Body Angle/Arms Straight)
  2. 1min – Legs and Body Rowing (Arms Straight)
  3. 1min – Full Strokes @20 strokes/minute
  4. 1min – Full Strokes @24 strokes/minute
  5. 1min – Full Strokes @28 strokes/minute

Watch your power curve on the monitor during every stroke of the 5 minute warm-up.  Is it a smooth inverted parabola?  Where’s the peak?  Is there a double peak that you need to eliminate?  Is there chatter you can eliminate?  Be in control of your stroke at all times and maintain good posture.  If you find something that seems jerky or out of control try to change it and make it different.  Experiment a little and have some fun!  Power Power CurveIf you’re looking for an added challenge, as the stroke rating increases to 24 strokes/minute and then 28 strokes/minute, try to move the peak of the curve to the left and get the curve to start higher up the vertical axis with a very steep slope.  This will mean you’re very connected and getting good initiation with the legs.  The challenge then becomes can you keep the curve smooth and chatter free!

If you’re interested in learning more or getting out on the water, email patrick.larcom@communityrowing.org!

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Don’t Row Bad! 3 ways to look hotter and last longer in …

Row Better, Be Awesome!Who doesn’t want to look hotter and last longer in all that they do?  If your rowing is bad and you think rowing sucks, you have an opportunity to live a stronger, fitter, and more vital life.  Don’t Row Bad.

Instead of telling you all the awesome reasons to row, this post will try to give you the pitfalls of rowing in hopes that you can avoid them, make rowing suck less, and have more fun with one of the fastest growing sports in the country.

When rowing pops up in the open, in next months programming, or at your next competition, follow these three tips to not Row Bad.

Don't: Have Bad Posture

Don’t: Have Bad Posture

#1 – Everyone Wants to Be Taller …

Posture is the key to vitality and the number one thing you will probably lose when you first start to row.  Let’s face it, it’s hard to sit all day in an office or in a car and then be expected to sit tall and row strong in the gym.  However, if you can focus on one thing that will make you more attractive, more efficient, and more productive it would be holding better posture.  Before picking apart any other part of your rowing stroke, take 5 minutes to focus on posture.

Be Taller: Have Good Posture

Be Taller: Have Good Posture

Try This: Row for 5 minutes and pause every 5 strokes to check your posture.  Can you enter and exit the pause with perfect posture?  Can you hold good posture all the way through the next 5 strokes?  Imagine your significant other or future significant other is about to walk into the room, how tall do you want to be when they see you for the first time?

#2 – Use the Bigger Guns …

Don't: Use the Arms before the Legs

Don’t: Use the Arms before the Legs

Most of us like to show off our guns at the beach, but they tend to get in the way when we row.  Our Bigger Guns, the legs, can create more power and move the boat further per stroke if initiated first.  Our legs have bigger muscles and more muscle fibers to use than our arms.  They are better suited for the heavier part of the stroke, the front end.  When the fan is moving the slowest at the front end of the stroke, focus on pushing with the legs rather than pulling with the arms.  Remember, at the front end of the stroke, when the arms bend, the power ends.  Do more! Use the Bigger Guns first!

At the Front End: Push Legs First

At the Front End: Push Legs First

Try This: Start at the front end and take 3 strokes using the legs only, then take 3 full strokes.  Repeat this sequence for 3 minutes.  Can you push the legs down without changing your body angle or breaking your elbows in the first 3 legs only strokes?  Can you blend the leg drive into the 3 full strokes without being robotic or breaking the elbows early?

#3 – Get Over Yourself and Don’t Fall Off …

Don't: Fall off your sit bones or pull w/ toes on the foot straps

Don’t: Fall off your sit bones or pull w/ toes on the foot straps

No one likes a big-headed know it all with an ego.  No one wants to fall of their seat.  Good things to remember when you finish the stroke.  If you were to let go of the handle at the end of the stroke would you fall backward off the seat?  If so you probably aren’t sitting in a good position.  Stay on top of your sit bones when you finish the stroke, don’t fall off them!  Also, if you don’t get over your seat/hips/sit bones before sliding forward you will end up doing more work than necessary and wasting energy.  Finish the stroke, sit tall, get your shoulders stacked over your hips, then relax and enjoy sliding forward.  Don’t pull yourself forward with your toes/foot straps.  Relax your legs!

Sit Tall, Be On Sit Bones, Keep Bottom of Foot Connected to Footboard

Sit Tall, Be On Sit Bones, Keep Bottom of Foot Connected to Footboard

Try This: Row with your feet on top of the foot straps for 5 minutes. Can you keep your feet connected to the footboards through the finish?  Can you stay on your sit bones and get over your seat before letting it slide forward?  How smooth can you be?  Show everyone you know what you’re doing, but be smooth.  No need for an ego.

If you practice these three tips one at a time over the next week as part of your warm up, you will look hotter and last longer in anything you set your mind to, especially rowing.

For even more pro tips and ways to increase vitality through rowing, sign your gym’s rowing team up for the Charles River Rowing League 2016.

If you don’t have a team let me know and I’ll help you set one up!

 

Rest Day 12/3/15: Connection and Speed – Skill Transfer between Olympic Lifting and Rowing

 Olympic Lifting and Rowing?

RR Snatch Setup

What do you think about using Olympic Lifting in training to be a Rower or using Rowing to be a better Olympic Lifter?  Both require speed and power and incorporate similar movement patterns.  However, in rowing you sit down and are in contact with three surfaces.  In Olympic Lifting you are only in contact with two.  In Olympic lifting the goal is to transfer forces vertically and in rowing the goal is to transfer forces horizontally.  Where do you see the most benefit in training with both?  Are there downfalls?

One skill, concept, and idea that I keep coming back to is Connection.  Coaching people in the gym and on the water allows me to see many different movement patterns and levels of ability.  Athletes that grasp this idea of connection from one joint to another and one external object to another are able to learn faster, create more power, and transfer skills to other movements.  Learning to connect the hips to the hands as you initiate a movement or connect your feet to your hands at the catch, both in rowing and snatching, is invaluable.  Once this skill is perfected the possibilities are endless.

Recently I introduced the snatch to the BC Men’s Crew Team.  While we only worked with PVC pipes to begin with and 45# bars in the workout, the importance of generating speed through the middle of the drive and being turned on at the catch became apparent.  Those that had explosive hip extension from rowing and knew how to create speed on the oar through the middle of the drive in the boat had a lot more success transferring that skill to the barbell.

Using the Clean and the Snatch to generate speed on the drive through good connection is a lot of fun.  Rowers become athletes and are empowered to push harder by learning new movements and finding power they never knew they had.  It’s also a lot of fun seeing olympic lifters and other athletes learn to row because it helps them to find more connection and speed in their lifts.

Post your thoughts to comments!  Any experience transferring skills from one sport to another?

Rest Day 11/12/15: Got Skills? …Row and Get Some!

Jodie from the 7am class challenging the BC Men's Crew Team!Rest Day:

How do you Master Skills?

As Winter starts to set in and you start working toward your goals, be aware of how you recover and master skills.  One goal you’ll probably set for the Winter is to master a new skill, like double unders, hand stand push-ups, or muscle ups.  I want to draw your attention to how you attack these skills and actually master them.

To master a skill is to know and have full control over every piece of a skill, both physically and mentally, when your fresh and your fatigued.  Lately we’ve been pushing the intensity in the gym and many people have found themselves sore and out of it for a few days. What would you do on the Monday following a solid week or weekend?

The days following a hard training day are perfect for mastering a new skill through active recovery.  Rather than going back for a second or third hard training day and not performing at full intensity, commit to an active recovery day focused on mastery of the skills you’d like to develop.

Coxswains pushing hard right alongside their rowers!

Rather than join in on the regular class at CFB, take 1 hour out of your day to actively recover, rather than sitting around and feeling sore.  Set the erg for 2,000m of work and 10min of rest.  Row an easy 2k and then spend 10 minutes working on goats, handstand push ups, pull ups, and Toes to Bar.  Three sets of this active recovery interval scheme will give you confidence with skills and prepare you for a hard training day on Tuesday.

The erg is a great tool to use as active recovery.  A few hard training days back to back will leave your body depleted and full of metabolic waste.  In order to replenish your energy and clear out the metabolic waste it helps to eat well, move, and keep the blood flowing.  The erg provides a stable platform and is low impact,  perfect for recovery at a sub-maximal effort.  Next time you’re feeling sore or a workout absolutely crushes you, go sit down on the erg and row for 10 minutes.  It doesn’t have to be hard.  Enjoy it!  Row at about 40% effort, just hard enough to breathe a little bit.  You should be able to maintain sentences and tell your training partner what you’ll be doing to master your next skill!

If you have any fun methods to master skills please share!

Rest Day 10/1/15: How do you incorporate rhythm/skill in everyday practice?

Rest Day:BC Men WU

How do you incorporate rhythm/skill in everyday practice?

Rhythm and Balance are two skills needed in the boat and in the gym.  One way to improve a skill is by deliberate practice on a regular basis and making every act an act of conditioning.  Showing your body and brain how to move properly over and over again in many different situations will force it to adapt and make a movement second nature.  The simple task of taking the blade out of the water and putting it in the water in time with the rest of your crew is one example.  Below is a video of the BC Men’s Crew Team practicing building 30’s and the chop spin.  How do you spin the boat?  Have you ever tried the chop spin?  Do you use spinning the boat as an opportunity to improve rhythm, balance, timing, and feel?