Rowing POP: No, we’re not referring to playing St. Elmo’s Fire while you row (though if you haven’t tried it…).  We’re discussing applying the points of performance to your rowing technique to make you more efficient.

Monday’s 10K row gave as a great opportunity to analyze athletes’ movement mechanics.  Sure, the 10K run option was also available but only Smash and a handful from the 9:15am class chose this.

As Shades pointed out, it is interesting to look at where the common mechanical breakdowns occur in the row so our coaching team knows which points of performance to spend more time on in future rowing workouts.  Out of the 19 athletes we analyzed, this is which areas needed to be addressed:

  1.        Midline
2.        Core to extremity 3.        Frontal plane 4.        Posterior chain 5.        Sound hip function 6.        Active shoulders 7.        Full range of motion 8.        Effective grip & stance
  26% 52% 32% 26% 32% 42% 26% 5%

So the most common rowing inefficiencies we saw were:

1. Core to extremity error (52%): primarily athletes demonstrating an early arm pull rather than waiting to reach full knee and hip extension before initiating the pull with the upper body.

2. Inactive shoulders (42%): Failure to engage the lats in the pull this missing out on the contribution of this large muscle group

3. Missing sound hip function (32%): Athletes either fail to open the hip at the back of the stroke or fail to close the hip on the return thus missing out on contribution from the most powerful joint in the body.

4. Imbalance about the frontal plane (32%): (We’re not really in the frontal but rather the transverse plane here) The chain should remain level throughout the pull and the return, it should not be bouncing up and down or travelling over your knees.

5. Loss of midline stability (26%): Many athletes collapse into spinal flexion as a result of fatigue of weak postural muscles in the back or to compensate for limited hip mobility.  Not only is this unsafe, it limits your ability to transfer force from your hips and legs into the chain.

6.  Posterior chain inactivity (26%): A few athletes are trying to row with their quads by pushing off the ball of their feet rather than driving with their heels and really  driving with the powerful glute and hamstring muscles required to maximize force production in the row.

7. Incomplete range of motion (26%): Some athletes failed to come all the way forward on the return while others never reached full knee or hip extension at the back of the stroke or failed to pull the handle all the way to the sternum thus maximizing the stroke.

8. Ineffective grip or stance (5%): Only one athlete demonstrated poor foot or hand position, in this case holding the hands far too closely together rather than at the more natural shoulder width grip needed to optimize power transfer.

During the course of the classes we addressed other things like tempo or damper setting but did not cover important topics like effective breathing.  Clearly there is a lot that we can work on to further refine our rowing technique and produce better 10K row times next time it is programmed.

Here’s what Monday’s scores looked like:

10K Row time Athlete
Under 39 mins Rowdy, BFG
Under 40 mins Point Break
Under 43 mins Master Dray
Under 45 mins Yeti, Smokey
Under 47 mins Crusher, Music Man
Under 48 mins HHH, FeProf
Under 49 mins Boomer, Dauntless
Under 51 mins Pepper
Under 52 mins Motor, Iron Dam
Under 53 mins Shine
Under 57 mins HeeHee, Prof X.
Under 66 mins Sprite

And how about our small, select group of 10K runners?

10K Row time Athlete
Under 48 mins Menace
Under 49 mins Smash
Under 52 mins Doc Disc
Under 66 mins Rocky

Want to improve your rowing time?  As my coach so sagely says: “Skill is the best fitness hack.”  Start thinking about how to apply the points of performance to your row to make your stroke more efficient (less work) and more effective (more power).