How to row faster in steady state using the real-time force curve ?

 

Are we making every stroke in the water count?

In this article I show that the real-time knowledge of my force curve helped dramatically increase  steady state rowing speed. The knowledge of my force curve seen after every stroke improves concentration while rowing enabling me to give my best at every stroke.

The tools used for the scientific experiment were the Oarzpot sensor and the Sweetzpot Rowing App (Android, iOS).

Steady state rowing helps rowers develop efficiency and rhythm at low stroke rates of say 16-18 strokes per minute. The objective of steady state rowing is to help the rower manage his/her energy between a powerful drive and an adequately long recovery such that the blood lactate stays between 2 and 4 mmol/l. During steady state rowing the rower is pushing hard during the drive phase but also recovering while the boat glides underneath to achieve maximum distance per stroke. The rower should be able to hold the steady state for long distances (10-15 kms typically). These long steady state rows require great concentration such that a rower realises maximum boat displacement per stroke.

What happens when you row based on feeling?

Even if you want to make the boat go fast, just not knowing how to apply force can make you slower than expected. Here for example I am rowing steady state and going by feeling my stroke and with no objective feedback. I recorded my force curve while I relied mainly on feeling without looking at the phone screen.

The main observations from these force curves were:
1) Not very consistent force curves
2) Boat speed variations
3) Body doesn’t look and is not fully engaged

What happens when you look at the real-time force curve after every stroke?

As soon as I take a look at my force curve in real-time it immediately makes me aware of the use of my legs. I try to “bump up” the force curve early in the stroke with full focus on engaging my legs.

This can be seen when I visually compare the current stroke with the shadow of the previous stroke. Every time the bump is larger than the shadow of the previous stroke the boat moves faster (as shown in the pace /500m).

It also shows that swinging the body to spin the boat away at the finish makes the boat faster. This is reflected in a stronger finish in the force curve.

The real-time force curve feedback resulted in:
1) A faster boat (almost 10 secs /500 m faster)
2) Consistent strokes and increased area under the force curve
3) Better engagement of the body and increased leverage of the body behind the blades

Conclusion

Using the Oarzpot sensor and the Sweetzpot Rowing app to see my real-time force cup was a revelation as a rower. I could easily see that I was not connecting and pushing hard enough with my legs to engage and lever my body behind the blades.

Can this experience be generalised and help you as a rower?

I believe so. The only way to find out is get hold of the Oarzpot sensor and see your force curve using the Sweetzpot Rowing app.

Can I use this as a beginner? 

Most certainly. I think beginners especially should look at the their force curves to increase the area under it and its smoothness to really understand what constitutes a good catch and what makes a boat move. However, basic technical drills and training is indispensable. The force curve will tell you if you are doing it right 😉

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