Every athlete has their strength’s and limitations. Athletes should look to row in such a way that maximizes their ability to generate boat speed.

I do not propose to discuss rig in this article. Rig is an obvious way to adjust the constraints of a boat to maximize the ability of the athlete to generate boat speed.  

I was stimulated to write this article after the comments on my last blog about using power as a measure of improvement (Measure Power not Speed). I had quite a few comments telling me that boat speed is what matters. I totally agree that ultimately boat speed is all that matters, but power is one of the components of speed, and to measure it on a regular basis would provide a good way of seeing if you are improving.

If we consider there are three main factors within which an athlete must develop.

Strength – the ability to provide more force
Length – the ability to deliver their force for a given distance
Drive time – the length of time the force is produced for

The wattage an athlete produces is affected by all of these components.

Let us begin with an imaginary athlete. I propose they are fit enough to produce 54000 watts within a 10-minute piece. That would mean that in an even paced effort they would produce 540 watts per minute. Assuming that they row a stroke length of 1.5m and that blade was in the water for 0.9s at rate 20, then they would need to produce a force of 200N for each stroke.  

Imaginary athlete 

Force                           : 200N
Stroke length             : 1.5m
Drive time                  : 0.9 s
Stroke rate                 : 20 spm

Watts per minute      : 5400 w 

Shorter athlete

If you were as strong as our imaginary athlete but quite a bit shorter, how would you produce the same wattage?

Force                           : 200N
Stroke length             : 1.0m
Drive time                  : 0.8 s
Stroke rate                 : 33.8 spm

 Watts per minute      : 5400 w

Weaker athlete

If you were the same size as our imaginary athlete but were weaker, how would you produce the same wattage?

Force                           : 100N
Stroke length             : 1.5m
Drive time                  : 0.9 s
Stroke rate                 : 40 spm

Watts per minute      : 5400 w

Stronger but technically worse athlete

If you were stronger than our imaginary athlete but were less technical thus producing a shorter effective length.

Force                           : 300N
Stroke length             : 1.0 m
Drive time                  : 0.8 s
Stroke rate                 : 22.5 spm

Watts per minute      : 5400 w

Looking at this it shows quite clearly that there is more than one way to produce the same power. Setting aside peoples efficiency on the recovery it may be important to adapt the rig or style of rowing to suit your athletes.

 

The challenge seems to me firstly; to figure out which ratio of these your athlete performs best at. Once you have done that how do you mesh together athletes into a crew when their optimal balance might be quite different from eachother. Maybe looking at this from a coaches perspective you may feel that certain parameters may be fixed (like stroke rate) so you will have to adapt the training programme in order for the athlete to change their optimal so as to fit into a crew.

A few questions to leave you with: 

  • How do you increase and athletes ability to generate more force?
  • How do increase the length of and athlete’s stroke?
  • How do you increase the time the athlete pushes the boat for?
  • How do you fit a crew together so that their drive times are all the same?
  • If their drive time is the same does it matter if the stroke length is not?
  • What is more important equal stroke length or equal drive time?