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“Count” Me in For a Row

By Alia | In Rest Day, Rowing | on September 8, 2013

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In my very humble opinion rowing is one of the most elegant and strategic sports. If I could add at least 6 more hours in the day I would join a rowing club again just to get out on the water. It’s not often that a person gets the opportunity to hear the roar of the water under the boat, the cadence of 7 other seats in a synchronous orchestra of strength or feel the competitive 2 minute rush at the end of a 2000 meter race. I believe safe to say that most Intrepids don’t have access to a rowing club or own a single scull. So, over the next few posts I hope to make you more efficient rowers on the ergometers.

Cadence is vital to the successful completion of a race. On an erg, for example, you can rip through 1000 meters recovering as fast as as you pull and get a phenomenal record breaking time. You’re going to be exhausted and floundering for air on the floor. But I’m going to tell you how that isn’t going to move a boat on the water effectively. And most drills that can be done on the water can be done on an erg and produce similar results. I would like to say that everyone has perfect form on the erg. That just isn’t true. Form falters, for many reasons. An athlete can lose composure for a number of reasons or simply get gassed. Cadence is a basic concept I would like to make people aware of.

As I mentioned earlier, an athlete can rip through 1000 meters with a stroke being equal to the time of recovery. In other words, pulling as fast as you recover. This is inefficient and a rather good way to waste energy. I instruct athletes on the pull the way my rowing coach instructed me many years ago. I like to enforce and practice the 1-2-3-4 count. To illustrate, imagine yourself on the erg ready at the catch. Legs bent, arms extended and a slight body lean forward. This is the beginning ‘catch’ position (in a boat, this position is where the rowers oar would catch the water), count will begin here at 1. When driving back and completing the stroke with legs extended, arms pulled into the lower chest and the body slightly leaned back, the count is 2. The count for recovery, back to the catch is 3 then 4. The count of 4 should have you at the ready to pull again where the sequence is repeated. The recovery to drive time should be around twice or 2 and a half times the amount of time it took to complete the drive. This ensures that you have a breath or a breath and a half to recover. Allowing your muscles to recover means you can stay consistent for whatever distance you intend to row. Obviously this doesn’t include sprints but there aren’t many rowing competitions under 1000m and the count gets changed slightly at the last 500m of a race.

If you get a chance to hop on the rower this week, even if it is for a warmup, try the 1-2-3-4 count. See how you feel and watch the stroke rate, the topic of a future post. For now just count. make sure you set your feet cradles properly and are at a damper setting that works well for you. If you have any questions about how to set your cradles or find your ideal damper setting, ask a coach and row happy!

3 Comments to "“Count” Me in For a Row"

  • Sean says:

    September 8, 2013 at 11:42 AM -

    Thanks for the tip Alia!

  • Kristen says:

    September 9, 2013 at 1:50 PM -

    Alia you make me miss the water!!

  • Holley says:

    September 9, 2013 at 2:37 PM -

    Thanks Alia! I’ll give that a try. I read an article by a rower the other day who mentioned that most people row with a damper setting too high. That unless you are SUPER tall, you shouldn’t row with a damper setting over 5. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. Maybe that’s a topic for another day…

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