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On the Importance of Developing Balance Skills

“Good balance is inherent in all top athletes. Of course it is more obvious in sports like gymnastics but it is nonetheless important in all sports. Rowers should always feel themselves balanced rather than looking for the more abstract "sit the boat" which involves forces beyond their control. The boat is inanimate and therefore can only react to forces applied to it. The rower's actions can destabilize the boat if through the stroke the rowers are not balanced and in control. When balanced and in control, the rower is better able to cope with the destabilizing effects of external forces. Balanced posture also means muscles use energy economically. Unbalanced posture wastes energy and sets up stresses in the body that strain tissue and cause pain. Off balance, the rower cannot generate the power needed to move the boat quickly. For this reason balance exercises should be included in any land training program as well as part of the technical water sessions.

“There are three points of contact between the rower and the boat, however, the foot stretcher is the only point where the rower is firmly fixed. This point of contact then has special importance because it not only enables the rower to develop power, but to control the speed of the recovery and establish balance. Therefore the rower has to be completely aware of the changing significance of the stretcher contact throughout the stroke cycle.”

”Improving Your Coaching Skills, Part 4”


“The ability to produce a high boat velocity with limited fluctuations throughout each stroke is key to successful rowing performance. The generation of consistent boat velocity depends on the rowers’ ability to generate power, skill to maintain a stable boat throughout the stroke cycle and chosen stroke-length/stroke-rate relationship.”

Soper C, Hume P ”Towards an Ideal Rowing Technique for Performance” Sports Med 2004 34(12): 834

“To put the measured rolling angles in perspective, one must realize that if a sweep boat is 1 deg out of balance, the rowers on one side of the boat carry the hands at the end of the oars about 5 cm higher than the rowers on the other side. These are very significant differences to the optimal height the rowers carry their hands in a balanced boat. Coaches and athletes spend considerable time to rig the height of the oarlocks properly with millimeters accuracy. “In addition, the rowers sit on seats that are connected with the boat. This means, any rolling of the boat is directly transferred to the seats. The rowers then shift their body through movements in the lower back to regain balance. This can lead to extended loads in the spine, which can lead to back injuries, especially when rowers apply force on the oar in the moment the boat is out of balance. A rolling boat can therefore lead to injuries.”

Volker Nolte of the University of Western Ontario, quoted in Rowing Biomechanics Newsletter, No 9 Vol 5, September 2005

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