Erging better with a little help from @ergdaddy !!

erg postureOn Friday night, I spent quite a lot of time watching back videos of indoor rowing competitions (my Friday’s were a lot more fun before I had kids!) I was looking at my own from the EIRC this year, several from Crash-B a couple of weeks ago (including Graham Benton winning the 40-49 HWT in an unbelievable time of 5:48.3!)  and others that are floating around on the net – all with a view to trying to sort out my technique.

I think I’m ok with what I’m doing – but being self-taught, it’s easy to get the wrong end of the stick (or handle) and end up with a weird quirk that needs some heavy ironing out!

Recently, I’ve been quite obsessed with my elbows. Ever since David pointed out in one of my videos that I finished with ‘Bunny Hands’. I’d since picked up a tip that your elbows should be at the same height as the handle at all times. And this is what I’ve been struggling to maintain. So, as I said, I was watching a lot of videos, trying to work out how this should work.

And, when you watch a whole bunch in quick succession, it’s funny how you can see the multitude of different tweaks and quirks other people have. Those who have really quick drives, then the rest of the stroke is very slow – those who end up with their elbows pointing out – those who flick in with their hands – those who have their arms bent the whole time – lots of different variations from what the ‘perfect form’ videos show.

And this frustrated me. And it frustrated me enough to post something on the Fitness Matters Rowing Hub – basically asking what I’m saying here. How can I get my elbows to do what they want, and it’s interesting to see other people with arms up and out…?

Incredibly, Graham Benton replied to my cry for help!

“Nothing too obviously wrong at the finish. Personally I’ve never really thought about hand or elbow positions, but more thought about maintaining a strong position and keeping connected to the fly wheel. I think you could compress more at the catch though and maybe you have a slightly exaggerated difference between they hand height into and out of the front position. I think it’s making you inclined to lunge a little.”

As I’d been so fascinated with his race in Boston (watching it live while cooking roast potatoes in my kitchen in Glasgow, and watching it again on YouTube) it was like Eddie Van Halen sharing the trick of how to fingertap to a new guitarist. And it’s one thing to hear/read it – it’s another to then try it.

Yesterday, I tried it. I focussed mostly on the hands thing. Because looking at my video, it’s really obvious that when I go into the catch, my hands are down, then I jerk up – and the rest of the stroke follows that nature:

All I needed to do what make sure I returned the handle to the starting height that I’d want to go from. Actually REALLY simple to do. A bit harder to keep concentrating on doing it. My mind would wander from time to time, and I’d find my hands doing down again, but when I got it right – which was most of the time, it felt goooooooood.

So good in fact that the opening rate was meant to be r20 at 1:57 – and I was having trouble going that slow at r20! I was easily pulling 1:54 and had to really back down to get to 1:57.

8000m later when I had to do it again, I was thankful that it was easier to hit 1:57 at r20 – most of my energy tank being depleted by then. But with only focussing on this, things had turned a corner. I was aware from time to time about needing to think about compression – but I also realised early on that by concentration on hand position I was automatically compressing as well as I think I can. What will be interesting though, is to try this with a sprint session instead of a distance session.

The other huge improvement that came out of changing something as simple as this was that it seemed to have fixed my posture. You may notice above that I look up – and I don’t look at the monitor – the main reason for this is that if I look down, my lower back stars to sag – and my posture slumps down.

But the cause of this slumping, but the ‘low hands’ at the catch thing. So keeping my head up may help prevent the symptom – but it doesn’t fix the problem. Sorting out my hands seems to automatically do both!!

So although I’m sure thee’s a lot more ‘grooving in’ that’s needed in order to make this automatic, for the meantime it felt amazing, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s session where I can continue with this. A big thanks for @ergdaddy!

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