Friday, February 22, 2008

Beppe Du Cappua

Beppe Du Cappua ARA Coaches Conference 2003
At the time of the conference Beppe Du Cappua was the Technical Director of the Italian Federation
Session 1

Ladies and Gentleman Good Morning. I will try to KISS. To keep things simple and short.
Please interrupt me during the presentation if you don't understand. If you don't agree or if you have other point of view let me know at the end of the presentation.

We know that there are many ways of rowing technique and these are some of them.
We will talk about what the Italians think is the best from a technical and biomechanical perspective.

We start from boat speed and this is an illustration of boat speed with a propeller, which starts and stops. But in our boats the propeller is the body that moves up and down and this makes some differences. You can see when we start to propel the speed goes down.
Now we have to fix something that for the rower point of view doesn't exist.

When I start to pull I think and I feel that the boat is going faster but this is not true. So we have to teach the rower to feel. To listen to the boat.

We have to invite the rower to feel this point as this is a very important point. Due to the fact that muscles begin to increase in contraction velocity I think as a rower that the boat is increasing in speed as well. The boat is slowing down. Why. This is the big difference between the weight of the body and the weight of the boat.

That is why some people who are good at ergometer are no good in the boat. The ergometer is fixed.
The boat is not fixed and is very light in comparison to the weight of the crew.
When we take kinetic energy from the ergometer the ergometer doesn't pay anybecause it is fixed.

But the boats pays big a price.

This is the price that the boat is paying.

There are some explanations of why because the blade is not covered. But the main factor is the reason why the boat goes down in speed is because we are taking kinetic energy from the boat.

After that the boat starts to increase the speed and when we stop to pull the boat continues to increases in speed. Whereas with the propeller as soon as we stop the propeller the boat speed immediately goes down. In rowing we have the body travelling in the opposite direction to the boat. The faster the movement of the body on the recovery the faster the movement of the boat. We know that the resistance is square of the speed and velocity. If we increase 2 go down 4 if we increase 3 we go down 9. This is a gift that we don't want, as we pay too high a price.

To keep it short and simple our goal is to reduce these two peaks.
We know that if we reduce the peaks the average of the boat will be lifted.

Now what to do to decrease this and to decrease this.
This I have already mentioned. If I am too fast I increase this too much.

Really important that you don't move too fast on the recovery.

We say that the rowers should glide during the recovery. Again we are talking about the feelings. We spot a lot with the rowers with beginners and top rowers even people who are three times Olympic Gold medallists. Every day we talk about feelings. Because it is not a natural feeling in rowing. It is not football like it is natural to walk. Rowing is not natural. So top rowers has to work every day to develop this side if not he go down in feelings. When we recognise that they are not feeling then they stop co-operating with the boat.

Our goals is that rowers must co-operate with the boat. Blades, body, boat and water. The rower has to learn to listen to the boat. We tell them that the blades are like their hands and the rower must feel what their hands are doing.

When we are at the catch we don't talk about catching the water. We talk about catching the boat. You have to feel that you put upon your hands the boat. You take the boat. Then you start to move the boat to build the acceleration. It is very important that you get the placement towards the bows. Try to finish the recovery in a very soft way. We tell the rower they have eggs under their foot stretcher and they must not crush them. Of course we do this at 18-22 stroke rate and we do hundreds and thousands of strokes at this rate, which is also beneficial from a physiological point of view. At 18-22 they learn to work with the boat and the blades. So that when they increase the rate we have no problems.

We are trying to reduce the negative pressure on the recovery. If I go to fast I can increase the negative force I put on the foot stretcher.

We normally say that the same speed you have coming in is the same speed you have going out. Physics tells us that that we reach zero speed. The rower is a human being with muscle feeling. The rower does not recognise that they are slowly to zero. We are not teaching biomechanics to the rower we are teaching how to be as fast as possible in the boat. So we look for the same speed in and out. We don't break the muscles natural movement we don't ask it to slow down we don't ask it to go faster.

We ask them to swing the body. At 22 strokes a minute it is very important that they do arms, body, legs sequence. We know at this stroke rate it gives a very good rhythm. Good rhythm is a very good help for our goal. Our goal is to be economical. When our rowing is economical we will have the top speed from that crew.

We prepare the body and then start to slide and prepare the blades earlier. We don't want them to wait until the last moment. At the last moment the rower should only be doing one thing - which is lift the hands to allow the blades to go in. If we sky at the catch we increase the negative force due to more pressure on the foot plate and more time for the boat to slow down. So it is really important to go closer to the water and have the blades ready in the last part of the recovery.

It is really important that we don't move the body in the last part of the recovery. We immediately increase the negative force. The boat feels the mass of the back, which is doing this movement. As I am gliding in I start looking for the contact.

When I feel I have the boat in my hands - then I can start to push. It is a timing question.
The rower has to spend time thinking about this feeling and time. I must be careful in the last part of the recovery and be close to the water.

Our secret is the economical stroke. Always working on economical stroke. For instance on the start most crews are uneconomical for the first stroke they make lot of negative. If you ask the stake boat boys at regattas they will tell you that some boats come back on the start and others do not. It is very important in the first stroke that you don't start too hard as the boat is at zero. You have to start with the boat and move the boat from zero. As well the second stroke many crews don't finish the first stroke they just rush it. They feel they are moving very fast because the muscles are telling them they are moving very fast but the boat is very slow.

It is very important that you feel how much force the boat needs. No co-operation between the speed of the body and the speed of the boat. Maybe I am leading because I am so strong because I have anaerobic capacity but I am paying a very high price, which comes in the second 1000m. It is important that you are economical at least for the first 30 strokes ideally for the entire race.

We start the drive phase with the legs then with the body and then the arms. Question is when do we bring the body and then the arms. When the legs are in the middle of their drive we start the body and when the body is in the middle of its drive we start with the arms. But this is theoretical as we have a human body and even between two brothers they have different leavers and different capacities with the muscles. If we try really hard we might get them all the same but you might not be getting the best from them. You are asking their muscles to do something unnatural. We try and get people to row the same but we allow for individuals to achieve it in their own personal style with the same technique. What we must have the same is the blades in the water. We must have the blades at the same arcs not just at the catch and the finish but all the way through. Our aim is to have fast boats.

About the catch the blade moves. This is called by some hydrodynamic lifting. The boat is not an aircraft the proportions are not the same. We do not believe in hydrodynamic lifting. As a coach we have to say what is important for our goal - to be economical.

In the quad you have to put more pressure in the first part of the stroke than a double and more in the double than the single. The question is how much? No mathematical equation exists to tell the rower how much pressure they need to apply in each part of the stroke. Our bodies can tell us in feelings. Our rowers can jump between the boats and within a few minutes find out what the boat needs. It is like a racing car driver. Why is Michael Schumacher the best driver in the world. If you ask Ferrari they tell you it is because he has a sense of feeling that the other drivers lack. It means that whatever car he gets into be it a rally or go cart he feels the engine the speed and what the car needs. It is not the same with his brother. They have had the same teaching but he does not have the same feeling for the boat as Michael does. In rowing it is the same some rowers will feel more and some less. The important thing is to feel that in different boats you put different pressures at different times. Remember the boat at different speeds will give different feedback.

Why do we insist for a very long sector (arc). Why should the quad be longer than the single? It is not true. One difference between sweep and sculling is that I can be even longer in sculling. Two positive reasons for being longer 1) More acceleration and 2) More efficient.
Avoid one negative e.g. longer you are less resistance to the blades as they cut the water.

One characteristic of a British Sculling crew is to be short. One characteristic of a Italian Sculling crew is to be long. We stop the stroke in front of the body as there is a lot more resistance the closer you go to the body plus lose time and energy.

How to hang, how to grip. We see too many rowers with cocked wrists which can cause inflammation and reduces power. Of course we want pressure through the elbow at the finish with the elbow up and in front of the body. Finish should be very simple out of the body with the hands out of the water with the blades.

Sculling is symmetrical and very simple. If you don't get rid of the details then it will make seconds difference at the end. Compression should be the same in all boat types. We should be aiming for economical. You can do more strokes but in an economical way. The Dutch Olympic 8 beat the Germans in Atlanta the Dutch rowed at 36 spm and the Germans at 39spm. The swing of the body is the same in all boat types. Of course it is hard to row in this way but that is all down to muscle adaptation over years.

The rigging is very important. It is important how much overlap you have. The ideal is between 18-22cm not more it depends on the width of shoulders of the rower. It is also important to have the swivels high one for leg size and big blades. If the swivels are high (20-21cms) they can make a good round movement around the finish. Also at the catch the swivels should be high for anticipation, power and to avoid waves. If you have a smaller rower e.g. lightweight women with smaller legs they should still have the swivels at 17-18cms.

This should be the same in the quad, double and single. The only difference is the velocity of the stroke they should all row the same arcs.

Span in the quad should be less than in the single because the boat is faster. But when the span is too narrow the rower has problems at the catch with being uncomfortable. Most of our quads are on a span of 160-161cm because we want the rower at the catch to be very comfortable. The catch is the key point in rowing. What happens just before the catch and what happens just after the catch are so important in rowing.

Be careful were you measure the span from. Always start from the runners that is were the runners are working. Taking the pitch you can use something a simple as a plum line.

Question: Would lightweight women row on the same 160-161cm span?
Answer: Yes, span remains the same for all our crews we change the outboard not the span.

Question: Are you advocating getting all the rock over from backstops and is this true for low and high rates?
Answer: You are looking for some degree of automatisation. When working at 18-22 we need to get all the rock over from backstops. But our goal is to row at 36 and you can't get all your rock over from backstops because you run out of time. When we teach them arms, body, slide at 18-22 that when they go higher they are able to avoid lunging with the body at the last moment.

Session Two:
Body Positions:
Of course I would say this position, as it is an Italian crew. I feel the crew pictured above is not using enough leg drive. The crew at the bottom of the screen has started the body too early. In the Italian crew which one of the athletes is in the correct position? The answer is very simple, all of them. We believe that if each rower is in their natural position then it is right for them. We ask the rower to sit in the boat just as they sit to watch television. Don't change what is your natural position. The stroke rower is losing his natural position, his position is slightly false and we think this is why he is losing his leg drive.

We try to adapt the boat to the rower. Throughout the year their muscles become stronger so the rower may change their natural position. Don't make complicated what nature has made simple for each one of us.

Sydney Olympic Games 2000 - Men's Quads Final. Germans are very fast in the first 1000m. Germans hit the catch with very little body rock over and not a very large arc. Italian quad is longer and more fluid at the catch. We say the blade talk. I am stressed you are stressing me and the boat doesn't like it when the blade gets stressed. You are touching the boat, not banging the boat, just touch. A small cat playing with a ball is a good analogy it is a very quick but relaxed movement. Not strength. Remember it is the last part of the recovery and you have to rest. When you feel the contact with the boat then you can go. Remember when you go you need to build the acceleration you can't just bang it. In the last part of the drive you can go faster and faster you have to feel that the boat is escaping from under you. But it is different in the first bit of the drive phase you need to build gradually.

Close up on the German Quad. In this position they are short. In this position with the shoulders down they can be much longer. Also at the finish they are not so long. We know the Germans are stronger from a test point of view on the ergometer. They now see the Italians are coming so what do they do they become more aggressive. They answer the Italians but in the wrong way. The Germans bow is bouncing the Italians bow is more fluid. The Germans are doing one stroke more than the Italians but they are shorter.

From a technical point of fluid the two big differences between these crews is we have a longer sector (arc) and a more fluid rhythm.

The Germans are fast, slow, fast. The Italians are the same speed. If you think from a physics point of view space and time are lines. If you think from a music point of view it is not a line.

From the catch to the finish there are no stopping points, no slowing down, no changes of speed and this rhythm is more economical.

In the last 100m even the Italians are becoming shorter and they think they have to increase their stroke rate, which is wrong.

Sydney Olympic Games 2000 - Women's Quads Final.A very good result Silver for Britain. But we are not talking about results we are talking about technique what to do and what to avoid.
German quad - why are they shorter than the Italians? Is it because they are women. We don't think so. We have already talked about the rigging. They row like the men they row the same length with the same arc and just different outboard.

All these leading crews are short all of them.

The German crew is longer in the finish arc than the catch arc. This isn't right. We don't know why this women is stroking as she is not connected around the finish. She is not behind the blades she is over the blades. It is very important to stay behind the blades.

From the physiological point of view the Germans are much stronger than the British and maybe that is why they are winning. You can see the bows of the boats are starting and stopping. Would the British quad with different rigging and longer arcs have beaten the Germans?

Not by changing things in the last few weeks but by making changes over time. Whenever you make any adjustment like rigging you need to allow time for adaptation to occur and this can take weeks or months. Change things and see what is for the best. Sometimes we don't know what to do at the end because there isn't often a large distance. But in this speculation we try to be sophisticated by testing using the stopwatch.

Question: Yesterday you talked about the finish as being soft and today you talked about it being hard can you clarify?
Answer: Not softly. Covering the blades is softly. I forgot the video of the Atlanta Olympic Games were the TV cameras picked up the blades of the Italian double going in and there is hardly a splash and they are in the final of the Olympics. So at the catch we can be softly because we don't push until we have the contact. Then we start to push and it is important that the muscles get used to moving fast even when we are doing 18-20 spm.

At the finish I want to be clean and efficient. Remember the movement of the blades in the water. I want to stop the finish in front of the body but arrive with a lot of acceleration. What is the right moment when I finish the pull? The boat can tell you when you need to do these things. The rower needs to develop feelings for the boat. We say when you feel when the boat is going to escape from your hand you need to change. If I move too quickly it is too traumatic for the boat.
It is very important to develop this sensitivity and too co-operate with the boat.

World Championship 2002 - Seville (Women's Double Sculls Final)New Zealand Double (eventual winners) - very long. Some people say you can do this in the double but not in the quad. They say you need a higher stroke rate in the quad than in the double because it is a faster boat. Of course if you row shorter you can use higher stroke rate but it is not economical.
To row this long is hard. If I ask them to row in this way a month before the regatta it won't work it takes three-four years to achieve this. At the finish the double is working very well particularly bow. They still have contact throughout the stroke.

When you get too a long catch position it is not easy to bang.

The quad is the same the only difference is the velocity of the stroke. The Italians, British and Russians are all shorter than the New Zealanders.

Italian double are relaxed but not long.

New Zealand double you can see some difference in the finish, the arcs are not the same. The stroke is coming out at the finish a little earlier than the bow.

Italian double have a good leg drive but they need to be longer. They are trying to be longer but it takes time.

Question: Was it heavy for the New Zealand double to row that long?
Answer: Muscle adaptation takes time. It is not a question of outboard but a question of arcs. They have the same rigging as the Italian double but they are longer because they are trained to do it, they have adapted.

Question: How much time do people spend in the single before they go into the quad?
Answer: Many months and years in the single. The single is easy to train in. We don't have many professional rowers in Italy. We have lack of time. You lose time just driving to the rowing club. Stretching is very important but it is not training. Nutrition is very important but it is not training. Rest is very important and there is no point them training if they can't get sufficient rest in between the sessions. It is a question of priorities what we do with this time. They might have as little as 14 hours for training per week. So do we run, do we do weights, cycling, cross training if we did we might get to 4-5hours for rowing. It is not enough. You can only do one thing with 14-17 hours per week and that is row and row and row.

But what about strength - we do that rowing and on ergometer. If I have a professional then I can do all these things and still row 180km per week. After rowing 180 km throughout the year you will see the difference.

Question: How important is it for everyone rowing to be the same height?
Answer: You can see from the Italian quad they are all different sizes. It is a question of rigging and the natural behaviour of the bodies and flexibility.

Question: When we watched the German Women's Olympic Quad you said the women at stroke shouldn't be in that seat. How do you decide who is going to sit in the stroke seat?
Answer: The first quality is a sense of rhythm. To be good at rhythm you must have very good timing at covering the blade. Secondly you have to have a good arc as the others will follow you. If we look at the stroke of the Italian straight four in Sydney he is a fantastic stroke. He is not very big. He does not have a large physiological capacity. But he has fantastic feelings he talks to the boat. When I talk about arc I don't just mean the catch but the finish as well it is important they are able to combine length and pressure. Mentally they have to be very cool and focused. An American psychologist talked about the 'killer instinct' and I feel they have to have that.World Championship Final Italian Lwt Men's Sculler

Just to give an idea of position of the catch. We were not satisfied with this position. There was a problem with this foot stretcher and we couldn't get it to go any lower. Also the athlete is very tall and the knees were too high because of the foot stretcher. After we were able to move the feet he was able to be even longer. Again we are talking about rigging the distance the feet are from the seat and what angle we have the foot stretcher is very important.

You can see the others are shorter. You can see on the recovery he is gliding the last part of it, not rushing.

Single strokes pausing at hands away, then moving the back over between the pauses. When they move the back they have to be very careful not to stop the boat. It is important to keep the boat moving so we normally do some full strokes in between.

The other drill we do is about the finish. When crews are rowing with arms only all we see is chop, chop, chop this is wrong. They move too quickly and there is no rhythm. It must be slower. The body and the boat moving and co-operating together.

When rowing you can pause at the finish and check. You can pause at the cross over. You can pause anywhere. But it is important that you pause every three or four strokes to keep the speed in the boat.

A lot of rowers use the back in the early drive phase. We work on pushing with straight arms no back.

Piano playing is also very useful. You can also use it as an opportunity to check the grip.
Placement at the catch. Just sliding forward and dropping in. It is used to practice the anticipation. The second part of this drill is just using the first six inches of the slide.

Square blade rowing helps a lot to get the right finish and the right pressure at the finish. It also helps a lot with the catch. They row many kilometres with square blades.

Eyes closed rowing. We want to develop feelings in the boat. They mustn't squint with the eyes the muscles should be relaxed.

If you want to select for double you use the double. If you want to select for a quad you use a quad. This year are aim is too do a very strong double so we get everybody in single and the best two in the single do the double, why? This year our goal is to do the quad so the best four single go in the quad, why? Maybe the sixth, eighth, tenth in single is among the best four for the quad. Because there are different muscle contraction velocities in different boats. Maybe one persons muscles are too fast for the single but ideal for the quad.

If I only had one single and one quad then we get people to go in single and then in quad and swap over. We don't use seat racing we trust in stop watch. For seat racing you need two quads or two doubles but if you have just five rowers to select a quad you can't use seat racing. That is the way to see in that boat who is the best rower.

We use the single a lot because mentally you get a lot out of it. The boat can give a lot of self-confidence and really help people improve technically. We use the single for training but not for selection.

If you go for a very big arc don't use waste a lot of energy at the front end?
Answer: Yes we can see from the efficient stroking chart that when you are at 60 degrees or even 70 degrees you waste almost half of your effort. But this is a price we are prepared to pay. So why don't we start the strokes were it is more efficient? Because we know we need to build the acceleration. The more acceleration we have when we get to this efficient arc the better. In sculling we should be 70-75 which means you have 110 degrees. But remember the knife effect the blade goes in easier at the higher arc. These two positive factors weigh more than the negative side.

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