Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Drills: Crescendos and Accelerations

I did these exercises with the RSA JW2x today and we had one of our best sessions of the season so far so I thought I would share the drills.

A bit of background to the recent training. We have just had a camp where we did a lot of speed work as we practiced our World Champs schedule and I wanted to do something that focused on rhythm and feeling rather than flat out speed and rate.

Exercise: Crescendos – After the warm up paddle we started doing crescendos at fixed body, body pivot, quarter and half slide. Normally when we do these it is about building the rate up over 15-20 strokes to above race rate in order to practice getting the hands away and body pivot happening loosely i.e. not sitting at the finish with the handles stuck in the lap, and to ensure that the hands and body pivot are still in the right sequence at high rates.

Today I decided to change the emphasis from rate to power. I asked the girls to do crescendos raising the power as high as possible as they went and still using of rate but not as the main factor. There comes a time when the rate goes up but with no more power and then as it goes up further the power actually drops off as the athlete starts to scramble. If you drew this it would probably be a parabola shape with power in the y axis and rate on the x axis.

I wanted them to feel where the feeling of weight in their hands and push in their toes dropped off and became less effective and then to try to find ways to increase this drop off point. I did not speak to them much at all and only encouraged them to talk to each other and feel it out. I also encouraged them not only try again if they felt it was a bad one and improve but to try the good ones again to find if they could repeat the feeling.

By the time they were getting to half slides they were hanging so well off the handles yet when we stopped to turn they said that they had almost no perception of pulling hard, but had had to really focus on pushing further in order to keep the feeling of power as the boat speed increased.

Exercise: Accelerations – We then moved on to more full slide rowing with accelerations for 10 strokes followed by 10-15 strokes lighter paddling in between. I started thinking about this after reading Drew Ginn’s Blog article Boiling Frog where he talks about the effort needed to raise the boat speed versus maintaining the boat speed. I wanted to get the girls to feel the connection with the water and to find out how to maintain this as the rate/power went up, particularly with regards to what we will need to do in the start of the race.

During the accelerations the girls were asked to try to keep the feeling of power they had in the Crescendos but to build the rate and power up until they felt the power drop off and loss of connection. Obviously with full slides they would need to focus on this from much earlier in the stroke and to think more about holding the developed power through the finish as the boat speed would be significantly higher.

I also did not say much and just let them feel it out and talk to each other to make changes based on what they felt rather than what I saw.

Over the course of several dozen attempts they were able to build this up higher and higher each time and finished their last set at what is normally their race rate with absolutely huge run on the boat. This also filtered down into the lighter paddling as they were trying to keep the feeling of power/connection (good feeling) even though the pressure was quite low.

Their feedback was that it felt easier to do this that what they would normally have to do at race rates. So I think that it was successful in teaching them/allowing them to feel, a better way to get boat speed.

Their warm down paddling was awesome to watch, real goose bump stuff. Simply the best sculling I’ve seen in RSA this year.

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