Carlos’s Tip # 121: Carlos Dinares: Watching good rowing can make you a better rower?

Carlos Dinares looks all the time at top crews and rowers executing good rowing. Carlos has learned a lot by looking at good rowing. Carlos knows that looking at good video and good rowing has helped him to become a better rower and coach. Why? Is there a reason that can justify this?

Can we become more skilled at a movement simply by watching someone else with better skills doing it?
Do you know about MIRROR NEURONS?

In the 90s, some Italian scientists hooked up some wires to some monkeys and found that the same group of neurons would fire when the monkey made a certain motion and when the monkeys watched someone else make the same motion.

Several functions for mirror neurons have been proposed. First is learning by imitation. Babies start imitating movement as soon as they are capable. For example, two day old babies will stick their tongue out if you do. They probably learn speech, facial expressions and other social body language cues by a similar process.

Back to the main point about whether mirror neurons could help us get better at rowing just by watching good rowing. Daniel Glaser asked some capoeira and ballet dancers to watch other ballet dancers and capoiera dancers while he hooked up some wires to their brains. He found that the dancers had substantial activity in the part of the brain that controlled dancing when watching the form of dance they performed. In other words, when ballet dancers watched other ballet dancers, their mirror neurons lit up – when they watched the capoiera dancers … not so much. The opposite was true for the capoeira dancers.

This would suggest that watching an expert play a sport will only help you if you already have some degree of experience in regard to what they are doing. If you don’t have any motor maps for this activity in your brain, then there is nothing to light up when you watch someone else. However, If you have done a lot of rowing, and do have many neurons in your brain devoted to doing the rowing movement, then you will be able fire these neurons and even you will be able to “feel” the good rowing movements in your body. You can even in some sense feel what it would be like to do it better. And you can really feel like you can row a little better afterwards.

This is one of the reason why I decided to add a Role Model section on to have everyone who wants to learn and get better at rowing to have the chance to look at good rowing.

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