Carlos’s Tip # 145: Can you relax when you row? Are you rowing too tense?

Good coordination in rowing can be defined as the right muscles tensing the right amount at the right speed at the right time.

Most people trying to improve their movement ability for sports will therefore spend time lifting weights to train their ability to quickly and forcefully contract their muscles. But there is a flip side to the coin of good coordination which is equally important and often ignored. If coordination means all the right muscles firing at the right time, this also means that all the other muscles not involved in the movement must relax in the right places at the right speed at the right time. Any act of coordination requires the skill of relaxing the muscles that aren’t essential to the movement. If the non-essential muscles aren’t relaxed, they will cause extraneous movement or tension that interferes in the desired movement and wastes energy.

Quick and accurate relaxation is also essential to good sports performance. Take the example of a sprinter. Elite sprinters have an unusual ability to maximally contract their muscles very quickly. Research shows that elite sprinters are even more unusual in their ability to quickly relax their muscles. Why is the skill of relaxation important to sprinting? The simple reason is that any muscle that contracts to push a sprinter forward will in the next phase of the gait cycle be asked to lengthen (relax). If the muscle is slow to lengthen, it essentially put the brakes on forward movement. Charlie Francis, possibly the most famous sprint coach in the world states that:

“the number one secret to greater speed is relaxation! It allows a faster and more complete shutdown of antagonists, quickening alternation cycles and permitting more force to be delivered in the desired direction with less energy consumption. Relaxation must become second nature in every drill you do and every run you take. You may feel that you aren’t generating enough force while relaxed (a perception that gets a lot of sprinters into trouble in big races), but remember, only the net force counts! The net force is the amount of force delivered in the desired direction minus the force generated by the antagonist muscle at the same moment.”

Golfers, tennis players, and baseball pitchers would give similar advice about executing maximum power. This is why any great athlete makes it look easy, and has the ability to generate enormous power even while looking very relaxed and smooth.

This information can be used for the sport of rowing. How you train, like how a sprinter trains, will determine how powerful and fast you can be. Being good at lifting weights and at scoring on a stationary erg won’t have anything to do with the ability you have to move efficient on your rowing stroke and relax the muscles not involve at any given moment.

Thank you todd hargrove for the information.

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