Carlos Dinares Tip #254: Symmetry on the rowing stroke

One of the concerns of sweep rowing is the asymmetrical development of the body. As we know sweep rowers (those are the rowers that have only one oar in both hands) develop their body on an asymmetrical way.

Rowing a dynamic rowing simulator and sculling on the water develops the body on a symmetrical way.

This is why I believe that on an ideal world where we care about the body development of our rowers we should push for a symmetrical development.

When I row the dynamic erg or I row my single, I always focus on feeling each side of my body engaging correctly and trying to be as coordinated and even with the other side as possible. When I row the dynamic erg this is easier because both sides are connected trough the same handle and they can help each other to engage the body. But when I scull on the water this is harder. When I scull, each one of my hands holds a different oar and needs to engage on his own.

In my body I have more problems to engage one part of the body than the other one. I have to really concentrate to hang and relax my right hand to engage well my lats and the load on the blade. If I don’t take control of that I contract my shoulder and arm to engage that blade. This gets worst as I get tired and the rate goes up. I have no problem with my other side. I believe this bad habit might come from sweeping on an early age. I also have an unbalance of strength in each one of my sides.

To fix this problem I slow down my rowing and the load on my blade. Doing that I set an easier platform to relearn the hang and engagement of that right part of my body. It is interesting to see how slowing down and reducing the work can help me to feel the correct hang and engagement and I can rewire the new patterns of coordination and rebuild little by little new strengths on this weak side.

Another exercise that I like to do on the water or on the dynamic ergometer is to challenge myself on being symmetrical.

To do that I row and feel the pressure of each one of my feet on the footplate. I try to push at the same time with my feet and eventually with my foot heels. Also I feel how my gluts and legs muscles engage at the same time and push together on the footplate. I also feel the hang of my hands on the grips and feel the hang and stretch of my lats together. I focus on having the elbows crossing the body together and the hands releasing the blade at the same time.

If you try to focus on all of that as an exercise you will see how hard is to be symmetrical and to do all of it at the same time. If you do this often you will find out that as soon as you lose balance on one side or not catch the water properly with one blade, your whole body will adapt to that on an asymmetrical way.

I’m a big believer that developing rowers on a symmetrical way is the way to go. This symmetrical development will help them to be healthier and achieve a longer and more successful rowing life.

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