Video plays a huge part in our coaching - not only videotaping our students but also analyzing the technique of the elite rowers. Styles have certainly changed over the years, but by far the biggest difference we see is the amount of lay back. While we used to see and coach 10 to 15 degrees, now the top rowers go to at least 30 degrees, quite a few to 45 and some even beyond that.
Despite this added length, stroke ratings, if anything, are going up. What we have observed is that the rowers are using their core to roll their bodies out of bow as soon as the pressure comes off the face of the blade. They’re not sitting back while their hands come out of bow but rather the body pushes the hands with no time spent sitting at the finish. They're powering the boat on the recovery.
Remember that every action has an equal and opposite reaction so as the body swings out of bow, the boat accelerates towards the finish line. To achieve this, rowers have to develop solid core strength.
So as you head in to the winter season and are looking for better ways to prepare yourself for the next racing season, make core conditioning a top priority. Consider signing up for a Pilates class, hiring a trainer, or just doing a google search on core exercises.
One specific exercise I'd recommend, especially for women, is push ups. Rowing entails a lot of pulling but if the opposing muscles aren’t also developed, this can easily add to injury. One of the most common injuries among women rowers is an intercostal muscle pull. Push ups can help to prevent this while also building up core strength.
Use your time off the water this winter to balance the body, try something new and different to make yourself a more well-rounded athlete.