This week's Hack is an indoor rowing teaching tool we heard about from Coach Bob O'Connor at Ridgewood Crew in New Jersey: an "Erg Finish Block" that we hereby dub the Back Swing Setter.
O'Connor writes: "During Winter indoor training, we coach and emphasize the rowing stroke that we want to see in the boat in the Spring. This means eliminating bad erg habits."
In the Ridgewood program, one of the bad habits on the chopping block is what coach describes as "excessive layback and/or finishing the body swing after the handle has accelerated to the sternum."
The solution? O'Connor's Erg Finish Block, which can bolt--and bungee--quickly to the back on an erg to let the athlete feel and re-set his or her swing.
"This 19 degree (to vertical) padded back block bolted to the erg rail is a physical reminder of where the rower is to finish the body movement."
"Head Coach Boris Alvarez and I are sticklers for correct stroke mechanics while on the erg. It correlates directly to proper form in the boat. Thus the addition of the back stop for those needing a little guide on proper finish position."
The build for this coaching hack looks pretty straightforward, and the angle--from vertical--is something that could easily be adjusted to whatever ideal layback you might be coaching with your rowers.
The bolt-and-plate assembly, with quick adjust wing-nuts, makes it easy to slide it quickly to the right spot for each athlete, depending on an individual's leg and slide length, while the foam--just a bit of pipe insulation--works to make the Swing Setter a "gentle" reminder of the best place to stop.
We are going to guess that these Ridgewood rowers quickly start to feel better connection in their feet as the Swing Setter stops their swing in a taller, stronger position, and probably find themselves better able to squeeze off the finish through the core since they cannot lean into any excessive layback--all of which has to be helpful for their boatspeed come spring.
Coach O'Connor clearly shares the philosophy that your hours of winter erg-time should reinforce habits that actually help move the boat come race day--and so we were not surprised at all to hear that he also uses this Rowing Hack from way back, The Bungee Front-Stop, when he switches to the other end of the stroke to teach more effective compression at the catch.
Do you have a Rowing Hack that teaches better technique in your erg room? If so, share your tips--and hacks--in the comments below.
If you have a great rowing hack to suggest for future inclusion, then please send it to us, like Coach O'Connor did and we will feature your idea in a future column.