Posts tagged “sport

Physics of Acceleration

Acceleration = (final velocity – initial velocity) / (time at finish – time at start)

Basically, the more you change your speed in a shorter amount of time, the more you have accelerated.  Having a race start that features high acceleration is often a strong deciding factor in races of shorter distance and where the average speed of boats are closely matched.  With the 2017 CDBA Sprint Races just having finished this past weekend, it’s time for teams to start working the long game in prep for more 500m racing fun this summer.

What I wanted to write about regarding acceleration in race starts is to address the wide variation in how teams fiddle with stroke counts and stroke technique in hopes of finding an edge over their competitors.

Many coaches I’ve spoken with over the years often have one of two philosophies about race starts: don’t fix what isn’t broken OR try something different.  The leave-it-be coaches may have strong personal histories of success utilizing a certain race start count and stroke style to the point where the idea of trying something new seems like it would hurt more than help team performance.  That fear is completely understandable, and in certain cases, may be quite accurate.  Think of the novice team trying dragon boat for their first race.  The ‘ole 5-10-10 presents both a great mental and physical challenge with plenty of clacking paddles and drenched partners.  Chances are that coaching different rate ratios and stroke techniques would probably be lost upon such a crew because performance is being limited by base skill.  Now, take the elite paddling crew; each paddler with multiple years of racing experience and a high level of fitness.  If we’re referring to a tight-knit crew with at most 1-2 new additions vs a thrown-together “dream team,” tweaking the start might also be a waste of time because the crew has perfected their start and any change is, again, probably a waste of time.

So why chase new and different race starts at all?  My answer is: because no crew is the same as the next.

Getting back to acceleration, the basic philosophy of a race start is to get from dead stop at the starting line to race pace as quickly as possible.  I’ll ignore “as efficiently as possible” because when it comes to 500m or less, who cares who did it the cleanest if they lost to a team with a “messy” start?  If efficiency was poor in the faster team, it just means that team could have accelerated faster next time.  To me, a winning start is plenty efficient no matter how it looks.  Think of how noisy, messy, and almost out of control a drag race car start is compared to driving around your Prius.  The dragster was efficient at accelerating like a beast while the Prius was efficient at saving fuel and not waking the neighbors.  The dragster wins.  Be the dragster.

But how do you know if a start is giving efficient acceleration?  Well, you could test like I used to with a GPS and stopwatch or utilize buoys of known distance.  Find your team’s sustainable race pace and seek to get to that speed ASAP.  There’s the chance for playing around with ratios and technique.  The goal is to eliminate dead-spots in acceleration on the way to full race pace.  The other goal is NOT to completely overshoot race pace and exhaust the crew before you get past the 100m mark (unless 100m is the race).

On to ratios and technique, faster acceleration demands a greater amount of power.  Power is the rate at which work is done.  Each paddle stroke does some work.  Stroke too long and slowly and power is lost.  Rate up too quickly and shorten the stroke, power is also lost.  The sweet spot for every team lies in the middle somewhere.  Physically stronger, more explosive teams can afford to rate up faster because they can put out more power.  Weaker teams may benefit from an intentionally more gradual workup.

Once the start is over, the time to accelerate is done.  Some teams opt for a high stroke rate during the race because it seems “faster.” (as in people moving their bodies/paddles quickly must be making the boat move faster, right?)  Well, again it depends on how the team can physically maintain their chosen race velocity.  If the team can ONLY generate adequate power to sustain that chosen speed, then sure, thrash away.  Their hearts will probably be running a few extra beats/min higher than a team that is able to maintain the same boat speed but at a lower stroke rate.  If you have a paddling erg, you can see how your heart rate changes if you decrease the paddle resistance and hold a higher stroke rate during a time trial vs a slightly heavier pull but lower stroke rate over the same distance.

Case in point, you can see how DW drops the stroke rate but maintains their boat speed while other adjacent teams maintain high stroke rate without gaining ground:

Compare that to our video from the 2009 Sprint Race where SFL was doing dry starts with rather meek acceleration between strokes 0-2.  I definitely do not think the strongest SFL team of its day could stand up to the crews of today, mostly based on the average physical fitness of modern, A-div teams.

I’m still proud to say that I was able to coach a crew of highly dedicated and passionate paddlers of a wide variety of fitness levels and skill into becoming a consistent contender for A-div podiums over the course of several seasons.  Thanks for the memories, everybody!


Get Ergogenic and Get your CAP on!

There is some evidence suggesting that clenching your teeth may actually help you gain an ergogenic advantage in sport performance…at least in terms of strength and power development.

er·go·gen·ic: increasing capacity for bodily or mental labor especially by eliminating fatigue symptoms (merriam-webster)

This ergogenic effect is thought to occur via a complex and still-being-studied neurological phenomenon termed concurrent activation potentiation or CAP.  For example, subjects clenching their jaws showed 12.1% higher rates of force development (RFD) and 15.1% improved results during grip strength testing and even continued to show short term improvements after relaxing their jaws compared to subjects tested without clenching.  Another study showed improved RFD and time to peak force (TTPF) in subjects performing a jump in place.

Hulk strong! Hulk clench teeth!

What does this have to do with paddling?

To date, a quick search on Pubmed reveals there to be 28 studies relating to dragon boat and a majority of them are focusing on the benefits the sport holds for breast cancer survivors.  It will probably be a while before the effects of CAP are studied in relation to dragon boat specifically, but at the cost of clenching vs not clenching your teeth, why not try it?

Imagine your paddlers being 15% stronger and 12% quicker at exerting force for those first few strokes off the line!  If that’s not tapping hidden athletic potential without illegal drugs, I don’t know what is.

Power delivery is most easily applied and also critical to a race start situation.  I say power delivery is “easier” during the start not because it takes less effort, but because the boat and water are relatively stationary to each other, which allows paddlers (both trained and untrained alike) to crank hard with decent efficiency.  As boat speed increases, it takes a great deal more experience and training to efficiently put power into the water (one of the reasons why world-class teams finish races faster with fewer total strokes as novice crews).  Although jaw clenching is probably a very common pre-sport action, dragon boat is a team sport that relies on the sum of its parts.  Imagine your paddlers being 15% stronger and 12% quicker at exerting force for those first few strokes off the line!  If that’s not tapping hidden athletic potential without illegal drugs, I don’t know what is.

The other reason why I propose the CAP effect may work best during the start is that there is currently no evidence that suggests the parameters of jaw clenching on prolonged athletic performance.  So far, all the evidence shows only a concurrent or short term improvement in performance with jaw clenching.  Plus, your masticators may be pretty tired after 2 minutes of continuous clenching.

Maybe jaw clenching is useless, maybe it’s something everybody already does, but it could also be one of the most overlooked areas of sport performance technique.

Of course, if clenching your jaw causes you pain, don’t do it!  Sometimes you just have to use your brain and not your teeth to paddle better.


Foot Numbness

If you experience numbness or tingling in your outside/extended foot, you may be experiencing the effects of neural tension.

Background

Your nerves act as your body’s wiring system, carrying electrical impulses between your brain and parts of your body.  They extend from your spinal cord and progressively branch like tree roots as they extend to your fingers and toes.  The nervous system is also like a spider’s web in the sense that pulling/tugging in one area results in tension spread across the whole system.  In other words, there’s only so much “slack” the nervous system has.

When the nervous system is at rest, it functions normally.  When under tension or direct mechanical compression, the tiny blood vessels that sustain the nerve are choked off, resulting in feelings of numbness, tingling, or worse, weakness.

Common Neural Tension with Dragon Boat

In the common dragon boat stroke technique, the position of greatest neural tension to the sciatic nerve running down your leg is during initial entry after terminal recovery.  It is at this point that the paddler is maximally flexed at the hip and the thigh/knee is close to the paddler’s chest.  Some paddlers will have their ankles in dorsiflexion (toes pulled up) and outside knee near full extension (straight) which applies additional tension to the sciatic nerve.  Paddlers with poor technique will also flex their neck, bringing chin to chest or lose core stability and flex their spine (rounded back posture), which adds additional tension to the nervous system.

Slump Test: a common orthopedic assessment for neural tension as the cause for low back pain and leg numbness/tingling. Is this similar to your posture when you paddle?

Other causes for neural tension/compression in Dragon Boat

Other potential causes for neural tension during dragon boat paddling may involve (but is not limited to) ankle position, gunnel pressure against the outside leg, or bench pressure under the thigh/buttocks.  Positioning your outside leg forward with the bottom of your foot turned in to face the midline of the boat is ankle inversion and this may add tension to the peroneal nerve.  Direct pressure of the lower leg and outer knee to the gunnel may also compress the peroneal nerves running into your foot and lower leg.  Pressure of the forward lip of the bench against the bottom of the thigh may contribute to compression of the sciatic nerve.  This last cause may be more common with shorter paddlers due to having shorter legs.  I still intend to take metrics of the BuK boats we have and correlate this to paddler positioning/posture (stay tuned).

Seeking Help/Solutions

If numbness/tingling occurs during paddling but resolves as soon as you stop paddling, double check your technique or ask your coach to ensure you are not falling into the common pitfalls of neural tension described.  You may try a butt pad, reducing pressure/slamming of your outside knee against the gunnel, or keeping your ankle neutral against the footstop.

Certainly, if your symptoms do not resolve after cessation of paddling or you notice a sense of weakness or foot drop(!)  (the phenomenon where you cannot actively lift your toes or dorsiflex your ankle), you should seek medical attention asap as it could represent a variety of serious issues that your physician will assess.


Tips for Video Analysis of Paddling Technique

Whether you’ve seen and replayed dragon boat videos online a million times, have had somebody else film your technique, or have collected footage of other paddlers to analyze, you may be sitting at your computer screen saying, “Something could be better, but I’m not sure what.”  If you’re like most people, your eyes will flick around to various areas that catch your brain’s attention.  You see something happen in your periphery but by the time you look, the moment has passed.

In physical therapy, watching people and analyzing their movements for abnormal patterns or issues is a significant part of the practice.  It also takes just that…a lot of practice.  Whether you’re new or experienced at analyzing paddling footage, here are some tips that may improve your flow and consistency in watching technique.

1.  Stick to a System

Give yourself a step by step protocol to watching somebody paddle.  If you were looking at a photograph, your eyes will flick around the scene to areas of interest.  Now, if that picture is a movie, your eyes will move and follow many different areas without order…unless you take control.  Try starting somewhere specific, anywhere.  I usually start from the water and watch upwards.  I look at how the water moves, how the paddle interacts with the water, what the paddle is doing through the stroke(s), how the person interacts with the paddle, and finally how the person moves.  I don’t move my eyes to the next portion of the image or video clip until I am satisfied with the information I have observed.  I will also do multiple passes (more on this later).

Your system can be totally different but I highly recommend using one consistently.

2.  Get General Before Specific

Take notes on paper or get mental about things you see.  Don’t get hung up on tiny details until you get a good sense of the Big Picture.  Paddling technique is a sum of all parts and ultimately you are interested in that sum.  Complex movements are also, well, complex.  It helps to make things as simple as possible.

I will follow my system of watching a paddler from water to paddle to body in several “passes.”  With each pass I make note of more specific findings, observations, and hypotheses.  The Scientific Method.  To put it vaguely, I may look for “what” I see, then look for “how” things are happening to cause what I see, and then finally think about “why” things are happening in a certain way.  I take things from simple to complex because it’s very easy to get hung up on the details but not be able to see their relevance towards the Big Picture.  A paddler may drop their head through early to mid-pull.  So what?  What are the qualities of their overall stroke and how does this head bob possibly affect it?

It also helps to slow things down so see specifics.  Use a simple video editing program to slo-mo your stuff as best you can.

3.  Imagine Change

You’ve made a list of observations and hypotheses.  Now to test things out.  If you’re really good (or just experimental by nature) you may have several video clips of paddlers on the same day trying different techniques or changes on-the-fly to compare later on.  Ask yourself what makes sense to try and change in a paddler’s technique?  What are the costs and benefits of making such a change?  Is the change dependent on something fairly quick to change like paddler awareness or knowledge of results?  Does the change require something that takes longer to develop like “feel” for a solid catch at entry or plain physical power?  How will a change made in one part of the stroke affect other aspects?

4.  Make Change

Pick your battles and make a plan of attack that prioritizes your findings and interventions to yield the best results soonest while all good things come to those who wait (and work their @sses off).  Get more data so you  can retest your changes and see if your approach had the intended effect.

Try out your System in analyzing this paddler’s technique!


Feeling the Rush

It’s race day.  Waiting in the marshaling area, shoulder to shoulder with your closest competitors.  This is the race that decides who takes the podium.  Man, everybody looks big.  That guy over there looks like he could lift the boat by himself.  Get down to the water, load on the boat, take it lightly to the start line.  The boat is so quiet before the horn that you could hear the drops of water falling from your paddle.  Butterflies.  You hear the call and the horn lets you know it’s time to f’in GO.

What happens mid-race is chaos.  You hear folks shouting “Timing!”  The video review post-race shows a massive caterpillar of paddles rushing the timing from the back to the front of the boat.  The timing box is pretty pissed.  Timing has been something your coach always talks about in practice.  What happened?

I think there are many reasons for timing issues, but the caterpillar is specifically one phenomenon that does not seem to be a random occurrence.  In fact, the very nature of the caterpillar is that the pull phase accelerates more and more as you move from row 2-10.  Why does this happen?  Here’s what I think contributes to this:

1.  Excitement.  Racing makes the adrenaline flow.  You’ve got energy stores tapped and ready to go unlike a normal practice situation.  You will perform better, stronger, faster than perhaps you realize.  Your mental focus may not be 100% on timing, but other distractions.  This can contribute to timing issues, but that doesn’t explain the pattern through the boat.  There’s no reason the back of the boat is more excited than the front.

2.  Physical trends.  Many crews will organize bigger paddlers in the middle and rear of the boat.  It’s possible a stronger paddler can pull and recover faster than a smaller paddler.  This would start to match a trend from front to rear, but you rarely see the LARGEST paddlers in row 10.

3.  Water quality.  While in physics, the boat is moving at 1 velocity relative to the water, this doesn’t mean that the water is moving at the same velocity from front to rear of the boat.  The front rows get water that is touched only by the bow of the boat.  As more and more paddlers pull, exit, and enter the water down the rows, the water gets churned.  It has vortexes, swells, and air bubbles.  All these things make for water that is quicker to pull through.  When the paddle moves quicker through the water, people will exit sooner and start recovery earlier.  I believe this explains the caterpillar scenario best.

Ways to address this would be to set the expectation of the phenomenon.  Next would be to have paddlers all learn to paddle cleanly and solidly, minimizing excess turbulence in the water.  Next would be making sure folks in the engine and on back, know how to catch and pull solidly through turbulent water (since increased turbulence is somewhat inevitable).

One thing that I don’t think would work well would be to tell the back of the boat to “pull slower.”  This will cut down on their power and possibly drag the boat to be SLOWER.

See if it works out how I anticipate!


Once you go black…

…you never go back (to a wood paddle, that is).

At least that’s been a common trend for paddlers following the rise in popularity of carbon fiber paddles hitting the market.  Paddlers will often find themselves in the dilemma of choosing an “advanced” paddle as soon as they feel they are getting “advanced” but what are the pros and cons of different paddle materials?

A dragon boat team using mixed paddles

Getting Woody

IMO, you can’t beat the look of a brand-new Grey Owl “high-performance” wood paddle is a thing of beauty.  Shiny lacquer over carefully joined pieces of ash and basswood give a great look that holds up to years of use.

Despite a claimed weight of 570g (at 51″), many top dragon boat teams and excellent athletes utilize this type of paddle with good results.  It’s also a steal at less than $60.

Wood paddles are generally the first type of paddle that dragon boaters utilize when learning the sport, because it’s so economical for clubs to stock them and they are VERY resilient to clacks/dings.

Essentially, a high performance wood paddle can be tough, cheap, and perform great.  If you’ve never tried a carbon paddle, you’ll never know how the wood paddle compares, so stop reading, buy a high performance paddle and be done with it.

Oh but whataboutacarbonpaddle?

The future is here!  No jet packs, but laminate paddles made of carbon fiber and occasionally Kevlar weave.  The IDBF regs allowing paddles “made from any materials” fitting the controlled dimensions and design restrictions is a real game-changer.

Despite the lack of objective 3rd party comparisons, all carbon paddle designs generally aim to cut weight and increase rigidity compared to the traditional wood design.  The “cutting edge” nature of composites (despite being around for almost 100 years) keeps prices significantly higher than wood paddles.

For a carbon paddle that can be 55% lighter, supposedly stiffer, and almost 5x more expensive than a wood paddle, is it worth it?  It’s all subjective, really.  Here are my thoughts.

Carbon paddles are often touted as being for the most hardcore of paddlers, but let’s compare this to the carbon bicycle market.  Sure, pro’s use carbon and other high-tech material bikes, but it’s the average Joe (who has $1-20k) that makes the market go round.  Same goes for dragon boat paddles.  Pro’s choose ’em, Joe’s use ’em.

I’ve heard folks mention a possible disadvantage to using a carbon paddle is that it is “too stiff” for a novice paddler and can result in increased risk of injury.  I personally don’t think this makes sense.  First, stiffness is the resistance of a material to deformation in response to an applied force.  It is the paddler that applies the force.  That force a paddler exerts doesn’t change based on what the paddle is made of.

Most injuries that are atraumatic (in large scale) occur from repetition of faulty mechanics.  A paddler that is not fit enough to paddle with good mechanics is likely to develop injuries regardless of their equipment.  Heck, it would probably happen if they air-paddled for hours on end without a paddle.

The advantages of a paddle that is stiffer is that there should be higher efficiency of force transmission to the water, meaning less energy is wasted flexing the paddle and more is put towards shoving the boat forward.  There should be a net energy savings for the paddler here.

A lighter paddle also means less energy spent through recovery and may reduce the strain associated with using a heavier paddle at the same given stroke rate for any length of time.

All together, I’d say using a carbon paddle is less likely to cause an injury than some may think.

Stiffness can most definitely affect “feel” and carbon paddles are also notorious for having wildly different weight distributions between blade, shaft, and handle brand to brand as compared to wood paddles.  Each of these aspects will affect how the paddle feels on recovery and through the pull.

For those who are on the fence about wood vs carbon, Kialoa makes a hybrid wood and carbon paddle so you can supposedly get the best of both ebony and ivory worlds.

The choice is yours!  Best of luck to making the change to carbon OR changing back.


Power Slings

If you read this well-written article,  you can start to wrap your brain around how these structures relate to paddling specifically.  If you read it and are confused, don’t worry.  In a nutshell, we have groups of muscles that run along the front and back of our bodies that run in a diagonal direction.  Visualizing them on either side of midline, we can see an “X” pattern that forms across our front and back.  Contracting different arms of the X’s allows us to flex, rotate, sidebend, and extend as well as resist external forces that would otherwise move us in those planes.  This X-pattern has been referred to as an anatomical “sling” or sometimes as a power-sling.

Power slings run across our front and back to provide strength and stability

Power slings run across our front and back to provide both strength and stability.  Adamantium provides the rest.

Paddling, like all sports, is 3-dimensional.  Taking a stroke involves muscle action and movement that is tri-planar.  It can be reasoned that by contracting in various patterns, these slings work to stabilize and move our body in 3 dimensions.  What this means is that training in a cross-pattern or diagonal/asymmetric fashion may be more functional and directly applicable to developing strength, performance, and stability in a 3-dimensional sport.

During the recovery phase of the dragon boat stroke, a paddler will flex forward at the trunk as they rotate to face inside the boat.  The act of reaching during the recovery phase (in a left sided paddler) can be thought of as contracting the front sling running from left shoulder to right hip.  Acting alone, this sling would cause the trunk to curl forward, drawing the left shoulder towards the right knee.  To maximize reach by keeping the spine more neutral, the posterior (rear) sling running from right shoulder to left hip must contract to draw the right shoulder blade and top arm up and back (coincidentally establishing positive paddle angle on the reach) keeping the spine straight and long.  The opposite set of slings work for a right-sided paddler.

During the pull phase, the slings quickly and powerfully switch actions.  The front sling running from right shoulder to left hip contract to drive the blade down into the water, initiating the pull.  The rear running from upper right to lower left contract to pull the trunk upright, preserving the rigid A-frame.  Different stroke styles involve different coordination of these slings, but still rely on these slings for movement and stability.

If a paddler is deficient in strength of one or more of these slings, it’s simple to see how this can contribute to visibly faulty paddling technique or simply less power delivered into the water.  Likewise, faulty technique as well as muscular imbalance and lack of stability can lead to an increased risk of injury.

In the future, I’ll be aiming to make some educational media about stretches and exercises to condition these slings.


Anatomical Slings

Looking to understand your functional anatomy a little better? Read this article!

For awhile now, we’ve been delineating hand to foot continuities that run throughout the body, providing strength, flexibility and a more developed sense of one’s body in space as they unfold. These patterns of uninterrupted flow, created by sequences of muscle, tendon, fascia and bone, come and go with movement.

We saw, last time, how motion of the hands helps create lines of pull that travel by various routes up into the torso. Our task today is to look for some of the strings that will convey these impulses from the torso down into the pelvis, legs and feet.

Back of the torso

A good place to start is at the back of the trunk. Remember that you can enlarge an image simply by clicking on it.

The next two drawings provide an overview of what Myers calls the Back Functional Line. Both illustrations reveal the same continuous line of pull running…

View original post 1,035 more words


HIT Yourself!

Growing up, my parents always told me that hitting was a bad thing but science is showing some evidence that a little hit isn’t such a bad thing after all.

In case you were wondering, I’m not talking about actually striking somebody but rather the acronym HIT or High-intensity Interval Training.  Athletes who train to race in any sport are well aware of interval training, which is a form of exercise involving a period of exertion followed by a period of rest.  Interval workouts give variety and challenge to a training program, but are commonly associated with sprinting or mid-distance sports.  Did you know that there is evidence that the integration of a HIT workout can result in better endurance when compared to an ordinary endurance training program?

Although the distance of dragon boat races could be considered sprint to mid-distance in most water sports, the physical demands of dragon boat paddling still favor the team with a good mix of power AND endurance.  Many teams will train to develop power by power-lifting in the gym and doing starts on the water, with endurance training consisting of moderate to low-intensity, sustained paddling.  With the lack of research being done on dragon boat itself, I found one, albeit older, study from Laursen et al titled “Interval training program optimization in highly trained endurance cyclists.”

Their results showed that workouts involving HIT resulted in better 40km time trial results in cyclists compared to those who only performed endurance training and did not perform HIT.  More specifically, the treatment group that improved the most was subject to the following HIT parameters:

HIT parameters
HIT workout 2x/wk
8 timed sets of 60% Time to Exhaustion (Tmax)
at VO2peak power output (Pmax)
1:2 exercise to rest ratio
Recovery period intensity at 65% max heart rate (HRmax)

4 weeks total with workload adjusted at 2 week reassesment

Getting some metrics for your paddlers is important but not necessarily essential to get HIT to work in your favor.  The metrics will help you learn where certain people excel and where others need to improve.  Since DB is a team sport, having some average race times before and after training under similar conditions would be good to have (or individual time trial data).  For individual testing, a paddling erg would be useful.

How to do this Yourself The Meticulous Way

Measuring VO2peak:
Unless you have access to a professional lab setup, you’ll have to estimate this by other means.  The experiment calculated VO2 while exercising at certain workloads.  For practical purposes, VO2max can be substituted and there are several calculators online, here is one.

Measuring Tmax:
Warmup for 5 minutes at a set, low intensity.  After the warmup, immediately increase resistance to a higher level (the experiment increased wattage at warmup by 1.5x for the test portion).  Measure the time it takes for the paddler to drop below a desired stroke rate.  The time to cadence fatigue is Tmax.

Measuring Pmax:
After warming up 5 minutes at easy intensity, gradually increase resistance while paddling until the point of volitional fatigue, making note of the wattage just before point of fatigue.  The experiment measured this in relation to VO2 measures, so again, this is an approximation.

Measuring HRmax:
Try this calculator to find your range of max heart rate by age, type of sport, and training level.

How to do this Yourself The Simple(r) Way

You could choose to omit things like VO2peak and Pmax.  Get your crew warmed up properly.  After this, run a sprint race piece and make note of when either stroke rate progressively drops or boat speed starts to decrease.  You can film and count stroke rate later or use an accelerometer to figure this out.

For workouts, run 8 sets of similar intensity sprint pieces for 60% of the time until performance drop-off.  Paddle easily at 1:2 time ratio through the whole workout.

For general health and performance reasons, your paddlers should be familiar with methods to monitor their heart rate in relation to workout intensity.  Wear heart rate monitors or figure out max HR prior to working out and having folks measure their HR immediately after the set.  With experience, folks can learn to associate HR with perceived level of exertion and use that as a general guide if they are not actively being measured by a device.

rdln


Musings: The Stretch/Shortening Cycle

Athletes have long noticed that bouncing helps increase power immediately before a power activity.  Ever see somebody struggle to chest press too much weight?  They may literally bounce the bar off their chest, which can fracture their ribs but also give what’s called an active, eccentric stretch to the pec major, triceps, and deltoid muscles; increasing their power output temporarily.

Try this: get a chair and squat down to lightly touch your bottom to the seat.  Then, try to jump as high as you can (ideally you’d have a marker to know how high you jumped).  Now, try removing the chair and squatting down to the same height, allowing your hips to quickly dip down into the squat right before the jump (an ordinary, stationary squat jump).  You should notice that you can jump higher when you take the chair away.

Notice how those tasty frog legs move slightly before the body starts to move in the leap

You are giving your leg muscles a quick stretch prior to the jump, which increases the power and thus the height of your jump.

This phenomenon should happen in our arm and trunk muscles as well.

One might wonder, if you could coordinate an entire boat of 20 paddlers bouncing slightly before the first stroke of a start, you could get a significant increase in power on the first stroke!

This may already happen instinctively in the form of “The Trunk Bob” immediately leading up to the first stroke.  What this does is bring the trunk downwards while the arms ever-so-briefly stay stationary, stretching the mighty latissimus dorsi muscle before it contracts and pulls through the first stroke.

Check out The Trunk Bob

Will a slight bounce help make a more powerful first stroke?  How much does the first stroke REALLY matter if everything counts in a race?

Nobody knows for sure, but it sure does make me wonder.


United We Stand

Congratulations to all paddlers for a fantastic race at Treasure Island this past weekend.  Huge thanks goes to those who helped us steer our heats so smoothly and precisely.

With this race concluding the season for our mixed crew, several things come to my mind.  First, we just completed what I believe to be our most challenging season ever.  From the strength and commitment of just a few paddlers at every practice, we’ve managed to pull together a solid crew for every race this season.  Though every team at some point faces the same challenges in keeping practices productive and seats filled, SFL has always seemingly managed to do more with less.  It’s a team trait that has made us great when rosters were full and kept us in competitive lanes this season.

Second, 2013 will mark SFL’s 10th anniversary.  With 2 paddlers remaining from this crew, SFL has clearly been through its fair share of member turnover through the years.  Be it for 1 race or 1 year on the team, every former member of SFL who has graced our boat is sorely missed.  I do find it satisfying to see that many former SFL paddlers become coaches and leaders on other Bay Area teams and valued members wherever they choose to find themselves in dragon boat.  As familiar faces leave the team, new faces present themselves every year; adding to the rich tapestry that is SFL.

As volatile as the roster has been over the years, the strength of the team comes from its strong bonds among teammates.  Our members don’t paddle for the flag we wave, the jersey colors we wear, or the medals to be won.  I would paddle my hands raw to get the team over the finish line because I know everybody on this team works just as hard alongside me.  We are eclectic in our backgrounds but united in our fighting spirit towards a common goal — doing our absolute best as SFL paddlers regardless of finishing place.

The end of this 2012 season will, undoubtedly, see some of our members to other teams or to time away from the sport in general.  As 2013 draws near, I am eager to greet new faces and meet new challenges as one team: united.

Until then, team.  10 years strong.  You make it happen.  We make it happen together.