Thursday, February 12, 2009

Erging Irks

As I've been using an erg for a good part of my workouts - warm-up, main set, technique, etc - I have become more aware of my form. I don't focus too much on time, distance, SPM or 500m split, but I do try to keep my SPM around 22-24 while trying to keep my 500m split around 2:00. And if either of them drops, I'm not too concerned; and if they improve - great!

What I do focus on the most is technique. Technique is a fickle friend of most CrossFitters no matter the workout of the day. In most cases, many people 'do' the workout. A coach will be there to shout out cues and reminders about head positioning, rack position, driving through the heels, and encouraging them to get through the workout as fast as possible to beat the clock or last months time. But sometimes you have to slow down to get faster.

As someone who does CrossFit workouts, most times I don't bother to look at the clock or write down how long X workout took me. My focus is on my form. Take a push up, for example. It's a basic body weight movement that's pretty easy to modify for all levels. A basic progression might look like this - against a wall, against a bench, on the floor on your knees, "half-seys", full push ups, and plyo push ups. The basic 'start' position is Incline Plane

Equal amount of pressure across both hands, 'pits' of the elbows facing each other, and a straight line from head to heel. Most people will collapse at their neck, between their shoulder blades, and in their lower back. Hold this position and slowly descend while maintaining this straight line - don't let your chest or hips collapse. It helps to have a partner with you to gently press on your lower back to make you work against their touch. How far down can you go before you start to collapse between your shoulder blades or before you start to 'reach' with your head? It's a good thing to do as a 5x5 workout (5 sets of 5 reps) even if you have to do it on your knees or as Halfsey Push Ups (link to a Quicktime video demonstrating halfsey pushups - MBG). You want to maintain the integrity of the initial start position.

So how come CrossFit coaches aren't breaking down erg work to something basic like this? How many have ever been to a CF Rowing Foundations Certification or taken an Indoor Rowing Foundations course through Concept2 Rowing? How many people are taking time on their rest days or after a workout to spend some time on the erg breaking down the stroke? Rowing has been touted as such a great workout, but you can throw your workout in the crapper if you sit your ass on the seat and grab the handle and muscle out an erg piece. Ripped up hands are a sign of stupidity. I absolutely cringe when I see pictures or video of people erging as part of a WOD. Are they even thinking about their form? Maybe. Do they know what corrections they need to make? Most likely, the answer is a big fat no.

Here is some good information about rowing technique from the Concept2 website:

The Catch
- Extend arms straight toward the flywheel.
- Keep wrists flat.
- Lean your upper body slightly forward with back straight but not stiff.
- Slide forward on the seat until your shins are vertical (or as close to this as your flexibility will allow).

The Drive
- Begin the drive by pressing down your legs.
- Keep your arms straight and hold your back firm to transfer your leg power up to the handle.
- Gradually bend your arms and swing back with your upper body, prying against the legs until you reach a slight backward lean at the finish.

The Finish
- Pull handle all the way into your abdomen.
- Straighten your legs.
- Lean your upper body back slightly.

The Recovery
- Extend your arms toward the flywheel.
- Lean your upper body forward at the hips to follow the arms.
- Gradually bend legs to slide forward on the seat.

The Catch
- Draw your body forward until the shins are vertical.
- Upper body should be leaning forward at the hips.
- Arms should be fully extended.
- You are ready to take the next stroke.

Here's a great YouTube video that break down the stroke even more with a kickass rowing stick figure.

A drill you can do is called the "pick drill". It's a standard rowing drill that most crews use to warm up on the water. You isolate different parts of the recovery and drive, which gives you a sense of how they're supposed to flow. You start at the Finish position and use arms only. Row for 25-50m and add in the back, so now you're rowing with your arms and back with your legs extended. After another 25-50m, start with a half slide, and only bend your knees 90 degrees. Really work on getting your arms away and your body over and slooowly coming up the slide. Break down the legs more and go from 1/4, to 1/2, to 3/4, and then the full slide. Keep your shoulders and face relaxed and let that handle practically dangle from your fingertips, but don't drop your hands or arms.

Break down each piece of the stroke. In addition to the 'pick drill', start at the Catch and row with legs only, then legs and back, then legs back and arms. Do about 100m of each and build to the full stroke.

People think the way to get faster on the erg is to row faster. I say 'NO'. Start by refining your technique, and that will help you get faster. Once you get the technique down, you can work on speed and pressure, and you are sure to see improvement in your Fight Gone Bad calorie count as well as your 2K time.


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