Balance in the sprint boat

Lose your balance – lose your strength we say at TiP. Balance is fundamental on more levels (from life to boat), today we will only discuss balance as a motor ability. It is an often neglected ability that deserves more attention from coaches and athletes. One more of those hidden qualities the best paddlers have, but are hidden inside their effortless, rhythmical strokes. 

Very often beginners are taught paddling in a hurry, so that they can be included in a training group as quickly as possible. Often they are also pushed to follow a plan designed to improve physiology, speed or power in the boat, long before their balance allows them to execute such tasks. This in turn leads to a technique not optimized for speed- but for stability and injury avoidance. Beginners should be given enough time to master balance and technique sessions should form a base from where to build the work capacity and speed in the boat. Even with advanced and top paddlers balance remains an important issue. All the strength and power they posses on land can be used in the boat only if balance allows it.

Balance is not simply the paddlers’ ability to stay upright and in control of body movements in the boat. It is a complex ability connected with other abilities as:

  • joint and core stabilizationthe
  • correct amounts of mobility and stiffness in various areas
  • coordination (water feeling, proprioception, rhythm etc.)

But balance has also a high degree of train ability. There are many ways we can develop it:

  • balance exercises on land (not a very high transfer to the boat)
  • balance exercise in the boat on land
  • balance exercises on the water when boat isn’t moving
  • balance exercises on the water when boat is moving
    • technique drills
    • balance games
  • low stroke rates
  • adapted equipment (higher seats, shorter paddles, smaller blades, bamboo paddling etc.)

Balance training can be part of warm up, cool down, recovery sessions or even the main part of a session for beginners. Make sure to include balance training in your routine and you will soon see the effects it has on posture, boat glide and stroke efficiency.

Photo credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images, Darren Whiteside/Reuters

 

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