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German 8 rowing force curves

Imagine how amazing it would be if you had direct feedback from your power application as you were … read more

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Imagine how amazing it would be if you had direct feedback from your power application as you were rowing. Getting a visual representation of what you are doing as you row!  This is an ideal way to work on getting better and faster at rowing!

This is what the Germans did before the 2012 Olympics to win the M8+ and M4x. In these pictures you can see what this system looks like and how it is set up in the boat. You can see the display for each athlete and how they can improve their power curve with direct feedback.

Deutschland 8 with force curve screens
Deutschland 8 with force curve screens

So,immediate feedback to the rower is essential to change their coordination pattern and improve it. Direct feedback is key.  As the rower feels, they can see the change on the screen and check if that new feeling is going in the right direction or not.

German gate force angle

For many people, the main attraction in rowing is the permanent quest for the optimal combination of force, endurance and perfect coordination. We know that of these three factors, perfect coordination is the most difficult to train.

Rowing Technique fault removal
Rowing Technique fault removal
Dutch 8 curve comparison
Dutch 8 curve comparison

Dutch 8 rowing force curves

In the summer of 1993 Cas Rekers conducted a study with the co-operation of the Dutch Olympic mens Eight who subsequently won gold in 1996. A double blind experiment was run to verify the validity of the ROWPERFECT3 as a dynamic boat simulator and to determine the degree of agreement between stroke force/length profiles produced in the boat and on the ROWPERFECT.

After an outing in the eight, the crew was asked to row on the boat simulator, at a stroke rate of approximately 30 s.p.m. at standard strokes. The boat simulator then was adjusted to give the gearing “feel” the same as the boat. Each member of the crew were asked to row at a stroke rate of 30 s.p.m. with their eyes closed, imagining they were rowing in the eight. It was shown that after a couple of strokes, each individual reproduced his own curve with high accuracy. A surprisingly big difference however was found between the curves of the different individuals.

Rowing stroke profile changes over time
Rowing stroke profile changes over time

Two weeks later at an outing of the Dutch Eight, typical stroke profiles of the crew were recorded in the boat at a stroke rate of 33. Also these records were made without direct feedback to the oarsmen. A very good similarity between the stroke profiles recorded in the boat and on the dynamic boat simulator was found. The actual differences between the ROWPERFECT3 curve and the boat curve per individual were very small.

This is illustrated in  graph 7 above, which shows the force- length profile of the 5 seat both in the boat and on the ROWPERFECT3. From these experiments it can be concluded that there is a very good similarity between the force/length curves on the ROWPERFECT3. The conclusion is that the ROWPERFECT3 is a very useful tool for improving stroke profiles and for eliminating stroke profile differences within a crew.

The stroke profiles recorded with the ROWPERFECT3 training system and software are fully representative of the ones measured in the boat.

Boat aligned with Rowperfect curves

So now we know that the force/length curves made on the ROWPERFECT3 align with similar curves made in the boat, and they give immediate bio-feedback to the rowers. This makes it an essential tool for improving technique and for synchronising crews. The shape of this force/length curve depends on the technique, and gives a clear insight to the coordination between legs, back and arms during a stroke. This force/length curve, therefore, can be used to detect technical flaws, and to diagnose causes.

The graph “stroke profile modification” above illustrates what can be achieved in terms of improvement of coordination in a short time. This graph shows how deficiencies in the force length curve of a novice sculler have been eliminated in a period as short as 2 months.

So we can see that the Germans developed that expensive system that is not for public sale and are getting good results with it. For the rest of us that want direct feedback and don’t have access to a system like that, we can use the Rowperfect3 and its direct feedback gives very similar information of our power application as we row.

About Rebecca Caroe
Rebecca is the host of RowingChat podcast and is a masters athlete and coach. Passionate about helping others enjoy the sport as much as she does. View all posts from Rebecca Caroe

5 thoughts on “German 8 rowing force curves

  1. Smart Oar ( offers similar capabilities. For small boats (singles, pairs, doubles) you can mount the display unit on the boat. For larger boats, the display unit usually goes in the coach’s launch so it is more difficult for the individual rower to get immediate feedback.

  2. RowinginMotion has a great application showing power curves that can be run on an iPhone or an Android device, and used in real time on your boat. the program is only about $25.

    1. Just to correct this, rowing in motion actually shows the acceleration/deceleraton curves of the boat, as well as the velocity of the boat through the water. It does not show the power curves which would be impossible without some kind of strain guage on the boat somewhere

      That being said, the rowing in motion app is very accurate and is comparable to telemetry software which costs thousands of pounds when you are just looking at the acceleration/deceleration of the boat through the stroke

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