Casper Rekers designed and built the original Rowperfect (now renamed RP3) from 1987 to his death in 2010. He presented a
series of papers to Rowing Coaching conferences and we think his material is great and worth re-appraising. This article is an extract from his written conference presentations.
RP teaches co-ordination
For many of us the main attraction in rowing is the permanent quest for the optimal combination of strength, endurance and perfect co-ordination.
Perfect co-ordination is the most difficult to train, and to acquire.
It is therefore surprising that in winter time so many rowers should spend so much of their precious time to increase strength and/or endurance on machines which force them to change their co-ordination pattern between the main muscle groups used for rowing into a direction which is absolutely detrimental to good rowing.
It is the objective of this paper to show how this can be improved upon, and how land-based training can be used to improve rather than to deteriorate technique, to optimise training and to synchronise crews. [Note we use Casper’s language throughout and he called the RP3 Rowperfect]
Synchronising rowing crews
For synchronising crews, the ROWPERFECT boat simulator is as effective as a Flight Simulator is for airline pilots. Like in the flight simulator the airline pilot can be trained in the very complex art of handling an aircraft without the risk of crashing, the boat simulator enables the rower to learn the very complicated pattern of co-ordination of movements and timing, essential for good rowing, not hindered by wind, waves and water, and not disturbing his fellow crew members.
It goes without saying that this is only true if the equipment which is used, truly simulates what happens in the boat in reality.
The ROWPERFECT boat simulator does exactly this.
The main problem for the apprentice (novice) crew and their coach is that in the boat all of the problems occur at the same time, and that the crew have to divide their time between co-ordination, timing , balancing and handling the oar. On the boat simulator the co-ordination and timing can be handled as separate entities, enabling the crew members to concentrate on one issue at a time, making the learning process more efficient.
The process of synchronising of a crew can be divided into a number of phases:
- Teach the crew to all make the same stroke
- Teach the crew to all do it at the same time
- Acquire proficiency in handling the oar.
The boat simulator can play an important role in the first two phases of this process.
In the first phase the coach has to decide which type of stroke (force curve) the crew is going to row. Depending upon the time that is available, the coach can decide to use either one of the following methods:
- First determine the optimal stroke profile (force curve), as described in the previous chapter, and, once this is established, subsequently train the rowers to row to that profile
- Determine the average stroke profile which the crew makes, and have all the rowers copy the average.
The first method can be used when sufficient time is available, generally at the beginning of the training season. This will eventually teach the rowers to row at their highest efficiency.
The second method could preferably be used for making combination crews in the season that have to be homogenised as rapidly as possible. With this method the individual adaptation required is minimal; efficiency may be sub-maximal .
Training on the same stroke profile initially is most efficiently done during endurance training, later to be extended to intensive endurance training and interval training.
Coaching crew force curves
Initially, coaching on a given stroke profile is done on an individual basis, to enable one rower to fully concentrate him- or her-self to the smooth co-ordination of movement. In a second phase when the required profile is being mastered, the dimension of inter-individual timing can be added to the training. As a unique feature of the ROWPERFECT boat simulator, the moving slides of two (or more) units can mechanically be coupled to truly simulate the dynamics of crew boats. This gives the coaches and the rowers unprecedented possibilities for synchronisation of their crew during land training, not hindered by wind, current, waves, balance problems or problems of handling the oar.
Because the disturbing influence of these factors is totally absent, the crew can fully concentrate on co-ordination and timing. On the crew boat simulator, minor differences in co-ordination and timing between the crew members are much more clearly felt by the rowers than in the boat, greatly enhancing the synchronisation process.
Good rowing provides immense satisfaction. Some aspects of it can be taught and learned more effectively on the ROWPERFECT dynamic boat simulator than in the boat. Similar to a racing shell, the boat simulator is very sensitive to a proper co-ordination of movements. Good technique is rewarded, poor technique is exposed and can be effectively dealt with in an early stage.