Tips to Improving Your Rowing with World Record Holder Richard Wassell

Author: Carter Jee   Date Posted:23 August 2013 

BY: Carter Jee with Richard Wassell

If there is anyone who knows how to get the best out of a rower, it is Again Faster athlete Richard Wassell.

He recently broke the world record for rowing 100km in the Adaptive Category (Legs, Trunk and Arms), with a time of 10:34:23.5, bettering the previous mark by an 1hr and 20 minutes.

As he prepares himself for his next world record attempt, Richard was kind enough to provide me with a couple of tips that would help improve my rowing.

1) Learn to pace yourself The most common mistake is that I see happen on a rower, is that people tend to go out too hard and too fast. As a result, they die a long way from the end, finish with a disappointing time, and cultivate a hatred of rowing.

A better strategy is to start with no more than ten strong strokes at a quick pace to get the flywheel moving. Once the flywheel is moving, slow your pace down by a couple of strokes per minute. Settle into a pace where your rowing stroke is strong and you can still breath with some comfort.

By doing this, you are able to row for longer without burning out.

With practice, you can then focus on bringing your splits (500m times) down as you row. Ultimately, your splits will be negative, i.e. each subsequent 500m is quicker.

2) Learn the optimum start and finish position. A common error that happens is that people lean back too far in the finish position.  The optimum finish position is a slight lean back to the 11 O’clock position. Any more than this, and you are wasting energy and power.

Just like there is an optimum finish position for the stroke, there is also an optimum start position. This position is at 1 O’clock. At this position, it is easier to breath and sets you to use maximum power on the next stroke.

3) Setting the Damper too high. Finally, there is a confusion between intensity and the damper setting. On a rower, the intensity is set by how much you use your legs, back and arms to move the handle, i.e. how hard you pull.

Unless you are over 110kg and over 2m tall, there is no point having a damper setting of more than 5.

At the recent indoor rowing world championships, Eric McDaniel won the event I was competing in, 1000m, with a time of 3:05 on a damper setting of 3.

At the recent indoor rowing world championships, a world record was set with a damper setting of 3!

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