Are You Faking It? How Over-Reaching Can Be Detrimental to Your Stroke
Are you faking it on the dragon boat? Does your reach look amazing in terms of distance, but ends up being ineffective? Recently, I noticed some of the paddlers on my team “faking it” when I asked them to reach or “give me two more inches.” I realized that I was the one causing them to “fake it.” I would ask them to give me two more inches up front, and instead of reaching more with their outside arm, torso hinge, and rotation, they just focused on where the blade tip would be and practically let go of the shaft in an attempt to get the paddle farther in front. They didn’t realize how the angle of the paddle completely weakened their stroke and became inefficient.
Your best stroke will be your team’s stroke, so make sure that you are blending in with your team, but no faking it! Tweet it!
Below are some photos of me “faking it.” Unfortunately I was not able to get photos while in motion, so keep in mind that the boat was stationary, it was sitting incredibly high in the water (due to a lack of other bodies in the boat), and it was unbalanced. So, certain aspects of my body position look a bit odd, including my inside leg (which was helping to keep me a bit more stable).
Remember, your own team’s stroke is the best stroke for you and your teammates. This is simply meant to illustrate a weak and inefficient grip and frame by overreaching, which will result in sacrificing your power.
So, in these next two photos, notice how my lower hand has practically let go of the paddle. I don’t have a solid grasp on the shaft. Also, take a look at where my top hand is. It’s nearly on my forehead. This is creating a really harsh angle between the paddle and my body. With the forward momentum of the boat and the downward force of my body, I would likely create an air pocket (that plunking noise you hear when your paddle hits the water because you began the stroke before you were fully buried). The angle of my frame is at my inside elbow, which is definitely not the strongest point.
Even when I get the blade buried (see photo below), my lower hand still has a tenuous grasp on the shaft and my top hand is still too close to my head. With such a weak hold on the shaft, and such overreaching with my outside arm, I have sacrificed power in my stroke. The angle of my frame is still at my elbow, although I am also hinging at my hip. There is not much strength in this position. When I begin the first phase of the stroke, I will barely have a hold on the paddle, and I am likely to push the top hand forward in order to move the blade to my hip. My lower hand becomes a fulcrum for the paddle as the top hand pushes forward, thereby lifting or scooping water as the blade gets pushed up, and forcing the paddle into a negative angle far too soon.
In the next two photos, notice how much stronger my frame is. I have a solid grasp on the shaft (though not a death grip) and am using the palm of my top hand to apply pressure down from my shoulder. My top arm is in a strong position which will create an angle where my hand meets the paddle handle (instead of my little elbow) and force me to hinge at the outside hip. As I drop to the water to bury the blade, I will drop from my lats (think from your armpit) until my upper body is almost parallel to the water.
When I hinge at the hip (see photo below), I get the blade buried at essentially the same location as it was buried before, but my frame is solid, my shoulders are square, and I don’t have that awkwardly over-positive angle. My top hand will not be pushing forward as I begin the stroke. My first motion will be to pull from the lats (the armpit again) and as that happens I will engage my leg drive and abs to sit up and essentially bring my abs and butt to the location of the paddle (think of “scooting” the boat forward with each stroke – bring your butt to the paddle, not the paddle to your butt). My paddle will stay vertical as long as possible in this position. No cheating or faking here.
Again, this is simply meant to demonstrate how detrimental “faking it” can be to your stroke; how overreaching weakens your grip and your frame. Your best stroke will be your team’s stroke, so make sure that you are blending in with your team, but no faking it!