Biomechanical determinants of elite rowing technique and performance

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Abstract

In rowing, the parameters of injury, performance, and technique are all interrelated and in dynamic equilibrium. Whilst rowing requires extreme physical strength and endurance, a high level of skill and technique is essential to enable an effective transfer of power through the rowing sequence. This study aimed to determine discrete aspects of rowing technique, which strongly influence foot force production and asymmetries at the foot-stretchers, as these are biomechanical parameters often associated with performance and injury risk. Twenty elite female rowers performed an incremental rowing test on an instrumented rowing ergometer, which measured force at the handle and foot-stretchers, while three-dimensional kinematic recordings of the ankle, knee, hip, and lumbar-pelvic joints were made. Multiple regression analyses identified hip kinematics as a key predictor of foot force output (R2 = 0.48), whereas knee and lumbar-pelvic kinematics were the main determinants in optimizing the horizontal foot force component (R2 = .41). Bilateral asymmetries of the foot-stretchers were also seen to significantly influence lumbar-pelvic kinematics (R2 = 0.43) and pelvic twisting (R2 = 0.32) during the rowing stroke. These results provide biomechanical evidence toward aspects of technique that can be modified to optimize force output and performance, which can be of direct benefit to coaches and athletes.

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