BY VOLKER NOLTE
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER
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The best rowers catch the water quickly and confidently and then hang on the oar handle before accelerating through the drive at high velocities. Performed correctly, this movement makes coaches salivate, and for good reason. Most rowers never learn how to perfect the connection between the foot stretcher and oar handle. In engineering, suspension refers to a system of linkages connecting parts of a larger device. In rowing, the suspension system is the rower’s body. The strong forces generated on the foot stretchers must be firmly transferred to the oar handles while the linkage adjusts to the ever-changing external conditions while guiding the blade securely through the water. Proper suspension is established with good balance, which allows for a solid positioning of the feet, enabling the legs to generate the power that is transferred through the mid-section to the shoulders and arms and finally to the hands. Think of this system as a meticulously-timed chain of movements that begin with the large muscle groups and end with the smaller ones. The feet push off, the legs extend, the hips open, and the back swings—all with proper speed and timing. A natural bend of the back allows for a strong transfer of power and the ability for the rower to make small adjustments if necessary. The shoulders and arms then start to engage at full extension and then bend, all with the proper timing.