The power stroke is brought to an end when the elbow of the lower arm is aligned with body and the shoulders are parallel to the seat ie. the neutral position, with the blade still fully in the water. Any power applied after this point, which is certainly possible, results from over-rotating the torso and more often will create a lifting force due to the angle of the paddle that will pull the boat down into the water and/or will ship water into the boat. This is an important point since the body is capable of exerting force beyond the neutral position, however, it is not an energy expenditure which will contribute effectively to the forward motion of the boat.
The paddle should be slipped diagonally up and out of the water leading with the upper hand as quickly and cleanly as possible with minimum resistance or splash (Deltoids). Many teams emphasize lifting the paddle high with the upper hand to keep the paddle as vertical as possible. This is good in flat water conditions and in boats with close seat spacing as it allows a paddler to reach up and around the paddler in front.
A common problem is that the FINISH is either initiated too early particularly when the stroke rating is high, or lacks any clear definition as the paddler begins to lift his blade out of the water half way through the COMRESSION phase. It is imperative that the paddler focuses on keeping the blade deep in the water and applying full power to the stroke right though to the FINISH position. Think of the vertical upper arm drive!
Itꡑs worthwhile to focus on a 'power punch' at the FINISH to provide a kick at the end of the stroke similar to the aggressive CATCH at the beginning. To achieve this, the outside elbow should be kept close to the body and the paddle blade should be feathered out with a powerful kick from the forearms and biceps. The paddle should be brought out fast and high to avoid drag and to initiate a speedy RECOVERY. This will also help to push water away from the boat as the blade exits.
The FINISH should be executed with the same aggression and precision as the CATCH, and with the same timing throughout the boat.
Training is not a simple of working harder and going farther each consecutive practice. It requires a clear understanding of how we physically adapt to matter different work loads and needs to be approached carefully with a considered plan if we are to perform effectively for a specific sport. For us this is not just paddling, itfast. ꡑs training to paddle
As we adjust our level of work and the type of work we do, different aspects of our physiology and metabolism are correspondingly altered to suit the new demands we are putting on our bodies. This is the fundamental consequence of training. Knowing what changes are required and how to go about achieving them is the central objective of a training programme.
For example, muscles require energy to function and will acquire that energy from different chemical sources within the body depending on the INTENSITY and VOLUME of work. How quickly and efficiently these energy sources are mobilized can be changed through a proper training regime. Itꡑs all a matter of calibrating or re-calibrating ones physiology to adapt to the energy demands of a specific race; which does not necessarily need take a long time if there is a good fitness base.
Knowing how your body spends energy during a race is absolutely vital so that your work-out develops the appropriate energy system to its best potential; paddling till you drop will not necessarily make you paddle fast! Adjusting your carburetors to get the best speed or mileage out of the engine you have will often have a greater impact than going for more horsepower. There is no doubt a big engine is good, but only as far as it has staying power and can convert muscle to speed. This depends the training the rate of energy expenditure and the means to deal with the waste products that tend to accumulate.
The following sub-section on ENERGY SYSTEMS is provided to outline the basic metabolic processes involved in muscular activity in order to better understand what kind of work needs to be done and how that work will contribute to a faster boat.
Another factor, which effects our performance is the basic composition of our muscles themselves. The actual size of muscles is not as important as how much or what type of that muscle is being used. The sub-section on MUSCLE COMPOSITION will review this aspect and discuss how to best ꡐwire in?muscle fibre to suit specific performance demands.
Ultimately muscle cells gain energy from the chemical breakdown of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to ADP+P (adenosine diphosphate + phosphate). Since muscles store very small amounts of ATP, a regular supply is provided by resynthesizing ADP+P back to ATP, which is broken down again by muscle action, and so on. This activity primarily relies on three sources of fuel to chemically generate energy, namely:
which is stored in the muscles and is available immediately but only for a few seconds of work;
which is stored in our muscles and liver and provides the main energy source for short and middle distance events; and
which stored around the body and will be the main source of energy once glycogen stores are depleted only after a long duration such as in a marathon race.
These fuels are derived from the food we eat and when they are broken down, will produce energy needed to provide a regular supply of ATP to our muscles.
The key to a good training programme is to determine the energy demands of the race and train to improve the efficiency by which the particular sources of fuel are converted to power. The different fuels are mobilized at different times depending on the duration and intensity of work, allowing our bodies to perform a great range of activities, from sprint races to ultra- marathon events.
The greatest concern from a training point of view relates to the limitations of each fuel, the corresponding effects of the by- products which result from energy expenditure and the time it takes to restore the fuel supplies. This is of paramount significant in short and middle distance races where the primary source of energy is Glycogen.
The breakdown of glycogen occurs either in the absence of oxygen, which is called the ANAEROBIC system or in the presence of oxygen which is called the AEROBIC system of energy production. The INTENSITY and duration of work done will determine the degree to which each system will be utilized, which largely effects how quickly glycogen stores are spent and the extent to which biochemical by- products will induce muscular fatigue.
The ANAEROBIC System
As we do work, muscle cells possess the ability to resynthesize ATP from their own phosphocreatine stores for about 8-10 seconds, which is about the duration of a Dragonboat race 'start' (i.e. getting the boat up out of the water and hydro-planing) and/or may be used for the final 'kick' at the end.
Up until approximately 1-2 minutes of work, energy is produced primarily by breaking down glycogen in the absence of oxygen, which chemically results in the by product called Lactic Acid. During high intensity work, Lactic Acid accumulates in the muscle tissue which eventually results in that uncomfortable burning fatigue sensation, loss of coordination and finally cessation of physical activity within a very short period of time, depending on the tolerance levels of the athlete. This is a local muscle fatigue and will dissipate quickly after a rest. It is not to be confused with a central fatigue where your body just runs out of its principle energy stores ie. glycogen.
Expenditure of energy ANAEROBICALLY will allow for a much higher level of performance and greater speed, however, the process is much less efficient, making huge demands on glycogen stores. Glycogen stores utilized in the presence of oxygen can last up to 2-3 hours, in a low intensity long distance race, whereas at a sprint pace total glycogen stores would be depleted in about 7 minutes; which makes it important to replenish fuel stores quickly between a series of sprint races.
The ANAEROBIC system dominates a work-out once the lactic acid level in most athletes?blood reaches about 4mM/litre which is referred to as the ANAEROBIC THRESHOLD. Corresponding heart rates are about 150-170bpm ( beats per minute), depending on the age and conditioning of the athlete. The maximal levels of lactic acid before ceasure of international ranked paddlers are upwards of 12-13mM/l over 500 and 1000M distances, with corresponding heartrates reaching 195bpm.
In order to improve performance and overcome muscle fatigue an athlete must train largely to cope with excesses of Lactic Acid. By training muscles to adapt to a regular pattern of stress brought on by high intensity work, bodies 'learn' to cope with different energy demands and still function effectively while approaching fatigue due to high levels of lactic acid.
Typically short pieces of high intensity work increases the rate of glycolysis significantly and builds up Lactic Acid very quickly. This must then quickly be dissipated with low intensity muscle movement, followed again by high intensity work etc. This type of work is generally referred to as INTERVAL Training and effects ꡐLactic Tolerance?forcing muscles and the bodyꡑs metabolism to undergo significant changes in order to speed up the rate of glycogen production and to buffer higher levels of lactic acid.
The AEROBIC System
Physical work which results in lactic acid levels lower than 4mM/l ie. the ANAEROBIC THRESHOLD, is normally dominated by the AEROBIC system of energy production. Training which keeps the athleteꡑs heart rate below 150-170bpm, again depending on age and fitness, will result in development of this system.
After about 1-2 minutes of work, the heart and respiratory rates will increase sufficiently to carry an adequate amount of oxygen into the muscles which will allow energy to be produced utilizing the AEROBIC system. The greatest benefit of oxygen presence during the breakdown of glycogen is that energy is produced much more efficiently, without the lactic acid by-product which causes fatigue in the ANAEROBIC system.
An overlap between the ANAEROBIC and AEROBIC systems actually begins at about 60-70 seconds into the race. Since most Dragonboat races are between 2 1/2 minutes (650m) to 4 minutes (1000m) the AEROBIC system will contribute to about 50% of the energy demands of the event.
Improvements in an athletes 'Aerobic Capacity' generally results from a regular routine of larger VOLUME, low intensity exercises compared to what would be experienced in ANAEROBIC training. The general effect is in development of the cardio-vascular system which will provide for greater volumes of blood to be pumped by the heart carrying larger quantities of oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. The heart muscle can be developed much in the same way as skeletal muscles increasing the heartꡑs capacity for blood and its stroke volume by pushing work loads to maximal effort, relying on rest intervals to clear the products of anaerobic metabolism.
Superior development of the cardiovascular system alone, however, will not bring about higher performance if the local muscles doing the work are incapable of accommodating the large oxygen supplies. ꡐSpecific Aerobic Capacity' must be trained as well by increasing the blood capillary density and making other physiological changes to the specific muscles involved in paddling such as in the arms and torso.
A greater 'Aerobic Capacity' will increase an athleteꡑs energy resources for the race and will allow faster recovery time after a high intensity work-out during the training season. It is for this reason that teams are encouraged to include longer distance running, rowing or paddling into an off season exercise regime.
In order to get any AEROBIC 'training' benefits of exercise an athlete must work-out at a level of intensity which is between 70% to 85% their maximum capacity for work. In precise terms 70% would relate a lactate concentration level 2mM/l with a heart rate of about 130bpm for most athletes and 85% intensity would produce a lactate level of 4mM/l with a corresponding heartrate of 160bpm to 170bpm. This can vary from athlete to athlete as some individuals will have a threshold level of 3mM/l while others are higher. In practice, few athletes can ꡐfeel?the difference between energy systems and very often work at an intensity which is too high or too low for a specific training goal, thereby reducing the positive effects of the workout.
In this regard it is helpful if each athlete could know their own personal heart rate range so that they can work according to prescribed levels of intensity.
A rough guide to an individuals personal work-out range can be roughly calculated using a the following equation:
¡¡ [220 - (your age)] x .7 = your minimum work-out heart rate
[220 - (your age)] x .9 = your maximum work-out heart rate
The level of intensity experienced in a work out can be measured in relation to this range. Typically an athletes heart rate paddling is about 90% to 95% of their maximum possible, with an oxygen intake of about 85% their maximum potential.
Attention to heartrate levels is one of the better methods of measuring work within a practice and it is worth determining the precise lactic levels associated with heartrate readings either with a C1 ergometer or a paddling tank analysis. It is important to regularly re-test these figures since an athleteꡑs Threshold heartrate will increase as they develop a greater aerobic capacity, though generally maximum heartrate will remain constant. For a well trained athlete, the difference between Threshold and Maximum heart rates is between 5 to 20 bpm, while untrained individuals will vary between 20 to 27 bpm differences.
It is equally important, however, for an athlete to learn to feel for the level of intensity they are trying to train to. Heartrates can vary considerably due to the effects of stress, climate, illness and just plain ꡐcardiac drift?where the corresponding heartrate for a given intensity of work can increase slowly during a practice.
General Nutrition and Energy Concerns
'We are what we eat' and on the training front what we eat seriously effects our performance both during our work-out and in a race. A detailed nutritional programme can get rather complex and is subject to personal interest, however, there are some basic fundamentals which will help to maximize your energy resources for training and generally make you feel better.
The best energy source is from complex carbohydrates such as breads, pasta or rice (and BEER if it's the thick and heady type). In fact a high carbohydrate diet can increase your energy resources for 2-3 hours of training time whereas a low carbohydrate high fat diet can have you running out of steam within 1 hour of work. It is important to drink plenty of water along with such a high carbohydrate intake since the metabolic processes involved with this fuel source can leave you dehydrated.
Fats generally have a low training benefit and we get too much of those without even trying. The problem is that the utilization of Fat as an energy source demands a much larger oxygen requirement which will become a limiting factor to performance. ꡐHitting the wall?in a long distance event occurs when glycogen stores are depleted and continued activity must draw solely on fat stores for energy, which inevitably slows the race pace since oxygen input becomes less efficient. There is an argument, however, that too much reliance on carbohydrates and no fat will under train your bodyꡑs?natural ability to use fat as fuel, and therefore limit performance when itꡑs needed in longer distance events. A good balanced diet seems to work the best.
In any event, it is advisable to lay off of foods which contain fat during race day since the body's natural tendency is to first utilize and fatty acids floating around your blood before mobilizing glycogen for energy. Since this process requires more oxygen, your performance in a race could drop by 10 or 15% of your maximum capability in order to compensate for the less efficient metabolic activity. A carbohydrate rich snack 1 to 1 1/2 hours before each race or practice is advisable to offset this tendency by acting as a 'fatty acid' buffer.
Common sense dictates that you should avoid training within 2-3 hours after a large meal, though a light snack which contains no fat, such as fruit which is digested quickly and easily, can be beneficial to a long workout (coffee also can give you a good caffeine buzz). Simple sugars such as those in a chocolate bar or coke will give you a quick burst of energy, but is followed soon afterwards by a glucose decrease in the blood stream; and its difficult to anticipate when this will happen - you may get all pumped up ready for an event only to find that you are all tapped out once you get in the boat.
Protein in your diet has little effect on performance though it is vital to repair the bodies muscles which are damaged after a work out. It is important, particularly after an intensive practice, to have a small snack such as peanuts or a milkshake to quickly replenish the body's stores immediately after exercise (you can do your serious eating an hour or so later). Also a quick carbohydrate rich snack within 1 or 2 hours after a training session will be extremely beneficial to replace depleted glycogen stores in the most efficient manner.
Alcohol consumption will impact performance partly due to dehydration but more importantly as it interferes with recovery processes particularly if consumed right after a practice.
Fuel Consumption and Fluid Replacement During Racing
Racing for distance involves a fuel management and fluid replacement regime which goes beyond daily nutritional patterns. This would also become an issue when training particularly for long distance outrigger or dragon boat marathons though it is also important during sprint race regattas where the energy demands far exceed normal daily activity or training.
While a sprint race may be only 3 minutes long the energy demands are great, and the cumulative effects of events which last up to 4 days can be taxing on energy stores. It is helpful begin to increasing carbohydrate consumption as early as 5 days before a big event or training session so your body can make the most out of its potential energy stores. The most critical period is 48 hours before a race where 95% of your diet should be carbohydrates and youꡑre snacking hourly! Regular intake should continue throughout the race day.
Carbohydrate rich drinks or snacks are also available to provide a quick energy source before and after races and can provide a valuable source of fuel during a race or large volume practice. You can count on carbohydrate stores lasting up to 2 or 2 ?hours during a race, so if the expected race or practice session exceeds this duration it will be important to take on fuel as you paddle.
The pattern for fuel expenditure is generally as follows:
¡¡ blood glucose will first be spent within 30 minutes;
glycogen stores in the muscle are depleted within the next hour;
glycogen stores in the liver follow and are depleted by 2 - 2 1/2 hours of work;
fat becomes the only source for fuel after 2 1/2 hours.
As a rule, for long distance events, carbohydrate replacement should begin about 1 hour into the race and should be continued at 15 minute intervals to provide a direct source of fuel in the blood. Determining the rate of caloric expenditure should give a pretty good idea of the amount of fuel required to keep you going. Every athlete is different, however, and it is important to each person in the boat to know when they need fuel and how much they need.
Of course everything depends on the intensity at which you are paddling. At very low levels of intensity fat is utilized as the principle source of fuel, not glycogen. Glycogen is required only when the work level is more extreme. Often marathon runners will train for long durationꡑs at a low intensity to develop a metabolism which utilizes this fuel source early, saving their glycogen stores for the big push in the race. Most marathonerꡑs will start out at a low intensity and then build, rather than starting out fast and settling in. This will conserve vital glycogen stores and avoid early accumulation of lactic acid which your body will labour to breakdown at the front end of the race.
WATER! It is vital to consume fluids at during long races or during race days specially if the climate is hot and humid. You can loose up to 3% of your body fluid in less than two hours on a hot day, which can cause severe trauma to you system. For some of us that means up to 3 litres of water which needs to be replaced even during a race! This is exacerbated by the demands that carbohydrate mobilization has on you water reserves.
NEVER underestimate the need for water. Hydration should begin hours or better yet days days before a race or long training run, even if it means getting up five times in the middle of the night for relief. Urine that is thick as syrup means your blood is probably just as thick, that can result in a high heartrate and renal shut down.
All of us have varying percentages of each type of fibre within our muscles, which is highly dependent on our genetic make up. We cannot change that basic composition as its something we are born with. Each type of fibre is good at doing a certain type of work and responses to a specific level of intensity. This explains why some paddlers may be better at sprints than distance.
For low level intensity work, Slow Twitch Muscle is predominantly used. It is small in size and functions efficiently in the presence of oxygen without suffering fatigue primarily due to the higher density of capillaries and mitochondria enzymes. This why it is know as Red muscle (like the red meat on a turkey leg). This also allows it to utilize fat for fuel easily and why more fat is burned during low intensity exercise than glycogen.
The draw back is that slow twitch fibre produces a low force and is slow to contract, hence the name slow twitch. The glycogen capacity is also low, relying on blood to import necessary fuel. Whilst it may be ideal for long distance racing, it is not very useful for sprinting.
Fast Twitch Muscle on the other hand contracts fast and produces a much greater force when the intensity of work requires it. It is a larger muscle type with greater capacity for glycogen storage. The down side is that it fatigues quickly. This type of fibre can produce a lot of power, but not for very long partly due to the low capillary density. Hence the term White Muscle (like the white meat from a turkey breast).
Fast Twitch Oxidative muscle has a greater density of capillaries and mitochondria than Fast Twitch Glycolytic muscle which a gives it the capacity to function aerobically to a certain degree. It cannot produce the same force as Fast Twitch Glycolytic muscle, but it can resist fatigue better.
Fast Twitch Glycolytic muscle relies almost entirely on local glycogen stores for fuel and, though it produces the greatest force, it is the quickest to fatigue. This type of muscle will not be utilized until the intensity of work is maximal, such as in a short sprint or finish of a race.
Recognizing the differing characteristics of muscle type and realizing that different races demand use of different muscle type is of fundamental import to developing a training regime for a team or individual. Slow Twitch fibre cannot be converted to Fast Twitch fibre, but to a limited degree, Fast Twitch Glycolytic fibre can be converted to the more aerobically prone Oxidative type if the training is right.
Each muscle type only responds to a specific intensity of work and therefore demands a training programme which will vary the work load to target different fibre type. Low intensity work will only train Slow Twitch fibre. Fast Twitch fibre will only be recruited when the intensity of work ie. speed increases beyond a point when the Slow Twitch can no longer keep up. Fast Twitch Glycolytic muscle will not be recruited until the work load reaches maximum intensity. If maximum intensity is never achieved, this muscle type will remain untrained and will not contribute to a better performance.
Long distance marathon runners utilize little Fast Twitch fibre and therefore rarely need to train for long at maximum intensity. For very short dragon boat or outrigger sprints, on the other hand, training must predominantly target Fast Twitch fibre recruitment. As races are usually 2 - 5 minutes long, training should ideally focus on developing Fast Twitch Oxidative fibre to the extent that exercises should seek to convert Glycolytic fibre to Oxidative fibre through interval work.
Even in long distance outrigger races, paddlers will never-the-less confront a full range of demands which require extreme effort, such as catching a wave or breaking out of a pack. Whilst Fast Twitch Glycolytic fibre is not as important, Fast Twitch Oxidative is. In distance races, however, there will be a much greater reliance on Slow Twitch muscle fibre.
The effects of training cause muscle fibres and their associated nerves to be recruited in a specific pattern. The effects of training with good technique allow for the minimal number of fibres to be recruited for the desired level of work and thus not waste energy committing to unnecessary movement.
Another implication of specific fibre recruitment is that warm up exercises should target ALL fibre types which will be required in a race. To neglect say Fast Twitch Glycolytic fibre during a warm up may interfere with maximal performance and could result in injury during the race when this fibre type ie recruited into action.
To achieve your desired level of performance, nothing can replace hard work, but it is important to structure that work in a way which will achieve the best results in the shortest time; QUALITY time.
'A chain is only as good as it's weakest link' and on the training front it is crucial to address all aspects of performance independently and seek to develop each to it's maximum. There is nothing more frustrating to a ꡐbuffed?up team with a high level of muscular strength finding themselves quickly falling behind in a race due to a weakness in technique, under-developed lactic tolerance for speed or even an over-zealous ambition to win.
It is not enough to get out on the water and repeat the target race distance over and over again until your times improve as the team will quickly reach a ꡐperformance plateau?beyond which only minimal gains can be made. The physiological components to performance such as cardiac capacity, anaerobic threshold, aerobic capacity, rate of lactic acid removal etc. will only incur minor improvements unless each is stressed to its maximum limit, requiring a specific type of work at a specific intensity. And these will only be effective if the technical aspects of paddling are understood in order to maximize the bio-mechanical potential of pulling a boat through the water in a group effort.
This Section will review performance more specifically as a function of Endurance, Strength, Speed, Psychology and Technique and seek to identify specific training parameters which will contribute to optimum paddling performance.
Early development of 'General Endurance' for long duration activities is necessary to allow us to train more efficiently, overcome fatigue during long competitions and to improve recovery time. This is why a pre-season low intensity AEROBIC fitness regime is so important. It is also important slow down and maintain 'General Endurance' levels during off season by cross-training so that the body can recover from the extremes of race season exertion.
In preparing for a race, however, work must focus on a more 'Specific Anaerobic Endurance' of medium duration, which resists the onset of Oxygen debt experienced in a Dragon Boat race; where the oxygen supply cannot totally meet the demands of the paddler. For this reason both AEROBIC and ANAEROBIC conditioning is of paramount importance to the Training Programme.
Specific Power Endurance is also partly related to high strength development which will be discussed further in the section covering Strength.
Speed Endurance relating to our ability to overcome fatigue under conditions of maximal intensity will also be discussed further in the section covering Speed
Other factors which normally effect endurance are the Central Nervous System (CNS) conditioning, athletic willpower and development of the Speed Reserve.
Aerobic Capacity effects the amount of oxygen transported to the muscles which controls how much energy is available during a race and how quickly you can recover from work in a training session. The oxygen demand of the upper body and arms when paddling is only about 85% of that for the legs when the same athlete is running. This suggests that good cardio-vascular base can be provided by off-season running, rowing or swimming since these forms of exercise will build up heart and lung capacity faster and more efficiently than paddling. The focus of a water training programme should be more on Specific Muscle Endurance related to local muscle Aerobic Capacity. This will relate to how much oxygen the specific muscles can actually utilize when working by training to increase blood capillary density and as well as the number of local mitochondrial enzymes which are necessary to transfer oxygen into the energy making processes.
Normally a training programme should develop Aerobic Capacity early on in the training season and gradually replace these workouts with higher intensity Anaerobic activities. One should be careful, however, that too much emphasis on maximal intensity stressful work may reduce consistency of Anaerobic performance from one day to the next. This will impacting the stability of an athleteꡑs capacity for speed and will ultimately reduce Aerobic Endurance due to the damaging effects of high levels of lactic acid on muscle cells. It is good practice that an Aerobic training component of varying intensities alternate with periods of high intensity Anaerobic in weekly micro-cycles to allow muscles to regenerate and increase the durability of Anaerobic Power.
a) Long Interval Training (Maximal Aerobic)
A good exercise to perfect Aerobic Endurance early in the training season are long repetitions of work for 3-10 minutes when oxygen consumption is maximal ie. at the Anaerobic Threshold. Intervals of this duration will make improvements to cardiac output, the control of blood distribution and the control of the rate of glycogen mobilization in the muscle. Long intervals should be performed as fast as possible without causing total exhaustion so that several repetitions are possible ie. high heart rate but no burn.
Intensity of work for long intervals should result in lactate concentrations just over 4mM/l where heart rates will typically measure between 150-164 bpm. Be aware that as fatigue sets in, an athleteꡑs heart rate will increase, even though the intensity of the work-out does not change. The work-out should cease if heart rates reaches 180 bpm.
The rest period between intervals should involve low intensity muscle movement, at about 50% capacity, to stimulate biological recuperation and be sufficiently long to flush out any lactic acid. A rest period longer than 3-4 minutes will begin to effect the quality of work in the next interval since the blood capillaries will begin to shrink.
This type of training is extremely beneficial to making improvements in performance for longer distance races and marathons by ultimately raising Threshold heartrate levels. In many respects long intervals could form the basis of a marathon distance training programme such as for outriggers, relying on longer distance workouts to improve energy management aspects.
b) Short Interval Training (Lactic Tolerance/Maximal Aerobic)
Surprisingly very short interval training aimed at developing 'Anaerobic Capacity' plays an important role in building up 'Aerobic Capacity' since it appears the greatest improvement to the aerobic system is achieved when muscles are used close to their maximal aerobic limit. Even work intervals as short as 15-20 seconds with a 30 second rest will improve 'Aerobic Capacity' if performed at a blood pumping, aerobically fast pace, but just below lactate generating intensities. The levels of oxygen consumption will be very high, forcing the body to adapt by improving oxidative pathways in the muscle structure.
Longer 'short' intervals of 60-90 seconds will stress the oxygen supply system to the muscles increasing capillary density and increasing blood flow to the muscles effecting the rate at which lactic acid is dissipated. At this intensity of work, a degree of anaerobic metabolism is affected and an exercise will inevitably become impaired due to lactic acid intolerance. The importance of the 'Interval' rest is vital where continuous muscle movement with 50% effort assists in flushing out lactic acid to prepare for the next interval.
These interval training sessions may last for 1-2 hours and appear to have the greatest beneficial effect on 'Anaerobic Threshold'.
c) Steady State Paddling (Anaerobic Threshold)
Longer training distances of 15 min. to 1 hour steady state paddling performed at 'Anaerobic Threshold' intensity will train factors related to the removal of lactic acid from the blood and ultimately increase the Threshold level. These sessions must be performed at lactate concentration levels of 2-3 mM/l corresponding to a heartrate of 130-145 bpm and will improve the integration of all aerobic processes. Training intensity should be uncomfortably hard work but sustainable.......barely.
Very long distance training would be required in preparation for dragon boat marathon races, where steady state training sessions reach a duration of 3-4 hours and are performed once every two weeks. The training effect of these distances is to induce Central Fatigue or ꡐHitting-the- Wall by depleting glycogen stores and forcing the body to mobilize fatty acids as a source of energy. Extra long distance training will help to stabilize the biochemical processes associated reliance on fat as an energy source and avoid a rapid onset of fatigue caused by a system which is unfamiliar to such demands. Careful management of diet is an important factor when training to this volume. Some athletes will keep their carbohydrate intake low before a long training session in order to induce Central Fatigue earlier and reduce their volume of work.
When paddling, proper breathing is also important where an athlete should make an effort to sit upright allowing full expansion of their lungs. One should learn to forcefully exhale all used air out the lungs to increase the quantity of oxygen rich air which can be inhaled. It is even suggested that hyper-ventilation just before the beginning of a race will significantly increase the amount of oxygen available in the blood earlier.
Again, one of the major benefits of a high Aerobic Capacity is to affect a high Anaerobic Capacity by providing a more efficient system flushing out Lactic Acid build-up faster and allow muscles to function longer at high intensity.
Fartlek training is similar to interval training, without a prescribed duration of work or rest, and the intensity of work reaches much higher levels, but only for a brief moment. The athlete or team must progressively build up intensity to reach an absolute maximum and then quickly reduce effort to 50 or 40% intensity until heart rates drop to about 130 bpm and its comfortable to begin work again. Several surges should be executed over a 1 to 1 1/2 hour training session. This will push heartrate levels higher than in intervals to stress the limits of the AEROBIC system, but will not induce excessively high lactate levels. The intended result is to raise the Anaerobic Threshold and to become intimate with the full range of intensity potential.
The Anaerobic Capacity
The main effect of training Anaerobic Capacity is to increase an athlete's Lactic Tolerance where higher levels of lactate concentrations can be experienced for longer periods of time. Anaerobic Capacity is best improved by cyclical short interval training where the intensity of work is to such an extreme the paddler can no longer continue to go beyond a short duration.
A work interval of anywhere from 5-120 seconds is adequate depending on whether the level of intensity is super-maximal (100-98%), maximal (90-95%) or sub-maximal (80-85% capacity), though each repetition is 'pushed to failure' Too long a duration of work at high intensity or too many intervals can exceed the limits of lactic acid tolerance which will reduce boat speed and result in dominance of the aerobic system, which will not benefit anaerobic training. This will depend on the overall capacity of the team.
Workouts should be grouped into interval sets of 4 to 6 with 30 seconds to 2 minutes of easy paddling of 50% intensity between work periods. A full recovery of up to 10 minutes between sets is necessary to allow the build-up of lactic acid to oxidize and fully dissipate.
Two approaches to Lactic Tolerance training are beneficial. Lactic Tolerance ꡐB' intervals are structured so that the rest interval is short, about 1/2 the duration of the work interval. The athlete will experience a constantly rising level of lactate concentration, while being forced to sustain high intensity work under increasing conditions of fatigue. This will take a tremendous amount of mental concentration and will-power to overcome the desire to stop or ease off the intensity.
Lactic Tolerance ꡐA' training on the other hand allows an athlete to experience even higher levels of intensity by increasing the rest period to twice that of the work period. This type of training will maximize boat speed and allow an athlete to develop their application of power with quick muscle movement. The emphasis should be to achieve extreme levels of lactate concentration of 12-13mM/l, also pushing an athleteꡑs heartrate to their maximum levels.
Very short intervals of 10-15 seconds flat out work will increase the rate of glycolosis 1000% above that in a long distance run and will help to recruit muscle fibre, increasing strength. The down side, however, is that very short intervals will over time tend to decrease the number or capillaries bringing blood into the muscle, reducing aerobic conditioning.
Slightly longer intervals of 15-20 seconds will improve the use of phosphocreatine (PC) as an energy source to be used gradually over the duration of the race ie. enabling the power normally reserved for the 'start' or end 'kick' to provide a small but continuous contribution. It is important that the rest interval be kept long, close to 2 minutes, so that the work interval is kept alactic and sufficient time is provided to build-up PC stores. It only takes about 22 seconds to replenish 1/2 of PC stores and 44 seconds to replenish 3/4 total capacity. Work must be to absolute intensity so that the training effects will be confined to expenditure of PC and not glycogen. This type of training is ideal the week prior to race day since it avoids the longer term effects of fatigue.
Intervals of 60-90 seconds result in an increase in the amount of glycolytic enzymes improving the rate of glycogen mobilization and the muscles ability to tolerate the products of anaerobic metabolism. This duration of work interval will also help to smooth out the edges between the effects of different shorter distance training.
In Anaerobic training you must realize that the greatest improvement is made if you push each exercise piece to failure since it is at this point the body forced to adapt (No pain - No gain); to combat Lactic Acid fatigue you must train hard, really hard which is a painful process (if it didn't hurt so much more people would be doing it - you need discipline to go beyond the pain).
As previously mentioned, too much stressful work can impair performance and can reduce Aerobic Endurance. It is therefore critical to organize a training programme to include longer Aerobic workouts within an Anaerobic training regime
Resistance training such as seat pulls or dragging tyres is also often used for anaerobic conditioning, however, it has been suggested that this is often associates with drawbacks to speed development and can create risk of injury.
The Central Nervous System
The Central Nervous System (CNS) effects muscle coordination and a breakdown of the working capacity of this system is a principle cause of fatigue resulting in loss of concentration and coordination, sloppy stroke technique etc.
The body as an organism is endowed with certain defense mechanisms which are activated if there is an apparent threat to its functioning. For example, fatigue brought on by the anaerobic metabolism is necessary since if the muscle were to keep on working at a maximal intensity, levels of lactic acid would increase to the point that it would become fatal to living cells. The CNS will also limit the amount of force muscles are able to exert in order to protect ligaments, tendons and the muscles themselves from damage.
Continuously stressing the body with heavy loads will allow the CNS to become more confident and correspondingly lower this 'margin of safety'. Regular repetition of a specific movement pattern under load also builds up the neurological pathways between muscles and brain thereby developing coordination and turning stroke technique into a motion which is second nature.
Training with uniform work of moderate intensity will improve the Central Nervous Systems' working capacity and improve the nervous connections required for coordinated function of organs and systems. Intense training will also teach your body to redistribute blood supplies efficiently from the stomach and intestines when there is a greater demand on specific muscles.
Waiting a good 2 to 3 hours after a meal will assist in training this aspect and will help to avoid the indigestion and nausea associated with training 'on a full stomach' when the digestive system is forced to shut down due to a lower blood supply.
"Strength is defined as the neuro-muscular capability to overcome an external and internal resistance." The bio-mechanics and physiological characteristics of 'Strength' are extremely complicated, though following some basic principles of strength training will help to improve performance dramatically. This is particularly relevant as we age, since strength begins to diminish after we reach 35 years old, unless we make an effort to maintain it. It is quite easy to reach a performance plateau early in the season without a good strength base to enhance improvements.
For the purposes of paddling, strength is required for powerful acceleration and maintenance of speed throughout a race. To develop strength for paddling we will need to focus on selected muscle groups which are utilized in the paddling stroke.
It is normally more effective to increase strength with resistance exercises such as weight lifting, pull-ups/push-ups etc. and fixed resistance ie. isometric contractions. These are better and more efficient means to improving strength than resistance exercises conducted on the water.
Resistance paddling, such as pulling tires or seat races etc. have value as a specific application of strength, however they should be carefully be mixed up with speed exercises to prevent crews from getting in the habit of paddling slowly. In the event that paddlers cannot commit to a dryland weights training regime, resistance work on the water would be critical.
Strength training involves more than just hitting the gym and pumping a bit of iron. It must be planned out as carefully as a paddling programme. It is necessary to begin with a less specific level of general strength development and physical fitness as a starting point. For this reason ꡐpre-season?or ꡐoff-season?training is vital to provide a good fitness base and maintain the gains made during ꡐrace season? Sport specific training is not necessary in the ꡐoff-season? in fact cross-training activities such as swimming, running, windsurfing etc., can be very beneficial to a competitive training regime. Non-specific muscles often get neglected towards the competitive phase of a paddling programme and can use a little work.
Strength Training Periodization
A strength development programme should be structured work together with a paddling programme. The effects of a maximum strength training regime can have adverse effects on specific endurance or speed, resulting in frustration and a premature notion to scrap strength training all together. The final product of a properly structured strength programme, however is 'power' and not 'strength' alone. Power will make us paddle fast, but strength will not. Power is converted from strength though a carefully arranged process.
Typically there are four phases to a strength programme, namely:
Hypertrophy (4-10 weeks);
Strength (4-6 weeks);
Maximum Strength (2-3 weeks); and
Power (3-4 weeks)
Hypertrophy refers to building muscle mass. This is done with small loads of about 50-60% maximum capacity (1rm) repeated to failure, which should occur between 10-15 repetitions. For example if you can lift 100kg only once, then you should be able to lift 50 to 60kg 10 to 15 times in this phase until you can lift anymore. This is referred to as a set.
Repetitions should take 4 seconds with a 2 count lifting and a 2 count lowering weights. Care should be taken when lowering weights as this is often where many of the injuries occur. Rest periods between sets in this phase need only be 1 minute. It is also important in this phase to develop good technique to isolate the specific muscle exercised. If exercises do not adhere to strict technique, you can easily sustain an injury.
Strength results from recruitment of muscle motor units ie. muscle fibres and their associated nerves. This is done by increasing work intensity by adding weight and increasing rest periods. Weights in this phase should be about 80% 1rm so that failure is achieved in 6-8 repetitions, again at a rate of about 4 seconds per rep. Technique should be very strict to avoid injury. Rest periods should be 2 minutes between sets.
c) Maximum Strength
Maximum 'Strength' results from training at extremely high loads reaching 100% 1rm capacity with very few repetitions of 1-3, performed slowly. Maximum fibre recruitment is achieved in this phase, thereby affecting maximum strength.
Great care should be taken in this phase, with adequate warm-up precautions and warm-down to follow. Itꡑs best to focus on the primary muscle groups namely the Pectorals, Quadriceps and Latissimus Dorsi. Work on the secondary muscle groups such as the Deltoids, Trapezius, Biceps and Triceps etc. should continue with higher repetitions and lower weigh. Rest periods should be up to 3 minutes between sets.
Strict technique is an absolute must. Most shoulder injuries sustained by paddlers result from training with excessively heavy weights. Unless there is a real need for maximum strength, it is advisable to forego this phase and opt for more specific resistance work in the boat.
Muscular 'Power' results from exercises that include a load which is about 30-50% capacity with 8-10 repetitions where contractions are performed at an explosively high speed. Care should be take when the muscle is extended ie. lowering the weight and a long rest interval of up to 5 minutes with relaxation exercises are advised.
This is the phase which ultimately converts strength to power by adding the speed component. Strength has no value in paddling unless it can generate force quickly. The result from this phase will be a slight loss in maximum strength, however the contribution to boat speed will be noticeable.
Endurance of power results from a high number of repetitions at a load of 40-50% capacity performed to failure (30-50 repetitions) at medium to fast speed with a 30-45 second rest interval.
Dryland Weight Training Programme
The following weight training programme is provided which compliments the paddling programme in Section 2.6.
The types of exercises are diverse to focus on the principle muscle groups used in paddling. It is also important to note that exercises also work opposite muscle groups from those which are normally used in paddling in order to provide some stability and improve on maximum gains. Sets are organized antagonistically also to promote better gains and reduce training time.
For those who have time limitations in the gym, a more general programme should focus on Bench Presses, Lat Pulls and Squats as the primary exercises since they involve 80% of the muscles you will use in paddling. A caution to shortcuts, however, is that development of only the primary muscle groups may result in a muscle imbalance exposing some of the smaller stabilizing muscles to potential injury.
A variety of free weight exercises are preferred for this reason in order to promote stability and control in the smaller muscles such as the rotator cuff group.
In each phase itꡑs important to stress strict technique in order to maximize recruitment of the appropriate muscle fibre. Relying on fibre from another muscle will not train the target group, and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.
PHASE PROGRAMME CYCLE PRINCIPLE MUSCLE
(during water Preparation
ie. Phase or off season
November to February)
10-15 repetitions to failure.
Sets to be consecutive. Complete each cycle 3-5 times before advancing to next cycle. No rest between each sets.
Develop strict technique with weights of 50-60% maximum.
Dumbbell Biceps Curl
Overhead Triceps Press
Bent Over Lateral Dumbbell Raise
Front Dumbbell Raise
Dips (Elbows Out) or Bench Dumbbell Flys
Reverse Barbell Curl
Bent Over Dumbbell Row or Barbell Row
Bent Arm Pull Over or Dumbbell/Barbell Press
Seated ObliqueTwist or Side Bend
Lower Back Extension
Military Press Behind/Front of the Neck
Pronated Pull Ups
Lunge or Squats
Anterior and Lateral Deltoid
Upper and Lower Trapezius
Inner Pectorals and Deltoids
Brachiallus and Biceps
Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major
Quadriceps and Gluteus Maximus
Upper and Lower Abdominals
(during water Speed and Strength Block
6-8 repetitions to failure each set with 3 complete cycles.
Very strict technique required to avoid injury. 2 to 3 minute rest between sets.
70-85% maximum weight in secondary group.
(mid to end of March)
3-4 repetitions per set for primary muscles ie. Bench Press (Pects), Lat Pulls (Lats) Squats (Quads).
90-95% maximum weight in primary group. Secondary group to remain in strength phase (6-8 reps.).
Cycle I (Primary Group)
Dumbbell/Barbell Bench Press
Bent Over Dumbbell Row /Barbell Row / Lat Pulls
Lunge or Squats
Military Press Front of the Neck
Cycle II (Secondary Group)
Overhead Triceps Press
Cycle III (Secondary Group)
Bent Over Lateral Dumbbell Raise
Front Dumbbell Raise
Lower Back Extension
Maximum strength exercises should only be done if a crew or individual wants to seriously target short sprints. For distances over 500m the potential rise of injury from a maximum strength regime far outweighs the potential gains.
Pectorals, Deltoids and Triceps
Latissimus Dorsi and Teres Major
Quadriceps and Gluteus Maximus
Deltoids and Pectorals
Inner Pectorals and Deltoids
Posterior Deltoids, Trapezius
(during Race Preparation Phase
ie. April to mid-May )
8-15 repetitions or to failure as required with explosive speed during contraction only. Avoid use of momentum
to assist in repetition.
Strict technique required to avoid injury.
Smaller weights of 50% maximum
Subinated Pull-ups (to Failure)
Power Squats or Lunges
Seated Oblique Twist (to failure)
Pronated Pull Ups (to failure)
Push Ups (to failure)
Abdominal Crunch (to failure)
Bent Over Row
Dips - elbows out (to failure)
Over head Tricep Press
Lats., Teres Major and Biceps
Pectorals, Brachiallus and Deltoids
Quadriceps and Gluteus Maximus
Latissimus Dorsi and Teres Major
Pectorals and Triceps
Upper and Lower Abdominals
Latissimus Dorsi and Teres Major
'Speed' is a function of reaction time, the number of strokes per minute (the rating) and the velocity the boat travels as a result of a paddle stroke.
The percentage of fast twitch muscle fibre effects an individualꡑs speed potential, though it still must be trained properly to produce the desired force quickly and effectively. There are a number of factors which effect boat speed in a race which should be addressed independently, namely:
Maintenance of Terminal Speed; and
Reaction time is a function of the Central Nervous System and can be improved by learning to respond to audible or visual stimuli. This might mean developing a quick response to drum beat changes in the dragon boat or fast switches from side to side in the outrigger. Reaction drills are critical for a good start, changes in race conditions or water conditions which require quick adjustments to stroke depth or body position. And of course avoiding a huli in the outrigger. Developing good technical skills to minimize movement in each stroke phase will help to reduce reaction time to changes.
Building up boat speed quickly is vital to sprint racing or to catch a wave in an outrigger. The ability of a paddler to accelerate depends a lot on his or her power to weight ratio. Dryland training will develop strength and power needed to get the boat moving fast in the shortest time.
The motor units in our muscles, however, must learn how to deliver a force quickly. More specific work in the boat such as acceleration drills for short distances is important or use of plyometric activities such as jumping drills or heaving medicine balls around helps to develop the necessary power. These are short-response shock type exercises.
c) Terminal Speed
Specific 'Speed' training results from repetition of a movement where speed ie. stroke rating, is increased progressively until maximum performance is achieved; short distance absolute speed or 'flying'sprints of 5 to 10 seconds, innervation drills (ie. paddling flat out with four ultra-fast strokes put in on command) or overspeed training such as down wind or with an engine all help to push the maximum speed of the boat up. Short bursts of speed following a resistance training session, once the load is removed, will result also result in performances at a higher 'Speed' for short distances.
Technical precision becomes important when approaching maximum speed, particularly when the rating is high. Without it, power is not delivered efficiently. The critical concern is learning to deliver maximum force while the boat is running at a high speed . In a fast crew, this can be difficult for more inexperienced paddlers.
d) Maintenance of Terminal Speed
Maintaining maximum speed relies partly on the development of the neuromuscular pattern of quick twitch contractions. Itꡑs one thing the exert power to catch slow moving water, but when the boat is running fast it requires great effort to apply force consistently. You could compare it to trying to keep your legs moving fast enough when running downhill. The results can be spectacular!
Interval training where performance of maximum 'Speed' throughout a work-out can be carried out once the technical precision is attained. A higher rate should not sacrifice the length or quality of the Stroke, so it is important to coordinate increases in 'Endurance' and 'Power' to cope with the increases in 'Speed'.
It takes a tremendous mental effort to maintain high pace activities with a crew in unison. Maintenance of maximum speed results from your central nervous system learning to coordinate a faster muscle activity and adapt accordingly. Rhythmically alternating high and low intensities allows you to develop a sense of potential speed maximums or minimums and adjust your sense of rhythm to suit.
Ultimately the speed that the boat will travel through the water is a function of stroke rating and power; too high a rating will can result in loss of power unless the stroke technique is adjusted to suit the faster movement. The optimum stroke rating depends on the conditioning of the team and their ability to adapt to the demands of a higher speed stroke technique. Measuring boat speed using a hull speed indicator, or timing the speed to cover a fixed distance is the best method to determine the effectiveness of different stroke rates.
e) Speed Endurance
Speed endurance relates more to the physiological aspects of performance and less on neuromuscular demands. Lactic tolerance development utilizing interval training, strength endurance work in the gym and specific training such as race rehearsals all contribute to a higher level of endurance for speed.
The Speed Reserve
The Speed reserve represents the ability of an athlete to perform at a higher speed over a shorter distance than that of the race. In simple terms, the faster you can cover a shorter distance, the greater endurance you will have over the longer distance. This important to realize when training for paddling marathons.
Even for 500m or 1000m sprints, by focusing on the development of a greater speed reserve ie. by increasing speed at even shorter distances, you can ultimately improve your performance over the longer distance of the race.
Care should be taken so that the gains made in shorter interval training are converted effectively into the longer distance race pieces. Becoming too familiar with a shorter distance of 50 to 100m may cause the team to 'hold back' on the longer distance for fear of burning out too soon. It is important to know your race piece intimately and how much power reserve you can draw on over the longer distance.
Attitude is vital to training activity and sustaining a high level of performance in a race. Not only must you put in 100% in the course of a race, it is crucial that as part of your training discipline that you develop an attitude which forces you to work to your maximum throughout a training session.
The level of intensity in a work-out is controlled largely by your desire to work, particularly when fatigue sets in, when you must consciously order your Central Nervous System to maintain the workload or increase it. This one factor effects everything since paddle speed does not equal paddle power; it depends on how much effort is spent during the stroke. Only you know how much you are trying - what you put into your training is what you will get out of it or rather what the TEAM will get out of it.
Those traits which most profoundly effect performance are:
The desire to perform well or improve one's abilities will develop through constructive training objectives and must be regularly reinforced through positive feedback. Each paddler should be urged to strive to be his or her best which means setting goals which are marginally beyond reach, yet achievable with effort and determination.
Very often an athletes desire 'TO BE THE BEST' or 'TO WIN' can cause overreaching or induce undesirably high stress levels. There is not much you can do if a boat beside you is pulling ahead in a race; you cannot 'WILL' yourself to beat them.
The desire to overcome your WEAKNESS is the key to focusing mental energy on the work; you must recognize your own deficiencies and be determined to eliminate them. Our bodies do not willing let themselves be pushed to the absolute limit and many athletes may not even know where their limits are. Limits must be discovered and can only be revealed or changed with an extremely focused effort. Be disciplined and above all, don't cheat yourself!
How hard an athlete is willing to work in training and in a race all depends on how capable they may be at asserting their abilities. This can be particularly problematic in a dragon boat team where a paddlers' lack of assertion can easily go unnoticed. Drills to focus on the individual will help to reduce the anonymity of paddling in a group.
Development of aggression is a vital for a paddler to achieve an adequate level of arousal needed for maximal performance.
c) Tension Control
The ability to generate and maintain the appropriate level of stress, not too high or too low, is crucial for peak performance. During a race or practice many distractions can throw you off your plan such as a false start, delay or collision with another boat, which can raise the level of stress to the point it interferes with performance. Getting too pumped up can result in loss of control and cause you to burn out to quickly in a race.
On the other hand, an athlete may be too relaxed and may not become sufficiently aroused before a race which can also lead to reduced performance.
Emotional detachment, regular and rhythmic breathing and an intense focus on the mental image of the race re-created in your mind will create the most suitable environment for an ultimate performance. This is not an easy state to achieve - it must be learned with hard training.
It is important that each paddler is keenly aware of changes in the race, involvin