Thursday, January 25, 2007

Static vs. Dynamic ergs - Rowperfect Comments

After the recent discussion on FITD about ergs, I wrote to both Rowperfect and Concept II and asked them to comment on the discussion here (and here, here, here, and here) as well as on Ivan Hooper's paper. Mark Campbell, co-owner of Rowperfect (which is based in Australia), responded, as did Dick Dreissigacker, co-founder of Concept II. (We definitely have the right people!) I'll start by reviewing Mark Campbell's comments about the Rowperfect erg. I should note that neither man had anything negative to say about the other's product and I should also disclose that I have no relationship with, or financial interest in, either company, although I do own and use a Concept II erg and Concept II oars.

Because Ivan Hooper's paper favored the Rowperfect over the C2 erg (and favored it marginally over the C2 on slides), Mark Campbell had perhaps the easiest job providing comments. There's really no point in me paraphrasing what Mark said (besides, I might get something wrong), so these two posts will mostly be quotes from the emails. From Mark:

[I]t's simply a fact that in a boat you have around 17-23kg "attached" to your feet while on a stationary erg you effectively have Mother Earth attached to your feet. It can be very useful to represent the masses involved as scaled circles, attached to the rower again represented by a circle. In the case of the LWW [lightweight woman], the boat or RP [Rowperfect] represents around 1/4 to 1/3 of the rower's mass. CII or any other stationary erg of course is effectively 6x10^23 tons, CIISliding is 35(model D)-39kg(model E). So the interaction of the masses -especially the BODY VELOCITY of the rower RELATIVE to the attached mass - is vastly different when the one (rower) acts on the other (boat/RP/CII etc). One really good way to think of this is its effect on the movement of the rower's head and therefore feedback to the balance and inertia systems in the rower's head (the Special Sense of Proprioception) as well as the feelings in the muscles and tendons (General Sense of Proprioception) In boat or RP, the rower moves minimally in relation to the boat/head of the RP. In a static erg, the exact opposite - on the CII slider, somewhere between. So the feedback from the muscle/tendons etc to the nerves and brain is VERY different. Think of a baseballer - they don't throw a shotput for practice. They might occasionally throw a SLIGHTLY heavier ball for a drill - but mostly they throw or hit that same baseball all the time to hone their skills, just as the rower can do on the Rowperfect, which also has a very accurately made flywheel which almost perfectly matches the inertia and resistance you feel in the water. From a nerve/muscle point of view, there really isn't much argument that the above explanation is basically sound, the argument you sometimes get is how important it is...

Addressing this question of importance of feel, Mark goes on to say:

I think Ivan Hooper's paper has very accurately summarised a lot of the available information, especially the independent research and the basic physics involved. Other than the examples I've given above I really think it best if people read that paper and make up their own minds, and definitely give the Rowperfect a good try. Nine years ago I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about rowing, when I had the opportunity to row one (dressed in long pants straight from work!). After ten strokes I realised I had a lot more to learn!

While that last bit seems to be something of a pitch, I think it's clear that the Rowperfect advocates believe that trying is believing. Mark finishes by noting that a new version of the Rowperfect is due out soon and includes a recent mailer that went out before Christmas. It's worth noting that the pitch for the machine includes the statement that the Rowperfect has "SIX TIMES less pressure at the catch and finish compared to fixed rowing machines."
So that's the Rowperfect response. As I say, it was easier for Mark because Rowperfect, and more generally dynamic ergs, were favored in the Hooper paper as well as in some of the comments on FITD. I wish I could add my own two cents on the question of "feel," but unfortunately I've never tried a Rowperfect. I have used C2s on slides and I would say that they definitely feel more like a boat than a static C2. They add technique into the equation, where it can (if allowed) be all but absent on a static erg (well, it comes into play as far as "erg score" technique, which can be different than rowing technique).

Next, I'll have Dick Dreissigacker's comments.


XENO said...

Hello there
You can't compare the two machines.
One is truely "rowing" the other is a gym exercise.
The slides are a huge addition to a Concept2 rowing machine. Rowing the C2 without slides does NOT make you faster. In my case, as the only owner of an indoor rowing center in the US, I can easily calculate that I will be able to fit twice as many rowperfects into my 1200 square foot shop than Concepttows, that would bring my numbers to a big fat FORTY!!!
Over and out.
Future West Coast Distributor of ROWPERFECT

Anonymous said...

I think they really need to make a sliding machine that tilts side to side like a boat. Stabilizer muscles are so important for rowing and it's very hard to build strength without the support of those surrounding muscles. As he said, the vestibular system senses balance and inertia although balance is not much of an issue on the machines. A sliding tilting model could help reduce the rocky returns to water practice and therefore allow the rowers to return closer to form.

Anonymous said...

The RowPerfect seat does tip side to side.

Anonymous said...

I know this is an old post, but nothing has really changed in the past year on the availability of side to side tilt (RowPerfect has had the tilt seat since 1990) until now. Row Balance just debuted 'WILIS' in prototype (Feb 2008) which focuses more on the use of the footstretchers (plus seat) for balance control. But nothing is in production yet.

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