<< Previous Topic | Next Topic >>Return to Index  

Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

September 29 2003 at 12:18 PM

Hi Paddlers,

Thought I'd invite those living in the west end (Oakville, Mississauga, Burlington) to a meet and greet type open house at my gym in Oakville for the dragon boat fitness training program I am running this winter.

The gym has been very cooperative and their knowledgeable instructors are helping me run it and test/monitor all the athletes. I'll be getting some of the men and women on the National Team to help out as guest coaches as well.

We'll be running from October to April and hope to be able to announce shortly that we are also going to include weekly technique sessions - initially in the pool and on the water in the spring. I am just working on getting that solidified.

Please feel free to email me for more information or you can call the gym - Body Wise Health Club - at 905-849-1021 and ask for Michelle. We are having the open house this Thursday (Oct. 2) from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Happy training.


 Respond to this message   
Non-Oakville paddler

Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

September 29 2003, 4:07 PM 

Hi Larry,

I know that perhaps it's not in your best interest to supply me with this information, if indeed you are promoting some sort of fitness plan/program at your gym, but for those out of town paddlers, who still value your opinion.. What do you think constitutes ideal winter training, geared to building the best paddling body there is? If you want to be in the best condition you have ever been, for spring and summer 2004, what would you recommend you do this coming winter, with regards to both weights and cardio?
I would really appreciate a reply.


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

September 29 2003, 4:33 PM 

Larry - you need to include some info on how to paddle better as well. We've seen too many fit bodies who can't pull water. Wasted fitness.


A new team!

September 29 2003, 4:38 PM 

The Body Wise Predators. Oops.


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

September 29 2003, 4:42 PM 

The way I see it, we have all summer season (from late April to early October) to perfect our paddling.. Winter is the time we have nothing else to do but improve our fitness.. Weights and cardio. I just want to know what an Olympic paddler thinks is ideal winter training, geared towards this sport.
I know there are no definite answers and no perfect training regimes, but an opinion would still be very helpful. Just so I'm not wasting my time on the wrong activity... or exercise.. if that's possible. I mean, training is training. Whatever makes you fitter, can't be bad, right? Unless you pick up weights to such a degree that you become inflexible .. Have you seen those overdeveloped beasts that try to pick up a paddle and can't even lean or stretch their bodies at all? All that strength.. and they can't do anything with it..


X-men? Pull water?

September 29 2003, 8:57 PM 

I agree with the position that fitness is very important but yes paddling is a technical skill that needs to be developed as well. Ideally one needs a strong balance of both traits. I don't understand why people constantly use the term "pulling water" or what I refer too as "the bubbles". The goal of paddling is to use water to anchor the blade or hence "catch" water so the blade does not move. The goal is to pull your hip to your anchored blade. My two cents anyways. Fitness is great and every top team needs it. Feel and stroke mechanics is crucial and that takes time and learning to feel the blade and what your body and boat is doing on the water.


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

September 29 2003, 10:16 PM 

Isn't using the "paddle as an anchor" more of an analogy than a physical reality? There has to be some slippage - we are paddling in liquid after all. Just look at the swirl patterns from the paddler in front of you. It's clear water has been pulled back.

Larry Cain

Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

September 29 2003, 10:32 PM 

Thanks for your questions and comments. I agree with all of you that are telling me that paddling is a technical sport. The reality is that in any paddle craft you should be pulling yourself by the paddle instead of the paddle through the water. That is admittedly tough to teach. The best way that someone can learn that is to paddle in some type of small boat - a C-1 or K-1, marathon canoe, or OC-1. A lot of basic technical flaws can be addressed in the pool or in a dragon boat - but "feeling" the water better is best learnt in a small boat. I don't mean to offend anyone, but I'd venture to guess that most dragon boat paddlers that have not spent substantial time in smaller boats of some type don't really know how to feel the water despite what they may say. I recognize that many people have no desire to learn C-1 or K-1 however and carefully supervised pool paddling and basic fitness training can help (that's why I am trying to incorporate pool paddling into the program to some degree).

Fitness is VERY important. It cannot be underestimated. A paddler with a high level of fitness not only is a stronger, more fuel efficient "engine" in the boat, but they also have a better body awareness and can learn the art of "feeling the water" better. It is my honest opinion that many of those you refer to as being in excellent shape may not necessarily be in as good shape as they appear to be. Good paddling fitness involves basic aerobic fitness, a high anaerobic threshold, excellent lactic acid tolerance, explosive power, excellent strength endurance, good flexibility, good balance, and excellent training of the nervous system and proprioceptors to allow a paddler to feel the water and the rhythm of the boat better. You need to train upper body but cannot forget your legs and MUST train your core. Fitness in these areas can all be increased in the weight room, in a pilates or similar type of class, on the road running or in a pool or on a piece of cardio equipment. In the weight room one should be doing a variety of training modes - everything from circuit training to max strength to body building type weights. Similarly the cardio work should include longer steady base training and interval training. Fitness for any paddle sport is more than just big muscles - in fact it involves a great number of capabilities that most sports do not require in the same degree and which cannot necessarily be seen or appreciated by just looking at someone.

As a sprint canoe athlete I always figured that the best way to achieve excellence is to cover all the bases in your preparation. Fitness is a relatively easy area to improve if you are willing to spend time at it - and the difference it makes can be enormous. I always worked really hard in the winter: 4-5x/week weights, 5x/week run 2-3x/week swim, 1-2x/week games, a max of 2x/week pool paddling. I should point out that I never considered pool paddling a fitness tool, but rather a way to carefully address some specific technical issues and a way to prepare my connective tissue for the pounding it would absorb on the water in the spring. My philosophy was that if I showed up to training camp in phenominal shape I'd paddle better that season right from the first stroke. Looking back over 17 years on the National Team I can say that things did in fact work out this way - my fittest years were my best ones.

For those out of towners who can't possibly join us in training at the gym I am happy to have you email me with your questions. I'll to the best I can to give you some ideas for your program, but please excuse me if I don't get to it right away as I am pretty busy. For those in the west end of the GTA, come on out and join the fun!



Jason Roussel

Sounds Good

September 30 2003, 7:26 AM 

Its too bad I am living way out in the east end Larry or I would be joining you.

Anyone that is interested in improving their fitness and becoming a better athlete should seriously consider checking this opportunity out.

I totally agree with what you said about paddle pool, and basic fitness. The more dragonboating that I do the more convinced I become about the importance of pure strength in that sport.

You also touched on the premise of time in the boat and boat knowledge. This is one of the reasons that I am doing so much outrigger and trying to get the dragonboaters out to try them. They are a lot of fun, but more importantly it enhances your knowledge of the canoe stroke, because you get immediate feed back from the boat. Any changes that you make to your stroke, good or bad will be noticed.

My advice to the "serious" dragonboater is to join a weight program run by someone who has experience (like Larry), and check out your local canoe club, or buy a small boat whether a C-1 or an OC-1 and spend as much time in the boat as possible.

Anyway better get to work now. See ya


Matt RE: Dryland training

September 30 2003, 4:24 PM 

Hi Matt. If you have paddle slip or cavitation around your blade (too much that is) then either the blade has not been entered properly or deep enough or far ahead enough in the stroke or you are just pulling to far back. I paddle OC-1, OC-6, K-1, DB etc and there is little water movement or bubbles behind my blade. When the blade is anchored I pull myself to the blade. If you are starting to pull water back, the stroke should end and your recovery should start since the acceleration phase of the stroke is at the front or where the anchor/catch is best. Like Larry said after my original post. You need to practice in a solo boat and get used to pulling yourself through the paddle in front of you. Too many people in Dragon boat paddle from mid thigh past the hip position where the only thing moving is water, as the blade is not in a position to anchor with water properly (negative paddle angle). Good luck and practice feel and how far you pull and watch the blade angles to see where the contact is and when the stroke has moved too far.

Larry Cain

Feeling the Water

September 30 2003, 4:55 PM 

I feel sort of bad for guys like Matt who are now being told the only way to feel the water is to paddle a small boat. It is absolutely true that paddling in a small boat is the best way to learn it, however one of the things I love about dragon boat is how I feel the connection of the blade to the water when we are just starting to take it away easy. The fully loaded boat is heavy and hardly moving and when I reach out and connect the blade just sticks there. I can feel all the big muscles I am supposed to use and feel myself pulling the boat (with the help of my teammates) to and past the paddle. As the boat speeds up this feeling is less pronounced but it is there. The point I'm trying to make is that paddling in a fully loaded boat with only a few people paddling can help you feel what "feelin the water" feels like. If your muscles are highly trained and properly trained you'll be better able to feel it and maintain that feeling as the boat speeds up. This whole thing can't really be accomplished in the pool as you cannot possibly pull yourself to or past the paddle. You are in a fixed position and only the paddle can move. That is why I say that pool paddling must be carefully done to address certain technical issues under supervision. As far as the paddle and the water are concerned it teaches something different than what you are really striving for.


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

September 30 2003, 5:57 PM 

Thanks for the explanation guys. I will definitely try get the feel for this next season when I'm back on the lake and you've made me quite curious to try OC-1.

To help me understand I have to ask what is wrong with pulling water and creating bubbles? Is it that we are wasting energy that isn't helping us move the boat? Does "feeling the water" mean balancing your power right at the threshold before the water breaks and bubbles are formed?


problem with bubbles

September 30 2003, 6:52 PM 

Matt, the problem with "pulling water" that creates bubbles is that turbulence is bad. Firstly, turbulence means friction in the world of water dynamics. Friction or turbulence along the side of the boat means adding friction to the boat as it moves through the water. The ideal boat movement through the water should be laminar flow (where the coefficient of friction is smaller). Secondly, and more importantly, water is an incompressible media. To maximize the amount of transfered energy from the paddle to the boat (i.e. faster boat speed), you want to apply and sustain as much pressure on the paddle blade as possible. The more turbulence or bubbles that you create, the less pressure that can be sustained on the paddle blade because air (unlike water) is compressible. This is similar to pushing snow with a shovel. It is easier on your muscles to push your shovel against light fluffy snow because it offers no resistance. There is greater amount of air, therefore more compression or give. Shovelling denser snow is more of a muscular workout because there is less compression of the snow. Imagine the paddle blade pushing against water ... it offers more resistance that the same paddle blade pushing against choppy water (water + bubbles). If you want good water connection as described by Larry Cain's description of getting the heavy d-boats underway, you have to get away from the mentality of trying to rip your paddle through the water. You are just spending your energy chopping up the water and not allowing the energy to transfer to greater boat speed. The mental image I try to get newer d-boat paddlers to experience is the image of planting a paddle in quicksand and pulling yourself to the paddle without breaking the hold on the quicksand. If you try to rip the paddle through the quicksand, you merely bring the paddle back to yourself without moving.


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

September 30 2003, 7:19 PM 

Is it okay to hit the catch hard then and make it easier to pull yourself to the paddle or does that make to much turbulence?


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

September 30 2003, 7:34 PM 

Thanks for the fantastic responses! This has definitely given me more insight.


My lengthy view

September 30 2003, 9:34 PM 

Here is how I understand things:

At some critical velocity the flow of water will become turbulent with the formation of eddies and chaotic motion which do not contribute to the volume flowrate. i.e. we ripped through the water with our blade and are seeing lots of bubbles.

We expended a lot of energy to rip the paddle through the water and some of that energy is wasted in that we created chaotic motion that doesn't help us move forward.

In this case of ripping the water we still generate some forward motion but the amount of water resistance found relative to the force applied is not optimal. There is inefficient energy transfer.

Over a long distance race efficient energy transfer is paramount.

For sprint racing (I will call dragon boat sprint racing since we are talking 2 minutes) the most efficient energy transfer may not necessarily win the race. The maximum energy transfer wins the race.

The momentum (=mass x velocity) you put into the water will be equal and opposite to the momentum acquired by the boat. Therefore if you move water back blazingly fast your boat will move ahead faster.

During the normal stroke where the boat is already moving it is less obvious that water is moved backwards in order to keep the boat moving forwards since the blades appear to lock in where they are placed, but if you look at the puddles when the blades are extracted it's clear that water is moved. There has to be some slippage in order to accelerate the boat, (although, from energy considerations this should be made as small as possible)

My conjecture is that ripping the blade through the water will move the boat faster than maintaining good connection with the water without bubbles.

I believe teams that matain good connection without bubbles may be faster teams because they conserve energy and don't burn themselves out. Think of a call for power series. The boat speeds up for a power series. A power series involves full power strokes which cause turbulence in the water (my crew doesn't use power series' in races but I've seen in practice that we definitely move faster when a power series is called)

I would love to hear anybody confirm or debunk my theory.


belly flop principle

September 30 2003, 10:55 PM 

Here is how I understand the paddle in the water .
It is like a belly flop . You hit the water hard ( after burying the paddle ) and there is high resistance to pull against . You hit the water easy and it is like rolling off the dock , you gently slid through the water .
Hit the water means the pull after the catch . You must pull hard to make the water hard to give yourself something to pull against . The catch can be almost a bit of a jerk back at the start of the stroke . There is no such thing as pulling to hard , the harder you catch the harder the water and the more you have to pull against . Harder pull = less slip .
Pulling hard will never cause water seperation or bubbles . Pulling before the paddle is burried will.


light crafts vs heavy crafts

October 1 2003, 12:31 AM 

I agree with principle of pulling to the catch in light crafts. But in a heavier crafts such as a dragon boat, there is bound to be some slippage. We've gotten our crew members to watch their paddles from time to time and there is always slippage when there are less than the whole boat paddling. There isn't enough paddle area and strength to overcome the frictional weight of the dragon boat and the weight of the crew.

Anyone who has tried paddling had with only 2 seats going at a time can feel the shear of the paddle through the water.


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

October 1 2003, 7:10 AM 

then they are not paddling very well. Simple!!!!


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

October 1 2003, 9:15 AM 

Many excellent points here and they've all touched on various methodologies. I paddle OC1 and OC6, trained with marathon and sprint canoeist...so here's my take.

I will often hear "bubbles" being called out as we paddle, didn't understand what that ment at first, so our coach explained as thus: bubbles created by the paddle at the end of the stroke equates to inefficiency of the stroke. The main culpret is cavitation which is created by several areas 1) the paddle entry into the water or "catch" is not clean, splashing, kerplunck, not enough positive blade angle 2) power is applied to initiate the stroke before the blade is completely anchored, shearing through the water and creating air pockets 3) the exiting of the paddle is too far back, whereas the blade is now pulling water "up" and not along the canoe, changing the turbulance of the water and creating un-necessary water movement (up and down as opposed to along the canoe).

Correcting these items was easy (cleaner catch, anchoring the paddle before application of power, exit earlier / midthigh). Once made, I found that the canoe glided much faster and quieter (especially in OC1). For me, identifying the minor problems was the hardest part, correcting me was easy....now I weight train the bigger muscles to go faster.

cheese kurd

paddling technique

October 1 2003, 9:57 AM 

All very good stuff, indeed.

I have noticed many paddlers struggling with keeping the paddle orientation correct through a full stroke. By this I mean keeping the paddle perpendicular to the hull at the center of the boat. I've seen many paddlers paddling very aggressively, yet at an angle usually pulling water slightly toward the boat, resulting in increased slippage.

Is there any reason to think that pulling water slightly toward the boat will increase lift of the boat?

Reservoir Dog

"cavitation" is technically erroneous; "Ventilation" is the correct term.

October 1 2003, 11:41 AM 

I don't mean to be anal, but we have watch that "cavitation" is used correctly. "Ventilation" is the correct paddling term.

"Cavitation" is when enough energy is transmitted to the blade that the vapor pressure differential forces the water to release dissolved air as though it were boiling. This is not possible with the 500 watts of even the strongest human paddler. Usually, this is when marine vessels are transmitting over 70,000 watts (800bhp) to a propeller.

"Ventilation", the correct term for paddle bubbles, is when you add air to the water with your blade, effectively "stirring the atmosphere into the water". This happens when you catch the water with a more horizontal blade, and you push a pillow of air into the water.

A special thankyou to my engineering friends at UBC for clarifying this.


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

October 1 2003, 12:02 PM 

ok, this is getting pretentious. It was cool when larry was talking before the geeks took over.


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

October 1 2003, 12:26 PM 

so Reservoir Dog are you saying as long as the paddle is properly inserted into the water that we can pull back as hard as possible without fear of pulling so hard as to create harmful turbulance?

anon 12:02, we are just trying to understand so that we can paddle better


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

October 1 2003, 12:42 PM 

I don't think RD is arguing about turbulent water. I think he is just clarifying that paddling turbulence is called ventilation.

Larry Cain

Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

October 1 2003, 12:45 PM 

Wow, I made a post about dryland fitness training and it became a thread on technique - or maybe hydrodynamics. I'm not a physicist or an engineer - I just paddle - but I do have a pretty good understanding of what everyone is saying. Here's the way I look at it:

You can catch pretty hard and still catch clean. A clean catch is important and more efficient. Burying the blade as soon as possible is important, and going deep with blade allows you to contact layers of water that haven't been disrupted by your paddle yet and haven't been moved or compressed yet. Therefore going deeper with your blade helps give you a better connection (obviously there are practical limits to how deep to go). Go for a "quiet" stroke. That means you are connected. Even when the boat is still and fully loaded I can make a quiet, connected stroke without the bubbles you guys are talking about.

I watched when I was paddling C-1 yesterday. There are always paddle swirls behind you no matter how well connected you are. You are going to disrupt water when you anchor your paddle against it. My swirls are all dark and appear to be a deep disruption of water. That is alot different than white water swirls behind your blade and swirls in front of your blade while you are pulling. Just try to avoid the white, loud swirls while pulling your butt off and you will be doing ok.

Last thing of interest. In the early '80's Tamas Buday among others did a frame by frame analysis of the top C-1 guys in the world. All of us pulled the paddle out of the water ahead of where we put it in. The paddle actually moved forward in the water relative to a fixed reference point like a bouy. Clearly the best guys all pulled themselves by the paddle. I'm not sure if it would be as obvious in a dragon boat, but if the speeds are comparable (3:49 in 1000m), I imagine it may be. Nobody should be thinking of "ripping the paddle through the water" until they understand, can visualize and actually feel themselves pulling themselves by the buried paddle.

I'm actaully enjoying reading all the responses. Thanks for reading my post in the first place.

Jeff H

Larry - paddle going forward

October 1 2003, 1:03 PM 

I understand about the paddle going forward, and I do agree with you. But it leads to a question that I have about your paddle in the water (or more specifically, your hand in the water).

If the paddle does move forward in the water, then there would be some small amount of drag, would there not?

I've heard some coaches tell paddlers to "get deep water" by putting their hand in the water. Wouldn't your hand in the water add to the amount of drag on the boat? In order to get deeper water, isn't it better to move your hand up the shaft of the paddle a little, and then only skim your hand across the water? That way your paddle can still go a little deeper than normal?

Just wondering about everyone's thoughts about hand placement while paddling.


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

October 1 2003, 1:06 PM 

I agree with Jeff H. Choke up your grip on the shaft, and that will help you plunge your blade deeper into stiller water.


Jeff / Talbot

October 1 2003, 1:29 PM 

All things being equal I think you guys are right, but. Don't you love how there is always a but.

I am not sure you can maintain the same position or strength if you shorten up on the paddle. Shortening the spread between your top and bottom hands does all kinds of things to the amount of effective power you can put on the paddle.

In the extreme imagine if your choked up a foot. You wouldn't be able to pull with nearly as much force without loosing your grip with your bottom hand.

Coaches are always talking about creating a nice big triangle (arms and paddle). If you have the strength to choke up without loosing any power or stability then I would agree with your point, but I don't think it is realistic since you may have to chock up 4-5 inches to get the same depth with a dry hand.



Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

October 1 2003, 1:31 PM 

In my non-expert opinion the drag created by your hand is probably so slight that it doesn't matter.

Furthermore if your hand is moving along with the paddle you could look at it as if it's part of the paddle and not producing any drag. (the could actually help move water backwards, and your boat forward as if you are paddling with only your fists).

I'm afraid if you move your hand higher up on the shaft you may compromise your power.

Larry Cain

Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

October 1 2003, 9:44 PM 

I think whatever drag is caused by the bottom hand being in the water a little is negligible compared to getting a good connection by going a little deeper. I also think it is good to choke up the paddle a little. As I said in, I think it was my last post, there is a practical limit to everything. The guys in our boat probably have their hands a little higher than those in many other crews might. I think the important thing is to find what is the best for each paddler based on their strength capabilities.


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

October 1 2003, 9:58 PM 

Moving the hand too far up adjusts the fulcrum point and changes the leverage force.

Having the hand in the water only increases the pull resistance, more surface area (like a tiny blade).

We've done the video analysis stated by Larry on Dragon Boat. Last 3 years we were doing this, no one has ever pulled themselves past their paddle entry, especially when we are doing row by row paddling.

We were able to accomplish that only by having the entire crew paddle.

I think it's an easy experiment to do, next time you are in still flat water and doing 1-3 seats paddling at a time, have someone throw over a life vest or a paddle as a reference point and see if any of your crew mates can pull themselves where they have just "planted". If anyone can come back and report they did we should get a picture of him, because he's overcome the laws of physics.


hand deep

October 1 2003, 11:01 PM 

I am not sure it is relavent , but there is a video of the Clinton 70 mile pro canoe race . I noticed that the top finishers all had kept a low bottom hand until the end of the race , the guys further back had a higher bottom hand by the end ( 7 hr. or so ). The very best guy , Serge Corbin , is known for dipping his baby finger every stroke .
When marathoners want to sprint they drop the bottom hand , and they can sprint ! ( Supisingly , spint speed wins long races much more than cruising speed ) . A slightly higher bottom hand is useful to keep the rate down during slow cruises and wash riding , but drop the hand to hammer .


Paddle exiting ahead of entery point

October 1 2003, 11:06 PM 

I guess if the paddle exits ahead of the entery point it means:
- good catch with very little slip
-a fulcrum point below the water level
-requires a low resistance boat , such as an ICF boat and large Paddle , as well as unbelievable power and technique , way beyond most of our wildest asperation


clinton video

October 2 2003, 2:26 AM 

where can we get a copy of the video?


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

September 18 2008, 4:31 AM 



Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

September 18 2008, 8:30 AM 

Hey administrators, ban this guy who bringing up these old posts! This like that "bump" guy from last year.


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

September 18 2008, 9:55 PM 

This old post is Awesome! Keep them coming!


Re: Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training

September 19 2008, 8:34 AM 

This is actually a useful bump. Wish I read this during the summer.

Current Topic - Dragon Boat Dryland Fitness Training  Respond to this message   
  << Previous Topic | Next Topic >>Return to Index  
Find more forums on Water SportsCreate your own forum at Network54
 Copyright © 1999-2014 Network54. All rights reserved.   Terms of Use   Privacy Statement