Training Parameters (part 2)


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by Dan Fedoruk


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 it's 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.


Base Preparation

(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.

Programme Cycle

Cycle I

Dumbbell Biceps Curl

Overhead Triceps Press

Bent Over Lateral Dumbbell Raise

Front Dumbbell Raise

Cycle II

Upright Row

Dips (Elbows Out) or Bench Dumbbell Flys

Reverse Barbell Curl

Wrist Curls


Cycle III

Bent Over Dumbbell Row or Barbell Row

Bent Arm Pull Over or Dumbbell/Barbell Press

Seated ObliqueTwist or Side Bend

Lower Back Extension

Cycle IV

Military Press Behind/Front of the Neck

Pronated Pull Ups

Lunge or Squats

Abdominal Crunch

Principle Muscle




Posterior Deltoid/Trapezius

Anterior and Lateral Deltoid


Upper and Lower Trapezius

Inner Pectorals and Deltoids

Brachiallus and Biceps




Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major






Latissimus Dorsi

Quadriceps and Gluteus Maximus

Upper and Lower Abdominals



(during water Speed and Strength Block
ie.March )

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.





Maximum Strength


(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)

Upright Row

Dumbbell Flys

Dumbbell Curl

Overhead Triceps Press

Cycle III (Secondary Group)

Bent Over Lateral Dumbbell Raise

Front Dumbbell Raise

Abdominal Crunch

Lower Back Extension

NOTE: 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

Anterior Deltoids






(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



Cycle I

Subinated Pull-ups (to Failure)

Power Cleans 

Power Squats or Lunges

Seated Oblique Twist (to failure)

Cycle II

Pronated Pull Ups (to failure)

Push Ups (to failure)

Abdominal Crunch (to failure)

Cycle III

Bent Over Row

Dips - elbows out (to failure)

Dumbbell Curls

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 individual's 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:

1. Reaction Time;
2. Acceleration;
3. Terminal Speed;
4. Maintenance of Terminal Speed; and
5. Speed Endurance.

Training for Speed

a) Reaction Time

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.

b) Acceleration 

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. It? 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.



Athletic Attitude 

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:

1. Desire
2. Assertiveness
3. Tension Control
4. Sensitivity
5. Personal Accountability
6. Confidence
7. Self Discipline

a) Desire; 

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!

b) Assertiveness;

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.

e) Sensitivity 

It is important that each paddler is keenly aware of changes in the race, involving rating and intensity levels. Staying alert is not easy in longer races or training sessions when ones' attention can wander, loosing focus on a pre-established programme.

Mental 'Imaging' plays an important role in both training and in race events, where a clearly developed mental picture will improve your 'Focus' on the work to be done (it can be so intense that you can 'see' your own stroke or 'feel' the water moving by without even being in the boat). It is important for each paddler to be able to measure their own performance accurately against this image and be capable of making technique or intensity adjustments on demand.

f) Personal Accountability 

It is the responsibility of every paddler to recognize his or her obligations to the team and themselves. Clearly without continually monitoring the heart rate of every paddler in the boat, it is difficult to determine the amount of effort one is putting into training exercises or a race; particularly since there are 19 other paddlers to drive the boat forward. This is a personal issue where the desire to perform well and commitment to the TEAM must over power the natural tendency to want to 'give up' or ease off in the intensity of work. This is what separates a dedicated athlete from an undependable one.

Team bonding is a key where each paddler is dedicated to a common goal, even though personality traits may vary considerable.

g) Confidence 

Every paddler must be physically and mentally prepared to commit to the race plan or make calculated adjustments as required to perform in accordance with their own personal maximum. With sufficient preparation and by setting goals which are attainable, paddlers should develop a strong sense of confidence in the abilities of the team and themselves.

h) Self Discipline 

The ability to adhere to the principles of a race or a training session requires extreme Self- Discipline.

The effect of 'Athletic Willpower' has already been discussed as an important component to 'Endurance' Training where an athlete must stay focused on the required levels of intensity.