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What is the Perfect Force Curve?

The most prominent feature of the display on an RP3 is the graph showing the force curve. It is a feature that allows detailed and instantaneous feedback on exactly how you apply force through your stroke but what exactly should it look like and what can you do to make yours better?

What factors influence the shape of my curve?

The overall shape of the curve is defined by the following main factors:

1. Stroke length and peak force –generally defined by a combination of physiological factors, how tall, mobile (flexible), and strong you are. Stroke length is simply how long you row and peak force is the value of force produced when it's at its highest in the stroke.

2. The point of peak force - refers to how you load your stroke. A front-loaded stroke such as that image 1, is where the drive is loaded at the catch, this means the initial press off the footplate is hard and fast. For a back-loaded stroke, such as that in image 2, the initial press is easier, but pressure builds through the stroke.

3. Area under the curve – this factor is ultimately how much energy is transferred to the machine during the stroke and refers to how the curve looks up and after the point of peak force. The force curve may be at a consistent level all the way through or may be steep-sided.

Image 1 - A front-loaded stroke profile

Image 2: a back-loaded stroke profile

What should I aim for?

1. Target stroke length and peak force - A target value for stroke length and peak force should be based on the athlete. As a rough guide, we recommend rowing to a comfortable length, checking your shins are vertical at the catch (not over or under compressing) and that you swing your body to an angle equivalent to 5 past the hour on a clock face. Peak force may depend on the session intensity but is something you should look to increase once you are happy with the other features of the shape of the stroke.

2. Target point of peak force – The target point of peak force depends on the boat class and your position in it. Faster moving boats require an earlier application of force in order to add to the momentum of the hull. Slower moving boats require more patience through the drive to accelerate the boat each stroke as there is less momentum.

As a rough guide, we recommend target relative positions of peak force of around 32-38% of the length of the stroke for athletes in an 8+ or 4x (more front-loaded) up to around 45-50% for athletes in a 2- or 1x (more back-loaded). Of course, this factor is only as good as its consistency through a crew, a crew in which half of the athletes are back-loading and half are front-loading will likely be less cohesive and therefore slower than one where all are rowing the same.

3. Target area under the curve – an athlete should always look to maximise the area under the curve as this is directly proportional to the power they are producing. For this reason, we recommend trying to hit a smooth curve where much of the curve is near the value of peak force and steep or concave sided curves should be avoided. Additionally, it is easier to synchronise a crew if each athlete has consistent power through the stroke as opposed to a variety of discreet maximum power points through the stroke.

How do I achieve my target?

Step 1: Start with a clear image of your target power curve in mind, or even programme it into your RP3 display using the static curve feature (The video below shows how to do this).

Step 2: Experiment with your force curve, try applying power earlier or later in the stroke and see how this affects your curve vs the target curve.

Step 3: Using what you have learned in step 2, aim to hit the target curve, repetition is key here.

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