It is generally accepted that crew rowing requires perfect synchronization between the movements of the rowers. However, a long-standing and somewhat counterintuitive idea is that out-of-phase crew rowing might have benefits over in-phase (i.e., synchronous) rowing. In synchronous rowing, 5 to 6% of the power produced by the rower(s) is lost to velocity fluctuations of the shell within each rowing cycle. Theoretically, a possible way for crews to increase average boat velocity is to reduce these fluctuations by rowing in antiphase coordination, a strategy in which rowers perfectly alternate their movements. On the other hand, the framework of coordination dynamics explicates that antiphase coordination is less stable than in-phase coordination, which may impede performance gains. Therefore, we compared antiphase to in-phase crew rowing performance in an ergometer experiment. Nine pairs of rowers performed a two-minute maximum effort in-phase and antiphase trial at 36 strokes min(-1) on two coupled free-floating ergometers that allowed for power losses to velocity fluctuations. Rower and ergometer kinetics and kinematics were measured during the trials. All nine pairs easily acquired antiphase rowing during the warm-up, while one pair's coordination briefly switched to in-phase during the maximum effort trial. Although antiphase interpersonal coordination was indeed less accurate and more variable, power production was not negatively affected. Importantly, in antiphase rowing the decreased power loss to velocity fluctuations resulted in more useful power being transferred to the ergometer flywheels. These results imply that antiphase rowing may indeed improve performance, even without any experience with antiphase technique. Furthermore, it demonstrates that although perfectly synchronous coordination may be the most stable, it is not necessarily equated with the most efficient or optimal performance.
- NONEQUILIBRIUM PHASE-TRANSITIONS
- INTERLIMB COORDINATION
- CRITICAL FLUCTUATIONS
- STROKE RATE