Why I Row 100% on the Dynamic

Jan 07, 2019

The Model D RowErg has become the standard off-water training tool for on-water rowers. It is what aspiring Olympians train on and fills most boathouses. Athletes are tested on the Model D so that results are comparable from workout to workout and from athlete to athlete. This helps coaches choose their boat line ups with the fastest, most competitive athletes. So why row on the Dynamic?

After the birth of my second child, I decided to commit myself to rowing 100% on the Dynamic Indoor Rower. As a relatively new sculler, I knew the Dynamic would provide me with the best feedback on my stroke as I transitioned back to on water training. In the past, I avoided the Dynamic. Why? Well, truthfully I found it frustrating. I had trouble recreating the pace I was accustomed to seeing when I rowed on the Model D. This affected my confidence. Instead of telling myself to “hang with it, you’ll improve,” I began to doubt my abilities. I wanted my fitness to be reflected in the Performance Monitor.

After maternity leave, I had a fresh start. I stopped judging my fitness by numbers and instead, decided to build up my fitness slowly. I gave myself permission to enjoy the row instead of scrutinizing whether I was able to keep my splits below a 2:00/500m pace (for any length of time, even one stroke!).

The Dynamic has succeeded in teaching me more about rowing technique than the Model D. As I’ve written before, I watch the Force Curve while training on the Dynamic. Instead of focusing on my pace, I watch my Force Curve on each stroke. This feedback has been invaluable. I tend to disconnect my leg drive from my body swing if I’m “spacing out” during a workout. The visual cues from the Force Curve have helped me to see what I’m feeling. Now I can feel nuances in my stroke before I even see the changes on the Performance Monitor. Sure enough, good-feeling strokes tend to result in faster-paced splits.

I feel the Dynamic has improved the catch in my stroke. On the Dynamic, the change of direction is key. Unlike the Model D, the smooth cord on the Dynamic requires finesse to move from the recovery to the drive. I find the Model D chain allows me to power through this sequence with little regard to the timing of the leg drive. The Dynamic responds when I begin the drive (correctly) with my legs instead of my core and arms; my splits improve.

My training each year focuses on head races in my single or with a partner in the double. The Dynamic replicates what I feel in these smaller boats. As I’ve transitioned from big boats (mostly 8+s in high school and college) to smaller boats, I’ve shortened my stroke and have worked on feeling more comfortable at the catch. I struggle to increase my stroke rate on water in my single, but the Dynamic allows me to practice quick transitions from one stroke to the next—without worrying about hand positions and being off balance. Yes, my stroke rate is a bit higher on the Dynamic than on the Model D; this requires plenty of energy to do well and sustain. It does not result in faster times for me.

The Dynamic is not just for small boat rowers, either. If you're racing in big boats, the Dynamic offers great practice for rowing with good technique and power at higher stroke rates—closer to what you'd probably be rowing in an eight. A co-worker prepares for head racing in an eight using the Dynamic. After a summer of sculling at 24 spm, the Dynamic offers a realistic experience of racing at 34 spm. This is helpful practice for Head Of The Charles Regatta® training.

The Dynamic offers no additional fitness benefits; I still recommend the Model D to those looking for the most reliable, proven, standard machine in rowing. If all my discussion of the catch, recovery, leg drive, and sequencing of the stroke is lost on you, the Dynamic will not offer anything additional to your rowing. However, if you’re an on water athlete looking to improve your stroke and willing to (potentially) compromise your “usual” training in the short-term for long-term gains in a rowing shell, I highly recommend the Dynamic. Some athletes may see little or no change in their scores between the Model D and the Dynamic, but there is value in evaluating what differences you do or don’t see.

Masters athletes, such as myself, can be great candidates for the Dynamic. As a member of a small rowing club who mostly trains and races in a single, I’m not training for erg tests on the Model D (we don’t have them!) or indoor racing (also usually on the Model D). My focus is on gaining on water speed. I finally have the maturity and perspective (I hope?) to see past my own insecurities about whether I’m slow or not and enjoy the challenge of maintaining my strongest technique.

The Model D will continue to be the standard for team training and racing. It offers all the benefits of rowing at an affordable price. The Model D has become ubiquitous, available at most gyms and boathouses. And yes, I’ve broken my vow to row only on the Dynamic. While it is my indoor rower of choice, on occasion I’ll hop on the Model D (or Model E) for comparison. It feels “springy” to me; unlike the Dynamic, there is a bit of tension on the chain to help me glide up the recovery. It still feels familiar, the outputs on the monitor are familiar, and the dread of an erg test (even 18 years since my last one!) still looms. Transitioning back to the Model D requires no change in my technique. My goal is to use the best technique possible indoors to improve my rowing outdoors. I challenge you, too, to use rowing technique to your advantage—no matter what machine you row.

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