One of the more important parts of the power stroke is the foundation, which, if you think about it, is like the foundation of a house. Everything has to be strong and in its right position, or things can break and fall apart.
You want to be able to position your body properly, you want to be able to hold your paddle properly, and you want to have the right grip to give you the most power possible and help to prevent injuries or damage to your body that can come from improper posture.
We’ll start with the body’s frame and posture throughout the stroke. You’ll see in the video that you want a tall body frame with a straight spine that’s flat along the back. You also want to make sure that your shoulders are down and back. You never want to be in a position where you round the shoulders forward or round the back.
Your hip position is also important. You want your hips to be tilted forward, and not rolled back, which would place additional strain on the lower lumbar region.
To get reach on your stroke, you want to “hinge” forward, which is simply bending forward at the hips with the hips tilted forward. However, you must ensure that your torso remains long and straight. You don’t want to curve your back.
Some paddlers try to get a little extra reach by rolling their shoulders forward and curving their spine. Lower back injuries and shoulder injuries are caused by this, so you want to avoid it as much as possible.
Another argument against curving the spine and shoulders is to think about how an athlete would lift a weight from the ground or perform a pull-up. In both cases, the strength position comes from a squared body frame with the shoulders displaying good position and posture. You’d never want to pull or lift a heavy weight with your shoulders out of alignment because it’s simply not the strongest, most-efficient way to do it.
If you do have problems with hinging and forward reach, you might want to consider mobility exercises. Generally a slumping spine and even curved shoulders indicates that an athlete’s hips and hamstrings are so tight that it prevents them from leaning forward.
In some cases, a slumping spine can indicate that an athlete doesn’t have the core strength to support their body during the forward hinge.
The answer? Stretching and core work.
Remember to think about body posture and framing when you get on the water and warm up. This is the time to have “body awareness” and go through your mental checklist to make sure that you’re starting your workout with proper technique.
You might also notice that coaches talk about posture during the warmup and also often at the end. It’s when we’re tired that bad habits can slip in. So remember to go through your checklist once again as you make your way to the dock, or when you’re doing a “cool down” paddle. Correct posture will eventually become second nature as long as you pay attention to it.