Pulling the paddle- is this accurate?

-- Last Updated: Jul-02-07 8:50 AM EST --

See the below posts which assert that speed comes from 90% pulling and 10% technique:



Greater details:


Do you concur?

I Whip Up on My Buddies

– Last Updated: Jul-01-07 5:02 PM EST –

and I'm doing more pushing than pulling.


don't tell my buddies

I think the first article is misleading.
I think you need to read the second article to really understand what he is saying. And yes, I think he’s right.

technique ?
I agree with marciat. Read the second article, it is all about paddling technique not how to get stronger. In comps, strength and conditioning is important, but if there are racing competitors equally matched in strength, then the one with better technique will win. Also if he realizes that cadence and the right hull design are important.

I have two friends who bike and kayak with me. The biking is ALWAYS competitive. They are both usually stronger than me on the bike and I have to use a lot of strategy just to stay in the pack. (can you say ‘wheel sucker’?)

In sea kayaks it just occasionally turns into a race. I usually make it to the bridge first even though I know these guys are stronger than me. Why? I work more on my technique. I think I’m more successful at spreading the load through my torso and my pushing arm.

Pushin vs pullin
It is easier to push than to pull.

Push with the top hand and guide the stroke with the bottom hand keep a loose grip.

Get an ONNO paddle and you’ll be happy.

BTW- Thanks Marek- I abstracted
the articles from your site.

Pushing is important…
One time on a long paddle my right elbow gave out and although I could pull I couldn’t push. I could only use it a pivot point to pull with the other hand. It made a huge difference as I limped in…

I guess you are talking about pushing with the upper arm?

It seems that the current style of paddling being taught is (almost) all torso rotation and little-to-none pulling/pushing with the arms.

The links are talking about pulling the paddle with torso rotation only.

I don’t think you can push with torso rotation (biomechanically speaking).

Can’t “push with torso rotation”?
Like a good forward stroke - a good punch uses the whole body. You can’t throw a decent punch without core power. Core power cannot be effectively transmitted without rotation and or crunch (aka verticalized rotation) - and both have a push and pull component as long as you are using both arms!

“Pulling” and “pushing” are too limited as descriptors IMO, and too easily to read the wrong way even if the writer has perfect technique. Yes, most of the power is coming from the core - but it still must be transmitted through the arms. Even if they are largely static/stabilizing -they are doing work. Can’t stabilize the shaft doing just “push” or “pull”.

Which can do more work, pushing or pulling muscles? Compare your ability to do push ups vs. pull ups, or max one row seated vs. max one rep seated bench press. Then compare max reps at a lighter weight. The push exercise should win on both counts. These are all more chest and back (engine) than arm specific (transmission) movements - so there is some balance - but as we move out to arms the triceps are MUCH larger/stronger than biceps. These muscles should be less engaged than chest/back/abs (% energy burned) All power to the water flows through the arms whether they generate it or not. They need to hold up to what the rest is doing.

Different paddles/styles engage a bit differently so the “push” or “punch” component feels different and descriptions vary leading to more confusion.

Taking the punching analogy a bit further, I would describe the wing stroke upper hand as being a bit like throwing a hook - while the upper hand push with GP is more like throwing a cross with some downward jab. Core engagement changes accordingly. Pull hands are doing a sort of sweeping low block. Power in all these moves comes largely from the core.

Another way to look at it: Upper hand reaches out to grab the opponent’s collar, lower hand to grab his belt (spearing/catch phase). Legs stabilize you while you use core power to sweep him aside/around/past you…

Point here is that the paddle shaft/imaginary opponent represents resistance you are engaging and levering past.

Another good image often used is a series of alternating poles on either side of the kayak that you grab and lever past.

Importance of the catch to hook up so you can apply the leverage should be obvious. Flared and canted stroke advantages in terms of biomechanics, engaging “clean” water, adding lift component on top of the drag, and preventing flutter are all related to giving the best purchase/leverage - for a HUMAN power plant.

Arm extension

– Last Updated: Jul-02-07 6:49 PM EST –

"a good punch uses the whole body"
Yes, of course (though, I don't spend a lot of time hitting people).

"I would describe the wing stroke upper hand as being a bit like throwing a hook"

Not a bad way of putting it.

I said: "push with torso rotation"?

Let me qualify that by saying you can't push with -upper- body torso rotation.

Keep in mind that I'm talking about what people -do- rather than the physics of the movement.

In a Newtonian sense, there is definitly pushing and pulling going on. But the power from this is coming from the torso muscles (not arm muscles).

The power of the stroke comes mostly from contracting the torso muscles on the "power side". This, biomechanically, is pulling (twisting) the upper body across the boat. As the body moves across the boat, the upper hand incidently is "pushing" the paddle. But no extra "push" is being added by extending the upper hand.

One -can- provide "push" with -lower- torso rotation by moving the hip (and the leg of the non-power side forward). More "push" can be added by extending the leg and foot.

"Compare your ability to do push ups vs. pull ups [etc]".
Of course, the whole point of torso rotation is to avoid using the arms muscles (much).

What I was talking about was an explicit extension of the arm of the upper hand (a "punch"). This extension increases the angle between the upper and lower arm, moving the upper hand towards the bow. I recall this movement being suggested some years ago but "now", people don't make this advice.

I disagree strongly. Have a friend who paddles at least an hour a day, about a 120 lb. female and unless you’ve got really decent technique you will never keep up with her in a similiar boat no matter how big your muscles are.

You need technique first then can use your strength, specially if you are using a wing.

Arm push
The reason the upper arm is not actively extended forward (or why that’s not taught anymore) with wing/euro is that doing so makes the shaft - and so the paddle blade - less vertical (fore/aft angle) to the water. Effect is it then presents a smaller face to the water relative to direction of force/travel - and also has you lifting water at the end of the stroke. Both waste energy (the latter can also pulls boat down and alters flow along hull).

When people are told to keep the shaft more vertical I think many may assume this means side to side (high/low angle styles) - when fore/aft verticality (efficiency of blade face relative to force) is the primary issue.

Extending the upper arm forward tilts the shaft forward. Seen from a SIDE view - with kayak traveling toward left - shaft should (to whatever extent practical) be:

| vs. \

As seen from front/rear view, the angle can vary depending on paddle type/style/speed/conditions).

Side note on GP: You can extend/push upper and out across and down significantly with Greenland paddles - let the paddle get at all sorts of odd angles - bring stroke past hip - and do all sorts of other “bad things” by euro standards - and find all sorts of useful stroke variations in the process. Different hand spacing - different leverage - different blade surface area distribution - different drag/lift ratios - different tool.

If she paddles daily…
… she has sport specific strength. Don’t get much better than that.

Strength and technique are not independent - but I would not credit her speed to technique alone.

She may not be large or seem “strong” by the common notions - but what she has is well adapted to the task. Then there’s also the most overlooked aspect of speed: Total displacement. Put simply - being lighter she has a LOT less water to push and needs LESS strength for same speed. Add to that some likely stability advantage from her lower COG - and one wonders why more women aren’t doing this and whooping up on the guys!

Strength takes time to develop - but good technique takes a lot longer.


“Side note on GP”

The first rule about greenland paddles is that there are no rules!

Another thing…

Instructors can teach technique (they can’t teach “strenth”).

Nicely put.