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What are tanks good for?

Rowing tanks have been used for more than a hundred years for teaching rowing and for indoor training. Especially in northern climates where short days, ice, and snow make winter rowing impossible, they have been a pillar of training and coaching. Moreover, when faced with hazardous conditions, a rowing tank is a safer option for practice than risking tragedy on the water.


How do you use them to teach rowing to novices?

One of the difficulties in teaching new rowers is that the feelings and motions of rowing are not natural or necessarily intuitive. It is easy to develop bad habits early on. Putting eight novices in a skinny, expensive shell on a river or lake can be challenging—disorienting for the kids, nerve-wracking for the coach, frustrating for both. The coach uses language that the novices don’t understand to try to teach them movements that are unfamiliar and subtle to learn. It is much easier if coaches can be physically next to the athletes, in a tank, where they can guide the oar, demonstrate proper rowing technique, slow everything down, and talk without shouting. This all can be particularly true for younger athletes and or community-oriented programs where rowers may have no experience around water.

How is it useful in coaching varsity or experienced athletes?

Well past that first awkward month, even elite rowers maintain bad habits that are ingrained and hard to fix from a launch 30 feet away. In some of the best rowing programs in the country, coaches rely on tanks to help refine the skills of their best athletes. Tanks are used all winter, but also in the spring and fall on bad weather days, and sometimes even for 20 minutes, after on-the-water practice, to drill technique without the various hassles and distractions of outdoor work.


How do tanks fit in to winter training?

We see three main training tools when you can’t be out on the water: ergs, weights, and tanks. Ergs are great for building aerobic capacity, but lousy for water feel. They do nothing for technique or timing, and used alone can result in boats full of fit athletes who have poor  technique and no idea how to row together. Weights are best for building strength and explosive drive. Tanks are the best for technique, helping refine water feel, honing good catches and finishes, and working on timing throughout the stroke.

You can put together your stern pair or your whole boat and see how they mesh together. If the three seat is slow with the hands you can teach her how to speed them up directly, and she can see herself doing it in a mirror—instead of saying “faster hands” 100 times from a coaching launch.


Can they be used for individual practice?

Tanks are also a place where individual athletes can come work on technique alone, with a partner, or one-on-one with a coach. This allows ambitious rowers to improve on their own.

Coxswains can run a practice, teaching leadership and control. And captains can run a technique practice safely.


Does video fit into tank training?

These days video is a bigger and bigger part of coaching. Depending on setup, a coach can film  a rower from his side, but display his stroke at the stern (where he should be looking). Likewise this is a great place to video the whole crew, and analyze strokes either in real time or later, in slow motion.


Can you monitor performance with a tank?

InRiver tanks can incorporate Peach and Smart Oar monitoring systems that offer the coach data from each oar sent directly to an iPad or laptop computer.


What are the safety concerns?

This is a most important issue: Ergs and powered tanks in combination provide a really good alternative workout on a blizzardy day in March or during an April thunderstorm. These are times when you really shouldn’t be on the water, but it is hard to stay off the water knowing racing season is just a few weeks away. Having that high quality alternative makes it easier for a coach to make good decisions. It means that a practice spent off the river is productive, even late in the season.


Can tanks help in recruiting college rowers?

Facilities are amenities. Many schools have meager indoor training facilities, and there are a lot of crappy tanks. Nice tanks, ergs, and weights can impress prospective student athletes and their parents. It is one of the most obvious ways that a prospective student can distinguish between programs. In addition to being a useful coaching tool, powered tanks look great!

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