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Let Quiske be your Coach

on the Concept 2

This blog explains how to harness the Quiske Virtual Coach to help with your rowing technique. Why? So you can enjoy the erg more, get comfortable doing longer workouts, and become more efficient, so you can go faster. Also on water.

The erg gives a great total-body workout no matter if you’re using the erg correctly or not, but by focusing on the correct technique erging can start feeling much more enjoyable. Pentti from our team says it can start to feel like dancing. Kristina thinks you can at least get into a state of flow. Anyone can learn to row with similar technique as Olympic world class athletes. Why not?

What exactly is Quiske?

Quiske is Finnish for whisper (well, almost at least). It is also the name of the rowing measurement system created by the small Finnish company Quiske, consisting of three physicist rowers. The system works also on water, but this blog is about indoor rowing, and specifically about the static Concept 2 (we’ll write a similar post about the RP3 and other dynamic ergs later). The Quiske system consists of an App and a Pod, which is attached to the seat, and a cloud service for detailed analysis and comparison.

The Quiske system is easy and fast to install, so you can even use it every workout if you want. It comes with a Virtual Coach which gives easy to understand visual feedback on your technique. That’s what this post is about.

The Quiske Virtual Coach (shortented to “Coach” below) gives instant feedback on five important things, every single stroke: Drive rhythm, Seat rhythm, Legs speed, Seat stopped, and Style. You can choose to see visualized feedback on technique via color coded balls in the Rower view or choose to look at actual numerical data in the Coach view. You can toggle between the two views simply by swiping left/right.

Rower View

This is the default feedback view, where the Quiske Coach gives easy to understand feedback on your technique. The Rower View comes with five color coded balls where green means good and yellow is OK. If a ball lacks color it means that improvement is needed.

The Quiske Coach promotes a front-loaded and segmented rowing style, meaning that you should push fast and hard with the legs to reach maximum leg speed quickly. Only after that should you open you back, and finally use the arms at the end of the drive cycle.

The Coach comes with three levels: Easy Moderate and Challenging.

The level of the Coach determines the tolerances for reaching yellow and green 😉.

The Coach looks at and provides feedback on five areas of your rowing technique.

The 5 focus areas

1 Drive rhythm (ratio)

The percentage of time of the drive vs the time of the full stroke. The ideal value depends on the rate but smaller is better. Keep your drive firm and your recovery relaxed.

Drive Rhythm is the time of the drive vs the time of the full stroke.

2 Legs rhythm

The percentage of time during which your legs are pushing (=seat moving). The ideal value depends on the rate but smaller is better.

3 Legs speed

The maximum leg speed in m/s during the drive. Try to make it over 1 m/s.

The Legs Rhythm is the percentage of the time the seat is moving in the driving direction over the time of the full stroke

4 Seat stopped

The time you keep your seat stationary as a percentage over the time of the full stroke. The ideal value depends on the rate but bigger is better. A typical novice mistake is to start rushing with the seat during recovery, keep the seat stationary while your hands and your body starts swinging, only then start bending your legs.

The seat stopped metric measures how long the seat is at backstop.

5 Style

The Style factor measures how front-loaded your drive is. It finds the position (as a % of time of the drive phase) of your maximum leg (i.e. seat) speed. The Quiske Coach wants you to reach maximum leg speed early on during the drive. Only a very small percentage of the handle movement should come from the upper body during the first stages of the drive, the main contribution should come from the legs. A big Style factor means you’re either grabbing with the arms or shoulders or that you’re opening the back too early. The Style metric is very sensitive and to get it right you really need to push with your legs without opening your back too early. A smaller Style value is better. PS: Make sure you reach maximum leg speed early without bum shoving though (this you can check via the seat timing metric in the Coach view, read more on this below).

In addition to the five focus areas of the Coach the Quiske Rowing App also has some further tricks to keep you motivated:

Trend indicators

To spur you on the App gives thumbs up or even a heart when you’ve been rowing technically well during the 10 previous strokes. The emojis are displayed in upper right corner. It the upper right corner is empty of motivational emoji then you have not yet reached the first thumb level 😉 You can select an easier level of the coach and/or set a smaller damper setting to get better scores (a lower drag factor allows for better leg speed which makes it easier to reach good technique).

The Quiske Rowing App trend indicators (emoji) in the upper right corner and the focus tile with the target level shown red

Focus tile

When focusing on improving your rowing technique it makes sense to focus on one improvement area at a time. The Quiske Rowing App includes a special Focus tile, the 3rd tile from the top on the right, and there you can choose to see any one of the five metrics numerically. Choose what to display by pressing the tile long. The Focus tile also displays the target value you should be aiming for on the lower left corner of the tile.

Technique vs Style

Technique should not be mixed up with style. You can row with correct technique using different styles and vice versa. See below a popular categorization of different rowing styles, we believe this categorization was originally done by Dr. Valery Kleshnev? The Quiske Coach prefers the segmented Rosenberg style but gives a pretty good score also for the Grinko style. If you prefer rowing with another style skip the Quiske Virtual Coach and swipe right for Coach View, which visualizes handle and frame speeds without promoting any particular style.

The Quiske Virtual Coach promotes the Rosenberg style

Coach View

If you want to see more detailed data, you can swipe left to switch from Rower to Coach view. The Coach view is for coaches and for people who like a lot of detail or who want to decide on their rowing technique themselves. This view does not include the Virtual Coach but instead shows the handle (blue) and seat (red) speeds as graphs in full detail every stroke. In addition to the graphs the Coach View shows four or eight (defined in Settings) predefined numerical metric tiles. You can select which numerical values to see in which particular tiles by pressing them long.

By analysing the graphs you can gain a lot of additional insight into what is happening during your drive and recovery and about the timing of catch and the seat. For experienced coaches and rowers the graphs can come to replace video, the graphs allow analysing swing and timings just like slow-motion video. For example, you can check whether the seat and handle graphs are aligned during the first leg drive phase, if not (the seat and handle graphs gradients deviate) it usually means that the back is opening too early. There is also lot of insights in the numerical metrics, e.g. the sign of the seat timing value reveals whether the seat starts moving before or after the handle (bum shoving can be seen in the seat timing tile).

The Quiske Rowing App Coach view with the Swing area highlighted yellow

Comparing with the Concept 2 force curve

The front loaded style promoted by the Quiske Coach can be also indirectly visualized for the drive phase via the C2 force curve: a front loaded drive means that the force curve peak should be on the left side. This indirectly also measures that you don’t start opening your back too early (measured by the Quiske Rowing Style metric). Opening your back too early slows down the legs and moves the force curve peak to the right.

The Quiske Rowing App versus the Concept 2 force curve

Note that all the metrics are filtered, which means that there is some smoothing in the values between the strokes.

Record your rowing

You can choose to just row and get instant feedback from the Coach without storing your session. However, by pressing “Start” you can also record your session for later analysis, and then you also gain a Summary of your session when you’re finished. Press the back key to stop your session. After that you can see the overall technique score of your rowing and also upload the data to the cloud for more detailed analysis.

The summary screen comes with two different looks depending on your preferences, choose which one you prefer under Settings ("Rower+Scores" or "Scores" only). The "Rower+Scores" look shows Finnish Rower Joel Naukkarinen pictured behind your scores. Joel is a promising young talent aiming to compete at Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Quiske Rowing Session Summary screen

How to use Quiske

  • Download the App (iOS/Android) and get a pod
  • Create an account and login
  • Attach the phone firmly to the handle at a 20-30deg, and the pod to the seat
  • Set the damper at 4 or less
  • Start rowing and see what the Quiske Coach suggests
  • Focus on the five metrics one by one and try to get them green, start with the rhythm and then move onwards 1-5
  • Record some steady state rowing for uploading and analyzing in the cloud
  • Share thoughts and findings with peers and with us if you’d like help or comments
  • Continue rowing regularly and try to see how following the coach feels
  • We recommend rowing at 20-24SPM when working on improving technique
  • Learning new things takes time so lots of strokes are needed and learning away from bad technique also takes time

Comments?

Finally, we'd love your thoughts on the Quiske Coach! We've had lots of discussions with rowers on segmented versus other rowing styles, and on how long to keep the seat at backstop. What are your thoughts on these things?
What about the seat timing? How much before the handle should the seat start moving? Comment below or get in touch with us at contact@quiske.fi or via FB.

Happy rowing,

Quiske team

PS. We'll be at ERIC'19, so that's a good chance to come get a pod if you're in Copenhagen!

PPS. Did you see the new video by World Rowing on efficient rowing technique for beginners? Only 4 mins, so check it out if you didn't see it yet. We agree that efficient and effective rowing requires good timing, long and smooth strokes, and that the blade flight path must be precisely correct both during drive and recovery. Did you know that the Quiske System works on water too and can measure not only the seat but oars too? We also agree with the last point of the video: that good rhythm is needed when racing at top speed, and rhythm is something you can practice on the erg! ;-)

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