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By special strength development we always mean training on the water aimed at developing greater power of the stroke. It is a form of strength development that some competitors use all year round, or it replaces non-specific forms of strengthening during the upcoming competitions. 

Strength training in the gym briefly disturbs the fine differentiation of movement on the water (the so-called water sense). Demanding training focused on maximum strength and muscle volume (the method of repeated efforts) disturbs the specific differentiation of movement quite fundamentally, the pain and force exhaustion of muscles (lack of immediate energy sources for muscle work in the form of phosphate compounds, microtrauma of muscle fibers, inflammatory processes) does not allow either the maximum possible rapid manifestations, or riding at full intensity for more than 20 - 30 seconds (the reason is usually strong local acidification and muscle pain). For this reason, I do not recommend heavy strength training in any season other than winter. Strength training should be present year-round, however, the methods and means of development should vary depending on the time of the annual training cycle. The degree of specificity should increase: the closer you are to the competition, the more you should choose methods and means similar to the real conditions of the actual performance on the water. In other words, towards the competition you go to the water instead of the gym. 

Means of development of special strength (Mareš, 2004) 

The means of development of special strength abilities are intended for mature adult female competitors. In physically unprepared competitors, they can cause local overload requiring a long recovery time, in extreme cases they can lead to injury. Recommended age: > 19 years. 

  • Paddling in the shallows. This method of force development takes advantage of the increased resistance of shallow water. Here, the magnitude of the force on the paddle increases significantly, but at the same time the mutual time ratios between the resistive and resistive-free phases of the stroke change partially. The resistance phase is lengthening. This creates a different force and circulation effect on the organism. In speed canoeing, increases in the performance of athletes who used this method of training during the race period were recorded for 3 weeks, in a frequency of up to 50% of training units for the 500 m race course and 40% for the 1000 m race course. However, training had to be completed no later than one week before competition (Zemlyakov & Fomin, 1980). 

Benefits: Natural and smooth boat movement that is in perfect harmony with the boat's movement during racing performance. In addition, the conditions of some race tracks can be close to running in shallow water. 

Disadvantage: Difficulty of load regulation. Usually there are no graduated depths of water sections so that the trainer can always choose the most suitable one. 

  • Repeated heats. It is well known that the greatest forces during a shot are generated at the moment the boat starts, during the first few strokes. The force on the paddle depends on the acceleration of the boat. Stretches of 5 to 20 seconds are recommended, with rest periods corresponding to 1-4 times the work time (Zemlyakov & Fomin, 1980). 
  • Paddling with additional weight in the boat. Another option is to increase the weight of the racer-boat system. The amount of force on the paddle varies continuously for each competitor as the additional weight load on the boat increases from 5 kg (force impulse changed by 7.9%) to 10 kg (force impulse changed by 14.8 kg). Increasing the weight of the racer-ship system by more than 10 kg does not seem to make sense in terms of the force on the paddle, as the acceleration of the boat is already significantly reduced (Afanasiev & Kaverin, 1978). 

Advantages: easy adjustability. 

Disadvantages: significantly changes the behaviour of slalom boats (the boat is more submerged, the weight placed in the centre of gravity makes it easier to turn). 

  • Paddling with hydro-brake. Another way to increase the force on the paddle is to increase the resistance of the boat through the brake. By optimizing the size of the hydro-brake, the desired effect can be achieved individually for each competitor. Note, however, that the resistance of the hydro-brake varies not only with the size of its frontal area, but also with its shape (or the way water flows around it). 

Advantages: easy accessibility, technical and financial simplicity. 

Disadvantages: worsening of the ship's wrap around and therefore worsening of the handling characteristics. The hydro-braked water also has a bad psychological effect on some female racers. In addition, the change in flow affects the paddle's passage through the water. 

There are basically two types of hydro-brakes: 

  • Objects placed under the boat: balls of different sizes strung on a rope, prisms of different sizes placed under the boat in the same way, rubber ropes wrapped around the bow or stern, a folding hydro-brake. 
  • Towed objects (rags, buckets, bottles filled with water). The advantage of objects towed behind the boat is that they do not interfere with the flow of water, do not break the water for the stroke, and the amount of resistance can be easily controlled (e.g. by releasing/adding water to a plastic bottle towed behind the boat). 
  • Paddling with an additional weight on the paddle. By placing a lead slice on the paddle shaft, you achieve a higher weight and a special strengthening effect on the muscles responsible for holding the paddle. The size of the weights should not exceed 200 g to avoid local overloading of the shoulder joints. 
  • Paddling a slalom kayak. In water slalom, paddling a slalom kayak is also an effective means of developing special strength skills, both on wild and calm water. 

Specific examples of special strength development 

In specific and special weight training, the standard methods of strength training are usually not followed. Rather, we follow the methods of speed development or speed endurance, with artificially increasing the amount of resistance on the paddle. 

  • Continuous straight paddling for 30-120 minutes at moderate intensity (zone 1, 2 - approximately 120 beats) with a brake (a towed bottle or a rubber band wrapped around the bow of the boat). 
  • Repeated sprints in shallow water or with brake. 20 sprints of < 15 seconds. Length of rest between repetitions: Two minutes. 
  • Starts from a place with weights in the boat. 10 - 20 starts < 10 seconds. Length of rest between repetitions: Two minutes. 

The development of special strength should always be appropriately compensated. I recommend dynamic neuromuscular stabilization, "core" and shoulder stabilization exercises prior to any training session special strength development. After a training session, stretching and recovery in the form of free swimming or whirlpool. 

Written by Jan Busta


Afanasjev, V. P. & Kaverin, V. F. (1978). Specialnaja silovaja podgotovka v greble na bajdarkach. In: Grebnoj sport. Moskva, FiS, s. 31 – 33. 

Mareš, J. (2004). Silová příprava v rychlostní kanoistice. Závěrečná práce na UK FTVS. 60 str. 

Zemljakov, V. J. & Fomin, S. K. (1980). Effektivnost speciálních skorostno-silovych sredstv ispolzujemych grebcami na bajdarkach i kanoe při podgotovke k sorevnovanijam. In: Grebnoj sport. Moskva, FiS, s. 36-38. 

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