Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sailing Fitness with Bow Down Training

On the Wire

By Chris Herrera

I had my first experience crewing a 49er in Palma, Spain with Erik Storck. I have previously crewed a 470 with both Stu McNay and Amanda Clark. Sailing on these boats gives me a feel for what the athletes go through. Although I have been building programs for athletes that both skipper and crew both boats for approximately six years, this was my first time actually doing the work on the boat.

In this blog entry, I will take this first-hand experience and incorporate what my body felt into the workouts I build, while giving you tips.

What did I learn that is unique to sailing in a stand up position with a trapeze?

The three things that stood out to me that was most challenging was the body control, shoulder stability/strength, and agility needed to effectively and efficiently sail the boat.

Good body control is the ability to know where your body is in “space” and being able to move and put your body in the correct positions. An even better way to look at body control is understanding what bad body control is. If you have bad body control and are flopping around the boat and always a foot in the wrong place you will be making it harder for your skipper to predict your movements and control the boat. Having bad body control will cause you to have a “heavy” body and cause too much pressure on the boat when tacking side to side.

You can gain good body control by doing body weight exercises were you are forced to move your body and strain your muscles in different joint positions. Also, working on proprioceptive exercises or exercises that focus on joint/muscle reactions, such as balancing on unstable surfaces (bosu ball or foam) and reactive exercises such as ball tossing and medicine ball slamming.

Shoulder stability is extremely important if you want the ability to hang from the wire for any length of time before hooking the harness and during the explosive maneuver of raising the kite. Shoulder exercises that focus on muscular endurance and pulling movements (dumbell shoulder combos, lat pull downs, seated row, dumbell row) and exercises that cause compressing in the shoulder joint (front core bridge and dumbell shoulder press) are great exercises to improve this skill.

Agility might be the most important asset when it comes to having the ability to tack and get out on the edge/wing of the boat. Agility is defined as: the ability to change the body's position efficiently, and requires the integration of isolated movement skills using a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength, endurance and stamina. This is not achieved over night and is best done by consistently doing a combination of footwork drills, track/running drills, and plyometric/explosive body movements. By adding exercises in these groups to everyone of your workouts you will improve your agility over time. Another key in improving this area of your fitness is improving your core. When your core strength is good your agility will improve faster.

Please check out many of these exercises on YouTube at


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