Posture is the way you hold yourself as you row.
Good rowing posture has the pelvis in a neutral position i.e. tilted in line with the lower spine.
NEUTRAL – pelvis and lower spine aligned. Lower back is FLAT.
‘COUCH POTATO’ – pelvis tilted back more than lower spine.
Lower back is BOWED, curved outwards.
‘GYMNAST’ – pelvis is tilted further forward than lower spine. Lower back is HOLLOW, curved inwards.
More about posture including images
The drive phase is the part of the stroke where the athletes move the boat.
This happens during the time the blades are in the water: from the time the blades are placed in the water at the catch to the time that the blades are extracted from the water at the finish.
The drive is a dynamic and fluid movement that allows the athlete(s) to apply their maximum power. A good drive sequence is not just a heave; it is a rhythmical unfolding of the body which has been compressed during the recovery. It involves all the parts of the body linking the handle(s) to the boat, a chain of muscles from your hands gripping the handle to your feet pressing on the footstretcher.
- Imagine holding the end of a length of chain (a slinky is even more fun!) lying on the ground. Move your end sharply to one side and back and watch the other end move. How do you get the fastest, whippiest movement from that last link?
- Are your movements short? Long? Fast? Slow?
- Do they accelerate? Slow down? Have a constant speed?
- How does the chain itself move at the times when you have got the fastest end movement?
- In what sequence are the links moving or being moved?
- Do they jump and rattle or have you got a sinuous snake?
In the drive the pressure put on the feet passes through the linking muscles to accelerate the handle(s) The longer, the stronger and the smoother our actions the greater our finishing handle speed.
Finishing the rowing and sculling stroke
The finish is the final part of the drive where the rower draws the handle(s) in towards his body.
The finish is also where the blade is taken out of the water.
The finish occurs at that point in the stroke when the boat is moving at its fastest and the blades change from applying pressure against the water in one direction to moving freely in the air in the opposite direction.
- Imagine throwing a ball without being able to use your fingers at the end of the throw; trying to skip a stone without a flick of your wrist, jumping high without being able to stretch your legs out to your toes.
Rowing without an effective finish is the same. A good clean finish can add the last available fraction of acceleration to a good stroke.
- Remember setting your bike upside down and putting your fingertips through the the spokes to spin the wheel. (See Catch)
- What happened when you were too slow pulling your fingers out once the wheel was moving?
- What happened when you didn’t pull your fingers straight out (at right angles)?
A bad finish can act as a handbrake slowing the boat and undoing much of the good work of the drive.
More about the Finish
Recover; The importance of the recovery and how it fits in the rowing and sculling stroke
The recovery is the part of the stroke where the rowers let the boat move and prepare for the next stroke.
This happens during the time the blades are out of the water: from the time the blades are extracted from the water at the finish to the time the blades are placed back in the water at the catch.
- Imagine you are in a playground pushing someone on a swing. Place your hands firmly and evenly on their back and push your arms out straight to shove them away.
- What did you do as the swing moved away from you?
- What did you do as the swing came back?
- Do you notice your hands leading the swing back in towards you until they matched its incoming speed?
Your legs bend in the same way, preparing to push the boat away and matching its speed.
- Now think about making the person swing higher.
- How does this change the way your arms and hands work to push?
- How does this change the way your arms and hands prepare to push?
That’s right: you push more firmly, recruit more of your body in the push without changing the way your hands recover their position.
A good recovery is easy and relaxed and allows for the maximum of recuperation between strokes. If the recovery is well done it takes very little energy and effort.
During the recovery the crew cannot speed up the mass of the boat and rowers. They can prepare themselves so that the minimum of speed is lost at the next catch. Preparation and rest are the goals during the recovery and patience and poise are the means to that end.
The catch is the placing of the blade in the water at the end of the recovery.
The catch is also the connection of the blade to the water, the connection of the rower’s power to the boat at the beginning of the drive.
It lies between the recovery where the hull is gliding free and the rower is rolling forward out of contact with the water and the drive phase where the crew is connected to the water and applying force to accelerate the boat.
The catch occurs when the rower is moving and changing direction, the blade is moving and changing direction, and when the boat is changing speed.
- Think of Tiger Woods hitting a golf ball. He’s not a big man. We know plenty of rowers taller and stronger than he but few, if any, could drive the ball as far. It’s not just about being able to hit the ball, although some of us find that hard enough. Timing the swing to transfer the maximum momentum from the club to the ball is something Tiger does better than we do.
A well timed catch allows the rower to begin applying power without there having been any check to the speed of the hull. Of course Tiger has it easy; he is standing on solid ground and the ball is sitting still.
- Think of Roger Federer then. Making those smooth and apparently effortless returns isn’t all about speed. His timing comes from his being in a good position on the court, his body being in a good position, his racquet in a good position – all ready to change the moving ball’s direction.
A good catch in rowing comes as much from being in the right place and in the right position as it does from being at the right time.
Read more advice on the catch
Get a Grip
Grip is the way we hold the handles of the oar or scull as we row.
The oar is the lever we use to move the boat; the grip connects us to the oar and thus to the water. The better our grip, the better our control of the oar and the better we transfer our power.
- Ever played tennis? golf? hockey? Imagine holding the stick of your choice.
- What happens to your control when you hold the handle away from the end? And how much power do you have when you only use one hand? How smooth is your action when your grip is too tight?
Just as your ball was sliced or hooked or merely dribbled when you wanted it to fly so to is it with rowing or sculling and a poor grip. We miss our connection with the water, send the boat and blades in the wrong direction and change the way our bodies move.
More about the Grip