How (not) to demonstrate rowing technique

Lubo Kisiov formerly of Thames Rowing Club uploaded demonstrating in this video how to row.

[23/04/14 amendment 

2. This video is rowing technique on the Erg and not rowing technique on the water. No one should mix erg rowing  technique with on water rowing technique.

3. Adam, who is doing the rowing on the Erg in this video, was a Novice rower – He had never rowed before. I have to say that Adam, did very, very well considering that he just started rowing. For Adam was very hard to do everything “the proper way” but he did his best.  Can’t ask for more than that!]

Chris George wrote a critique….. reproduced in full below.

Rowperfect stands for excellent technique. We believe it’s very important to demonstrate accurately and clearly what movements you want your athletes to make when rowing,  sculling and coxing.

Having a correct explanation and incorrect video of athletes is a common problem.  Anyone seen the “Go Faster with Foster” DVD?  It’s full of footage of athletes in the boat with Tim Foster doing it wrong – especially the short slide drills.

We sparked a row with the ‘powers that be’ over their photograph of ergo technique used for a national advertising campaign.

Which side of the discussion do you favour?

British Rowing Technique

Want a quick check up on good rowing technique?  Take a browse over to the Rowperfect store where you can download Rosie Mayglothling’s slides “British Rowing Technique“.

The companion document of Drills and Exercises for British Rowing Technique was written by Rowperfect UK and sets out 10 drills that reinforce the base technique.

The Critique of erg technique

When will you guys learn how to row properly? You have a great coach in Ben and this is exactly how NOT do to it properly. (Sorry Adam it is not personal).

  1. Point 1 the finish. There is no hands down and away action “sufficient to clear the squared blade from the water”; the hands are a bit too high with the wrists not in a straight line of “pull” at the finish (elbows down, wrists cocked (forearm should be parallel to floor); blade handle hitting body (should be JUST clear as it goes ROUND).
  2. Point 2 there is zero body movement before his knees come up so the hands body slide becomes hands slide/body. That is the one thing that stops boats dead!
  3. Point 3 Zero movement upwards at the catch to take the stroke. This is the most important movement in the rowing stroke – GET THE BLADE INTO THE WATER fully BEFORE PUSHING gently WITH THE legs.
  4. Point 4 the catch This is leg based not leg and back. Adam is not doing that. That deals with the intro Now lets look at the breakdown.
  5. Point 5 Anyone who advocates “hands only” rowing (even on a fixed head) has not understood that it is the most useless and harmful exercise for good rowing. Why? well consider doing this in a moving boat. It is incumbent to get the blade into the water before you pull and I have yet to see any athlete do this UNLESS they are ghost paddling (and most do not have the skill to) at rates of less than 10 – better still lower). It is possible but it is a seriously difficult skill to row hands only properly. I might have risked it with the Tyrian crew who were technically one of the best HW crews I have seen (LW are generally much better) but I did not see the point. ALL such work was done at the front end. So doing hands only at the back end is a complete waste of time as it encourages bad technique and the use of the exercise on the water. It also artificially dissociates the momentum of the action which is crucial to a good finish under power.
  6. Point 6 Even on this video the hands only – the hands are not going round the turn
  7. Point 7 On a positive point, Adam has actually got a good finish position here with respect to the forearm angles to the floor – nothing like he was doing earlier so there is a lesson here to learn.
  8. Point 8 the hands action is not completed before the body swings over. Most (if not all) of the hand action should be done till they are extended before the body starts to swing.
  9. Point 9 Lubo is right in his text Take the stroke with the body before finishing with the arms but that is not what Adam is doing!
  10. Point 10 Just look at the timing of the knee rise with respect to the body – see point 2 above.
  11. Point 11 “he initiates the stroke with legs and body…” Just so! but he should be initiating with the legs only and only after raising the hands and not hard with the legs. Soft to begin with then accelerate but that is difficult on a fixed head which is do far removed from the physics of a dynamic head machine.
  12. Point 12 Rhythm. This is largely absent with regard to time in the water / time on the slide. Difficult to do on fixed head but possible if you hold the knees.
  13. Point 13 Compressing more than 90º – as an aside if you do do this (and some world gold medallists in the GB eight did) and use it not to push but to put in the blade then that is a cheating mechanism that is quite effective to ensure you are at 90 when you start pulling – not recommending it but noting it as an observation of fact.
  14. Point 14 The catch position coaching – not a single mention of hand action! Adam shows about 10 degrees with a large gap between body and legs- it should be 25 to 30 according to the intro. 15 and this remains the case till half way through the slide BEFORE the body starts to open. In this case Adam is doing not a bad job apart from the initial lack of body reach –
  15. Point 15 The finish – note the little kick upwards on the body. All this is completely wrong. Were you do do this in the water with a square blade you would catch a crab on the first stroke! There is absolutely no movement to clear the blade from the water. What is the point of introducing muscle memory of this action? Rowing is a very simple technique “catch drive recovery” No! it is a very complex technique and requires “feel” and sensitivity and a rowing simulator that obeys Newton’s third law. You need to feel the boat moving under you and treat the boat as part of your body – you and the boat are one unit. The boat travels fasted on the middle part of the recovery and slowest 27% after the entry of the blade into the water. Keep that in mind.

I am now motivated to put a similar video out with points 1 to 15 using one of the 8 rowing simulators you guys should learn to use! Watch this space!

5 thoughts on “How (not) to demonstrate rowing technique

  1. Lubo Kisiov says:

    Hello RowPerfect,

    I’m “glad” to see that you are publishing misleading information with my name on it without asking me for it first.

    …………….Lubo Kisiov formerly of Thames Rowing Club uploaded this video about how to row……………

    1. I never uploaded that video on YouTube in a first place. This is very misleading information.
    2. This video is rowing technique on the Erg and not rowing technique on the water. No one should mix Erg rowing technique with on water rowing technique.
    3. Adam, who is doing the rowing on the Erg in this video, was a Novice rower – Never rowed before. Someone, forgot to say that in his “Critique”. Well, he forgot that the Ergs don’t float. I have to say that Adam, did very, very well considering that he just started rowing. For Adam was very hard to do everything “the proper way”but he did his best. We had FUN doing it.
    4. This video was used only as a test for DOOSPORT, and was made for FUN. It looks like it helped some people around the World, who have Ergs in the GYM showing them how to use the rowing machine. Maybe that is why the video got near 700 000 hits. No other rowing video on You Tube has so many hits. !! Maybe that is wrong too? Maybe that made rowing less popular? I don’t think so.
    5. Dear Chris George, please make your video for excellent technique and upload it on You Tube, and look what is going to happened. How many hits you are going to get? I wish you luck. It is so easy to “Critique” this video but then again the video got 700 000 hits. Can you “Critique” that? I don’t think so, and you know what – we had FUN doing it.
    6. Thames Rowing Club got the biggest free advertising ever having near 700 000 people around the World looking at that video. You are very Welcome !!
    7. Best of luck RowPerfect and I hope you understand how (not) to publish misleading information.

    Cheers
    Lubo Kisiov

    • Rebecca Caroe says:

      Lubo
      I’m very sorry that this has caused you angst. I’ve added an amendment to the post to confirm points 2 and 3.
      Really sorry if you didn’t upload the video but it was TRC and I guess they had your authority to do so?

      With regard to ‘misleading information’ we refute your point. We all know that there are many opinions on the best way to row, scull and move a boat. The World Championships every year demonstrates lots of different techniques in very fast boats.

      Rowperfect is happy to be a platform for people to voice their rowing related opinions. We have actually hosted other broad ranging discussions in the past about a range of rowing related topics from race formats, hand grip and ergo technique.

      Rowperfect runs this blog to facilitate discussion about rowing technique, coaching and we welcome all points of view. It is not

        our

      judgement on your video in this instance. Please, Lubo, if you’d like to write for a global audience, we’d welcome you as a guest blogger.
      Join us – everyone is welcome to contribute.

  2. Chris George says:

    In response to Valeria Gorman’s request, here is my advice if you are stuck with a fixed head
    First of all – get rollers!
    If not that then this will help

    The finish. Insist on a hands down and away action “sufficient to clear the squared blade from the water”; make sure the hands are not too high, Keep the wrists in a straight line of “pull” at the finish (elbows down, wrists flat and forearm parallel to floor; The blade handle should NEVER hit the body (it should be JUST clear as it goes ROUND the turn – think of moving round a small orange).
    Ensure the hands action is completed before the body swings over. Most (if not all) of the hand action should be done till they are extended before the body starts to swing.
    Coach for at least 50% of the body rock over movement before his knees come up so the hands – body – slide flows smoothly. Make sure that all the body rock over is completed before quarter slide. Absent this BASIC, is the one thing that stops boats dead!
    Use your hands body MOMENTUM to allow you to slide forwards to your catch (on a RP the machine bungie does this for you so you can just sit there and let the “boat” (as in a real boat) do it but on a fixed head you have to work it yourself either by dragging yourself up the slide using your foot straps or, much better still, by letting a correct momentum on the finish do it for you. As an aside I would take the straps off for all work below rate 26 which forces this action.
    Compressing more than 90º – if you do do this (and one world gold medallists in the GB eight did) and use it not to push but to put in the blade then that is a “cheating” mechanism that is quite effective to ensure you are at 90 when you start pulling – not recommending it but noting it as an observation of fact.
    Insist on a hands upwards at the catch to take the stroke BEFORE YOU EVEN THINK OF DRIVING THE LEGS DOWN. This is the most important movement in the rowing stroke – GET THE BLADE INTO THE WATER fully BEFORE PUSHING (gently – AT FIRST) WITH THE legs.
    Initiate the stroke with the legs only.
    The first part of the drive is leg based not leg and back. Ensure that no back movement occurs till at least half slide is done.
    Be soft to begin with then accelerate TO the finish (but that is difficult on a fixed head which is so far removed from the physics of a dynamic head machine).
    Take the stroke with most of the body before finishing with the arms. This is important because with straight arms you can load up and suspend with full power and hang there till it is time to finish off the stroke. This is particularly important in headwinds.
    Rhythm. Tell the rower to Impose his will on the machine with regard to time in the water / time on the slide. Difficult to do on fixed head but possible if you hold the knees and “think” of a boat running.

    The finish – how many rowers add the little kick upwards on the body towards the chin to get that extra length and better score? Always completely wrong. I know of no member of our national squads who are not guilty of this. Why? Because the erg scores rule! Think how much better we would be nationally if they were taught to row the fixed heads with good technique preferably always on rollers. Were rowers do reach as far up their chests and necks when on the water with a square blade they would catch a crab on the first stroke! (OK Lady Maggie did it and so did Spracklen’s boys but did you see the awkward body action a the finish (to get the blade out) and did they race like that? – no!) There is absolutely no possible movement downwards to clear the blade from the water if it is under your chin – as your chest is in the way! What is the point of introducing muscle memory of this action when you do not row like that in the boat? It destroys good rowing action in a boat so, if your are forced to use a fixed head machine – and most rowers are – , at least try to row it as you would if it were a boat. The finish is a very complex technique and requires “feel” and sensitivity. Having a rowing simulator that obeys Newton’s third law enables you to do it easily but if you are on a fixed head YOU need to impose YOUR technique on the machine. In a boat, you need to “feel” the boat moving under you and treat the boat as part of your body – you and the boat are one unit. The boat travels fastest on the middle part of the recovery and slowest at a point 27% after the entry of the blade into the water. Keep that in mind.

    [Lastly, do not do “hands only” rowing (even on a fixed head) as it is the most useless and harmful exercise for good rowing. Why? well consider doing this in a moving boat. It is incumbent to get the blade into the water before you pull and I have yet to see any athlete do this UNLESS they are ghost paddling (and most do not have the skill to) at rates of less than 10 – better still lower). It is possible but it is a seriously difficult skill to row hands only properly FROM the backstop. ALL such work should be done at the front end. So doing hands only at the back end is a complete waste of time as it encourages bad technique and the use of the exercise on the water. It also artificially dissociates the momentum of the action which is crucial to a good finish under power.]

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