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How to stop slumping at the catch in rowing

A question from a reader “How to stop ‘slumping’ and losing body position at frontstops before the catch?” … read more

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A question from a reader “How to stop ‘slumping’ and losing body position at frontstops before the catch?”

What a challenge. This is possibly one of the toughest things to teach rowers and scullers.  Usually because you are trying to get them to un-learn incorrect posture.  Changes like this are not made overnight.  Athletes will tend to revert to their more comfortable slump posture when they get tired.  So only do short amounts of time on this until the crew has enough strength and flexibility to maintain their form for longer periods.

Let’s go – this is going to be a hard ride.
Rowing variation in catch posture Rowing variation in catch posture

First thing to check

Can the athlete sit in the catch position?

If your athletes are not physically capable of sitting at the catch – arms outstretched and not holding the handles of the oars – then you have your primary focus.  Adjust the boat equipment until they can comfortably sit there with shins vertical, back leaning forward and straight, shoulders relaxed and arms outstretched.  Test this first on the erg.

Things to look for – if shins aren’t vertical this may be caused by inflexibility in joints or a tummy getting in the way.  Lower the feet height and raise the seat until the athlete can sit comfortably in something close to the correct position.

If they cannot sit there – embark on a stretching and flexibility training programme

What is good rowing posture at the catch?

In the Rowing Coach section of this website is a whole chapter about Rowing Posture.  Read the whole page because it sets out

  • Diagrams of rowing postures
  • How to find the correct posture for you
  • A brief description of good posture
  • Benefits of good posture

Coaching correct rowing posture

Once you’ve established that the athlete can achieve the position you want, here are some drills that you can use to encourage good posture at the catch.

Posture on the Recovery

Achieving the catch posture starts with the end of the power phase and the set up for the recovery (hands / body / slide).  By one quarter slide the catch position should be achieved and maintained all the way until full compression at the catch is reached.

Try the hinge exercise described here.  This is great because you can teach it on the erg first where you can position your athletes manually so they are in the right place.  If they can’t rock forwards – go back and check their foot height and seat height to ensure their bodies can do the movement.

Then progress to doing it on the water.  Blades flat on the water at first.

Build up from hinging at backstops (no slide) through to hinging to half slide (elbows over the knees) to hinging at full slide.  All with oars flat on the water.

This can be part of the warm up for every outing.

Posture during the Power phase (drive)

Continue the hinging exercise into the power phase by squaring the oars and doing the backstops, half slide and full slide.  Do this square blades ONLY and be sure that the boat is sat level throughout, so you may want to only have half the crew rowing if they aren’t skilful.

Any time you see the technique slip back to slumping, stop.  Take a rest.  Set up the correct posture again from backstops with the hinging exercise and the oars flat on the water.  It’s more important to get it right, 100% right for a short sequence of strokes than to persevere with incorrect posture.

Here’s another more sophisticated exercise to do – this requires the athlete to be able to get into the catch position and hold it while taking short strokes.  Do not do this drill until your athletes can hold the catch posture.

Do the Slide Progression from Front Stops exercise.  Once the correct catch posture is achieved, you can get the rowers to use it in this sequential drill.  This helps to establish correct posture during the power phase of the rowing stroke.  Beware – if your athletes are inflexible, un-fit or not good at posture, you should only do this for short sequences and give them lots of rest between sets (maybe do half the crew while the others rest).

Other sources of information

Read Ben Rodford’s book “Be Your Own Support Team”  He has a section on flexibility.  Also available on Amazon in Kindle Format 

I’m too inflexible to reach the catch in rowing – what can I do?

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About Rebecca Caroe
Rebecca is the host of RowingChat podcast and is a masters athlete and coach. Passionate about helping others enjoy the sport as much as she does. View all posts from Rebecca Caroe

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