Rowing finish technique – which is “right”?

Hello I have just recently started rowing. I have been taught to get the blade out of the water to tap down and away with the inside hand and wrist. I notice here however you are saying to tap down with the outside hand and feather with the inside. I’m just wondering which is the best technique? And why there are these different coaching techniques? I do find this the hardest part of the stroke so any tips and suggestions would be most welcome many thanks.

Rowperfect answers the question

There are many different ways to row – what you are being taught is slightly different from the ‘classic’ instruction. Neither is “right” or “wrong”. There are good reasons to teach one thing (your technique) to beginners and maybe change that for more experienced athletes.

I suggest you check your understanding with your coach – show her/him this blog post and check that you and she have the same idea.

It may help to get a video to watch of skilled rowing – there are lots on YouTube.

Why does rowing technique understanding matter?

I don’t know, when I wrote this answer to our questioner what the coach actually said.

Your coaching educational skill in communicating your intent is KEY to getting athletes doing what you want.  Did the coach intend to teach an inside hand tap down for sweep, or did the athlete mis-interpret?

I teach beginners to scull and I am frustrated regularly when I see them not doing the ‘basics’ I teach such as ‘don’t let go of the oars’ and ‘put the bank side blade in first’ and ‘how to carry a double scull’.  So I growl at them and yell in frustration driven by care and a desire not to see them flip into the water.  Yet really I should be examining my teaching and communication.  They clearly didn’t get my message.

Some teaching aides I should be using:

  • written summary to hand out
  • video link to explain in slow motion
  • let them ‘fail’ and fall in – that’ll teach them fast
  • get them to teach someone else and critique each other
  • Buy expert advice from a top coach

Buy expert rowing coaching advice

You can also buy some ‘top up’ coaching advice on Rowperfect from our panel of experts.  Get the answer from people who are among the best in the world – don’t undermine your own coach or club – improve their learning by inviting them with you onto the skype with the expert.

9 thoughts on “Rowing finish technique – which is “right”?

  1. Philip Arshad says:

    A lot of coaches I listen to coaching others teach as if teaching themselves, then they get angry when the athletes ‘don’t get it’. In many cases it is the coach’s fault for not coaching to the athlete at the athlete’s level and understanding.
    Another issue is patience, or lack thereof. Many people, both coaches and athletes, expect to get it first time. I always tell my athletes that i do not have a magic wand, and that it takes a long time to get the ‘simple’ skill. I tell them they must have patience and practice again and again. I tell them ‘you won’t get today necessarily or next week or next month, but you will. When you practice and practice, it will click, and then you get it, but have patience. It is ok to get it wrong’. Always works.

    • Chris George says:

      My view is that neither is right! Why? Well this person is a novice just learning to row. The simplest action one should be teaching novices is to put the blade or scull in as one wants it in a state to pull and take it out in the same state. The concentration should all be on putting it in correctly. (So many elite and internationals cannot!) Any extra effort spent on the totally unimportant (at this stage) action of feathering and squaring is a complete distraction from the key important issues of taking the blade in and out correctly. Once that has been mastered (and in my experience it takes about 6 months for a club athlete) then very gradually a “flick” feather can be introduced which later can become more pronounced to be a feather for up to 75% of the recovery. Perhaps in their second season they can learn to square later.
      OK I will rest my case now and await the flak that is bound to come my way!

  2. Ivory Asakura says:

    Department of Human Movement 17ca and Exercise Science, University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia. The purpose of this study was to compare rowing technique on the dynamic RowPerfect ergometer with a single scull.

  3. Craig Allely says:

    The practise of tapping down at finish is very beneficial to novice rowers .When carried out at low ratings it allows a clean extraction of the blade at the finish of the stroke thus creating less drag.
    This is a definite plus with the larger modern blade (post macon shape).
    Chris George states that the feathering and exit stage of the stroke is unimportant.I say try rowing without it

  4. Christopher George says:

    I said
    “..the totally unimportant (at this stage) action of feathering and squaring is a complete distraction from the key important issues of taking the blade in AND OUT correctly.”
    in other words teach novices to row only with square blades for the first six months. I never said that the exit was unimportant…

  5. Craig Allely says:

    Hello,Chris the flak continues ,you did say that the totally unimportant stage of feathering and squaring the blade is a complete distraction from important issues of taking the blade in and out correctly ,well you can not have one without the other..Six months of rowing with square blades only ,bit long ,perhaps regular drills of this combined with feathering concentrating on tapping down at the finish to achieve a good clean finish..This combined with a steady movement forward and good push with the legs should see your novice rowing well and achieving early success and having a long and enjoyable association with the sport.
    The catch is important too but perhaps we can talk about this at another time.
    I believe you are the Chris George who rowed for University of London and GB as a heavyweight and a lightweight. obviously you are still hooked on rowing.good to see.
    Regards Craig Allely

  6. Christopher George says:

    Craig, Did we meet internationally? Yes, indeed Moscow 1973 HW 4- and LW in Nottingham, Villach (best forgotten!) and Amsterdam (against the Aussie *+ with Rod Stewart). Good to meet up if I ever get to Aussie where I will be based in Melbourne with a cousin or 50 of same (approx). Would have come over for Melbourne IM but Bernie Ecclestone changed the date of F1 race and screwed us for the date so had to go to Texas instead! Still coaching at UL but mainly interested in Thames RC novices where I find the longer I can persuade the other coaches not to teach feathering early on in the learning cycle the better the catches and finishes are as it simplifies the tap down and the hands up. In effect we are separated only in that you want them to learn two things concurrently and I want to do it sequentially once the entry and exit have been mastered. Even with elite athletes I find they row better if I force them to do half the work of a piece with square blades. G’day mate!

  7. Craig Allely says:

    Chris,I never rowed Internationally ,but rowed at Worlds Masters Games And FISA Masters ,once in Australia ,largely at club and National champs in NZ Been to a few World Champs as a spectator
    Followed UK Rowing closely through the now extinct Rowing Magazine, have not coached for coached some years now .Last crew I coached a novice crew at the West End club Mahe Drysdale was a member .At least I did not put him off Rowing.
    I find coaching novices the best ,they are receptive to coaching ,as they have no previous instruction
    Regards Craig

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