The Rowing Stroke Cycle: Part 5 – recovery


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 Benefits of a Good Recovery

Rowing is one of the sports that has a glide phase (the others mostly involve ice and snow) where speed can be gained by technical skill without work.

If a crew or sculler executes the recovery well the boat will run further between strokes and thus move faster for the same effort.

The recovery phase of the stroke is also the preparation for the next power phase and thus a good recovery makes it easier for the rower to execute the next drive or power phase well.

During the recovery the athlete has a chance to rest and recuperate. A smooth and easy recovery allows for more rest and recuperation by the rower and thus saves energy for the drive where it is beneficial.

Perils of a Bad Recovery

A bad recovery is wasteful of speed and energy.

  • Go back to the swing in the playground.
  • What happens if you are not ready to push at the height of the swing’s return?
  • If you were late in the push did you find yourself pushing when the swing was already on its way down, feeling as if you were chasing after the swing without a firm grip?
  • If you hadn’t taken your arms back did you notice how stiff and juddering your push became?
  • And what happens if you’re too keen and try to push sooner or more quickly?
  • Did you notice the swing’s chains jinking, bumped out of their smooth flight?

If the recovery is rough and ill timed relative to the boat the run of the craft will be disturbed and speed lost.

Tension and the resultant extra energy needed to roll forward will cost a rower or crew dearly. When the recovery is easy and fluid more time is available to rest. A hurried and forced recovery costs vital watts of power output and slows the athlete and leads to premature exhaustion.

Read more – A brief description of the Recovery
Read the other articles in the series…
Part I – Posture
Part II – Catch
Part III – Drive (Previous)
Part IV – Finish (Next)
Part VI – Grip


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