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Teaching the swing for rowing stroke

In Marlene’s description of the sculling stroke she describes preferring applying the swing earlier in the stroke than … read more

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In Marlene’s description of the sculling stroke she describes preferring applying the swing earlier in the stroke than what other coaches have instructed (legs, back, arms)  please provide the rationale for this preference.

Marlene Royle’s answer: I do not coach an extremely segmented style, I coach a more collected style emphasizing drive suspension and body weight so the peak

Coaching Rowing Swing
Coaching Rowing Swing. Photo credit:

force is through the perpendicular, waiting until the leg drive is all the way down puts quite a lot of stress on the back especially for masters and if one’s posture is not firm. To develop good flow in a stroke there should be smooth overlap of the muscle groups.

I tend to start the swing just as the oar is perpendicular to the boat— I seem to maintain suspension – should the arms add in before the back finishes.

You would have to look at your hips and weight on the seat to see if you are holding the suspension or not. If the bow drops at the release the suspension is not being held. If weight settles on the seat during the drive weight is not being held. So you have to look at those things.

The closeness of sequencing of muscle groups can vary from athlete to athlete depending on their dimensions. I am looking for arms/body/legs completing close to the same time, weight into the pin so you do not drop weight on the seat at the release and transition away.

As long as the legs and hips fire first the body swing is a stylistic element of a coach, once the heels are down and hips moving you can begin to swing, as a “cookbook” reference start to draw the arms when the wrists are over the knees. Yes before the back finishes. But this is how I coach for a sculler, an 8+ moves faster so the timing might be a little different but I still would not wait so long to bring on the arms. Essentially you have to look at the rowers and see their sequencing and where their weight is being applied through the drive.

Learn more about the Rowing Stroke Drive Phase

  1. Imagine holding the end of a length of chain or rope lying on the ground (a slinky is even more fun!). 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?  The answers are in our six article sequence about the Rowing Stroke, Rowing Stroke Drive. 
  2. Developing Stroke Power ebook 
  3. Article: How to improve your strength and get good drive – Clue – it’s by getting powerful
  4. Rowing Stronger ebook by Will Ruth – Strength Training to Maximize Rowing Performance
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

One thought on “Teaching the swing for rowing stroke

  1. The fact is, that if you want the strongest, fastest, and overall best stroke, you do get all three movements (legs, back, arms) going at the same time. The legs must inniciate, but the back starts into the movement immediately afterwards, you can say that the arms go at the same time, but you shouldn’t know it. The legs being more powerful than the back (and arms, combined), if the legs are driven correctly the back won’t actually move from the catch angle until the legs get to a point where they are weaker than the legs. And the arms should have the same problem moving until the back is at a weaker point because of the angle created. I do believe their should be a point where the back stops swinging and leaves the hips at a good angle and the body weight still up on the middle front of the seat, thus not crashing body weight into the bow and downwards. Best example while (standing) on dry land would be to take a ball (basketball, up to a 10 lb. weighted ball) and try to throw it as high as possible with a two handed throw from the ground to over your head. Knees bent, back at a good strong forward angle and arms extended down toward the feet. Now use the same motion to throw the ball as high as possible. You must start legs, then back, then arms. With appropriate resistance you will get the mechanism of the timing almost identical to a rowing stroke so that the ball gets to its best height. Start the back or arms first, it’ll be very obvious how that wouldn’t work.

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