What is the proper degree of body-over and lay-back for the junior rower?


A reader from a US high school has asked us a question “What is the proper degree of body-over and lay-back for the junior rower?”

My answer is that it’s no different for a junior than for a senior rower – the answer is the amount that their body can sustain.

The physical limits to” body over” – are hamstring and pelvic flexibility and the limit to “lay back” is core strength in the back and abdomen. Less strength means the rower can sustain less of the movement.

Classical rowing and sculling technique says you lay back 10-15 degrees from the vertical and body over a corresponding amount – but you are working with young athletes who have growing bodies. When bones grow they can grow faster than ligaments and so hamstring flexibility is often compromised after growth spurts.

My advice to you is this

  1. Ensure the athlete is fixed up in the boat from foot stretcher height and seat height so he/she can sit in as close to the correct catch/frontstops position that you desire. If they are inflexible – lower the shoes and raise the seat until they can comfortably sit with shins vertical and arms outstretched at the catch.
  2. Have them row with feet out of the shoes and you’ll quickly see who can sustain a big or small lay-back. Or get them to row with the shoe straps undone so they are loose – this means they find it harder to lean back supported only by their shoe strings and have to use core strength to control the movement. Keep the lay back to a range that the athletes can comfortably sustain while rowing at firm pressure low rate.

This may mean that your crew has slightly different ranges of movement. Don’t worry about this. As they row look at the parallels of the oars through the rowing stroke cycle and adjust the athletes footstretcher position so the oars move parallel. Then you’ll get a good power action within the limitations of the physical capabilities of your crew.

Check their positions regularly through the season as kids grow fast and some will change within weeks.

I hope this is helpful. Do let us know how you get on.


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