Elements of Effective Rowing

1. Rowing and the work life balance. Club activities – balance and expectations

  • Runcorn Rowing Club is already hugely successful in several areas; we need to broaden this extremely successful and rewarding thing that is going on. To work out a personal routine where you can do the most sessions each week fitted into your own particular schedule, planning is necessary. Priorities are outlined to help you make informed choices on how to be the best you can.
  • Every week, we must look to change and develop technique by taking an interest in instructions given, breaking down bad habits that may have been ingrained over years.
  • How about aiming to be as healthy as possibly through adulthood, with as much interest developed for an enduring retirement; Brian Lewis rocks!

Recreational v Competitive, and the grey area in-between.

  • Everybody is on the continuum from George and Val at one extreme, through to the “very occasional“ participant at the other. Our collective aim is this: To try to make sure that everybody around us who has a wish to be competitive to whatever degree have every opportunity to realise their potential.
  • Ideally, we want to evolve a competitive group of 12 women and 12 men at the hard training end, grading through to the more recreational base of the groups. The recreational base will contain rapidly developing new entrants to the sport, and also “too busy to train much” ex-elite rowers. The difference will be the competitive groups will be aiming to excel at the North of England Head and Tideway events, and National standard regattas, whereas the recreation rowers will aim at Dee Autumn Head and Warrington


Personal Development

  • Everyone needs to contribute as much as you can to be involved in the rewarding success of club success.
  • Doing the best that you can in the boat can be combined with the admin, coaching, administrative, social and specialist roles.

Training demands:

  • Elite means aiming to do something physical 6+ days a week.
  • Competitive means 4 – 6 sessions a week. Almost competitive is 2 – 4 sessions.
  • Recreational is irregular training averaging about 2 sessions per week.
  • The difficulty is that everyone will consider “hard training” to be a different thing. Then, an elite physiological athlete with rubbish technique is not elite. So, assessment of ability on ergos, and then by boat assessment is needed.

Sessions: ranked from high value to low value

On average; some will benefit more from some sessions than others.

  • 7pts 2nd row sessions (additional 1.5 hour session)
  • 4pts weekend / evening summer sessions (1.5 hour)
  • 4pts ergo sessions (30 mins)
  • 3pts (20 minutes of) running, stretching, swimming
  • 2pts (20 minutes of) walking or cycling

By giving a points value, you could score your weekly activity, to compare year on year.


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2. The seven key elements. Technical must dos

Start at the top, and work down the list one by one. No one person is perfect, no one can forget to think about being better at one of these elements each and every stroke.

  1. Bladework putting the blade in at the end of the recovery, and taking it out at the end of the draw.
  2. Sequence Legs -> body -> arms in the draw, arms -> body -> legs in the recovery
  3. Rhythm Power in the stroke levering horizontally, then a balanced, controlled, gliding, relaxed recovery
  4. Hip Pivot developing sequence to feel tall and straight armed for 80% of the stroke, and using the pelvis to finish the draw.
  5. Consistent acceleration using the above every stroke, reliable for a whole outing, or work piece.
  6. The Run The sorcery that is letting the boat do as much work for you as is both scientifically and artistically possible.
  7. The small boat being able to do all of the above in a small boat – able in a single, pair or double.




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3. Bladework guide - Bladework The Catch: There is no catch

The secrets behind getting a good beginning.

  • Nothing except the knees should be moving as the catch time approaches: in order you must have achieved... The arms have been straight for most of the recovery. The body has rocked over to its catch shape and the spoons have been squared off. The shoulders are, and will remain, in a strong shape.
  • The ambition every catch is to maximise length of stroke. So every bit of water that can be stretched over before entry is passed by the spoons.
  • The successful catch will not check the boat run This can only be achieved by controlling the speed of the side into front stops, landing at maximum compression of the knees with little force, at which moment, the hands lift their weight off the handles and the squared spoons cut into the water (the tip driving in like a spear!)

Congratulations: Your catch has already been completed!

What's left?

  • All that remains is to apply a standing movement to the legs against the footplate to load up the entered spoons.
  • Resist the great temptation to do any more than hold the handles – do not pull them hard – just hold them resolutely.
  • Do this as immediately as is needed following the blade drop into the water.

Note. this requires practise and concentration


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4. Bladework guide - Finish

The secrets behind getting a good finish.
  • Nothing except the shoulders and arms should be moving into the finish
  • There should be a feeling of an acceleration happening through the middle to the finish of the stroke from work by the upper body.
  • The shoulders should not be tense, but loose, allowing the lattimus (side of back) muscles to draw the handle back smoothly without ripping the water. If everyone pulls a hard, smooth, locked on stroke, ripping should never happen no matter who you are and how strong you are!
  • There should be a hole in the water behind the spoon, and a lump of water built up in front of the spoon.
  • The feeling at the finish is to run out of pull, to open the hands, to feel the spoon lifted out, almost rolling the lump of water over with the front face of the still square spoon as it lifts out.
  • The bottom edge of the spoon should be pulled by the last contact with the water to do most of the work of initiating turning the spoon onto the feather, with a slight flick of the fingers being all that is necessary to allow full rolling onto the feather to occur, spoons finishing 5cm clear of the surface before hands move much away from extraction.



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5. Bladework: The movie

Things to look for in your own action: study the video and freeze II at each point.

The stroke:
  • The blade must apply a steady pressure against the water – not ripping through or creating froth.
  • A lump of water should build up in front of the spoon due to higher pressure, a depression in the surface of the water is created behind the spoon. The extraction: the spoon keeps on moving at the same speed as it was moving horizontally up, but up, out and ......
The Recovery: .....
  • The spoons move away at the same speed all the way to the entry....which happens when the spoon can go no nearer to the bows.
  • The aim is to have the spoons lose as little speed as possible into the entry


Entry : The part of the stroke when the boat is going its slowest.
  • The blade enters when the inboard is way out beyond the frontstay.
  • The entry is effectively more of a spearing in tip first than anything else, when the angle of oar and speed of water past the point of entry is studied in combination.
  • A small backsplash may represent the water finishing off the change of direction of the blade through recovery to the speed of water moving past the hull. There is complete conservation of energy and maximisation of length when reasonable backsplash is produced, so it is a GOOD thing.
  • The spoon must be loaded by the legs pushing the boat (=>riggers=>pins=>) against the loom, so the boat stops decelerating any more as quickly as possible.




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6. Rowing elements technical instruction: how to provide coaching

Being a coach.......

Effective Coaching Components
  • Individual and crew coaching
  • Video – analysis of technique
  • Explanations of faults and corrective exercises
  • Ergo analysis of technique and force-time
  • Training programme outline and suggestions
  • Year planning and target selection
  • Crew selection and formation

The elements

are all there in the few lines, but the unwritten contents are made from the interpretation of the rest of the manual. The art of coaching is to understand the ideal rowing action, for each individual, to be able to apply it, in the most applicable way, towards and possibly in a competitive event.

If applying in a competitive event, there may be a programme of competitions planned, which should imply a timescale, an evolution, and an evaluation of required standard (with regards to opposition) could also be relevant. This is very hard to put usefully into words for any individual coach with an individual remit.

Every coach has to be active in trial and error coaching, and absorb what they observe (of other coaches/mentors as well as rowers) and then continually develop their own ideas on a developing wealth of experience.




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7. Coxing : an introduction on how to cox

How to be a good cox

The cox has full responsibility for the safety of the crew. The crew also has a responsibility for, and a duty to respect the cox. Until experienced in coxing, the crew has a responsibility to coach the cox. This booklet covers the basics for how to cox an outing. It should be read as an introduction to the skills and language of being a cox. There are many more skills to learn to race a crew well, but such skills are developments of what you read in this guide. There is not much new to learn, just the adaption and perfection of use of these instructions applied under pressure of racing. It is a similar process to learn to cox as it is learning to play “Super Mario” and speak “American computer-game-geek language” at the same time.


  1. Instructions
  2. Language
  3. Sample outing –starting off in the boathouse
  4. Moving from the landing stage
  5. How to talk to the crew as they row
  6. Things to say to your crew
  8. Directional steering: where to steer / things to be aware of
  9. Spinning (turning the boat around)
  10. How to land the boat at the end of the outing Almost ready to do it. One other thing you need to know.
  11. Some thoughts on the rudder and it’s effectiveness
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1. Coxing instructions

Verbal instructions must be clear and consistent. By clear, they must be heard by all the crew and understandable. Crisp words in brief instructions, clearly spoken are all features of good coxing instruction. By consistent, many coxing instructions countrywide are identical. If coxes learn the language, and rowers also get used to the language, then wherever a cox goes, whoever he coxes, the instructions will be effective, even if only partially heard. The message will be clear from the few words or sounds heard.

RULE OF THE RIVER: STAY ON THE COX'S RIGHT HAND SIDE called "Starboard" ...(Left = "Port") OF THE RIVER. It is the opposite to the roads in the UK. On the river, we are more clearly European.

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2. Language

The way a cox speaks to his/her crew has a great effect. Cox is in charge (irrespective of age or sex)of the crew. When experienced, cox will be trusted with the crew’s safety completely. This trust will be earned by each member of the crew believing that the cox knows what they are about.

Instructions must be:

  • Confident. Words used must be correct and clear
  • Rhythmical -spoken in a way that rowers can act on them because they fit into the pattern of the rowing rhythm.
  • Timed to cause effect. Calling a crew to order when only half the crew are in position will bring the rest to attention. Counting down to bring the remainder to act with a little rush imposed on the last, slowest characters will sharpen up the crew’s response. Look for the crew to follow instructions sharply. Don’t accept delay!! KEEP THE CREW MOVING FROM ONE THING TO THE NEXT.

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3. Sample outing

The crew should have got oars out to the landing stage already, ready for the outing. YOU MUST BE KITTED OUT FOR THE OUTING – LIFEJACKET AND SUITABLE KIT READY FOR THE WORST OF WEATHER EXPECTED FOR A LONGER THAN EXPECTED SESSION. They should have all returned and gathered at the boat, spaced evenly along its length, ideally by their seat position in the boat. “Whole crew, hands on,.....1..2..3..LIFT” The boat should automatically be taken out of the rack. Confirm the next action by then saying “Walking it out, minding the riggers.....keep it slow” Other instructions here may be relevant. Most crews prefer to carry boats on their shoulders, so this may involve taking the boat from above heads “going to shoulders, splitting to alternate sides from bow, split and lower to shoulders, split........and shoulders, down to shoulders, go” Or it may mean lifting to shoulders from waists level, “whole crew, lifting to shoulders, 1..2..3..lift” When walking a crew from boathouse to landing stage, a cox should be ensuring that the boat is safe, and not going to hit an obstacle or get in the way of anyone coming from other directions on bikes, cars, running on foot.

The best place for a cox varies. It may be near the 3 seat on lifting from the rack, to by the bow ball emerging from the boathouse, dropping back to the rudder/fin by the time you get to the landing stage. You must check that the fin/rudder assembly is in order at this point “Going to above heads, 2...3..lift,.....and lower (to river side of you all – you stand land side of crew so they won’t think of putting boat down over to their land side) to waists, walk to the edge, feel for the edge, put the boat right out to miss the fin...lower together” At this point, you put your cox-box in the coxes seat, and go and hold the boat at the 6 or 7 rigger of an VIII. “Get your blades” Assuming at Runcorn, it will be strokeside riggers on the bank. When they return with the blades..... “stroke side blades in, bow side blades across” “Shoes off before you get in the boat, stroke side holding it, bow side get in, blades in first” Once bow side have 2 – 3 oars securely in the rollocks, gates closed and tight, you move to stroke and hold his rigger.... “bowside holding your oars, strokeside get in” Once you are confident they are stable, you can get your cox-box connected and check it for transmission whilst the crew faff with their foot stretchers. “can everyone hear me?” if the cox-box is working OK, you can proceed with the outing.

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4. Moving off from the stage

“Everyone ready? .....Hands on the side .....1..2..3..push” Point the boat in roughly the right direction to move over to your right hand side of the river in about 100m of travel. RULE OF THE RIVER: STAY ON THE COX'S RIGHT HAND SIDE called "Starboard" ...(Left = "Port") OF THE RIVER. It is the opposite to the roads in the UK. On the river, we are more clearly European. Usually, this will require “take a stroke 2” or “take two strokes 2” “WHOLE CREW, from backstops, fixed seat paddling, blades covered, ...are you ready.. GO”

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5. How to talk to the crew

Try to talk in phase with the blades being IN the water

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6. Things to say to your crew

• Send away a good puddle, (make sure that they are all pulling some water)....pulling hard......with both arms. • Get in time......drop in together.......no work on the handle on the entry • Draw the finish up, • Tap the finish out, ..........down and away..........out square After 20 strokes, “Bring in body swing...next stroke....GO” Coxes may want the crew to • “focus on the rock over from the finish” • “Hands away, then body over” After 20 strokes body only “Going to quarter slide, ......next --stroke......change” Focus now on • “Sequence, hands away, body over, then slide” • “Just break the knees, only roll one inch forwards” • “Feel the time on the slide, .....don’t rush” After 20 strokes ¼ slide “Going to 1/2 slide, ......next --stroke......change” Focus now on • “Sequence, hands away, body over, then more slide” • “look for that extra run” • “Let the boat move on further on the recovery” • “only half slide, don’t be greedy, 4 – 5 inches” After 20 strokes ¼ slide “Going to 3/4 slide, ......next ---stroke......---change” Focus now on • “Sequence, hands away, body over, then even more slide” • “look for that extra run again” • “Let the boat move on further on the recovery” • “don’t be greedy, sitting tall” After 20 strokes ¾ slide “Going to full slide, ......next ----stroke......-----change” Focus now on • “Sequence again, hands away, body over, then more slide” • “look for that extra run” • “Let the boat move on further on the recovery” • “only half slide, don’t be greedy, 4 – 5 inches”

After 20 strokes, you may try some square blades paddling, cheating square blades paddling, or tapping the handle on the sax-boards at the hands-away body-over position to help maintain the tap down and sequenced movement.

“Next ---stroke ..........square -- blades..........----------go” for several minutes “we are going to tap the handles down on the saxboards over the knees on the recovery, before you slide forwards. Making sure you tap down and away, ......for 30 strokes......next---stroke ---tapping go” for about 30 strokes, then call “normal paddling.............GO” Keep this going until the crew call for a stop, or until instructions dictate you rest the crew: “Next ---stroke ..........e—asy----oar.......and .hold the balance..............................drop”

When ready to go.....by agreement with the stroke by asking “OK?” Check and adjust stationary position by using bow or two to take strokes as at the start of the outing

“Whole crew, light paddling,.......ready (check blades are all squared and buried at backstops, and if they are, don’t say to all the instructions. If they are not, say “come on _x_, backstops, squared and buried..NOW....OK, whole crew, ready”) ...........GO”

To go faster “Next ---stroke .............half – pressure..........GO”

To go even faster “Next ---stroke .............3/4 – pressure..........GO” “Next ---stroke .............firm – pressure..........GO” “Next ---stroke ............ rate going up................--two pips --..........GO”

To go slower “Next ---stroke .............light – pressure..........GO” “Next ---stroke .............very light pressure..........GO” “Next ---stroke ............ rate-ing down................--two pips --..........GO”


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7. To stop in emergencies


They should have dropped their blades into the water if in the recovery, and then with blades in the water, worked against the usual pull direction to stop the boat. A skilled crew can stop the boat within a length. An uncertain or unskilled crew may veer around and take much longer to work out what to do. This should be practised at light speed regularly enough to gain confidence in how to do it as a crew gets faster.

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8. Let’s think about steering

Good steering is seen when a cox hardly seems to use any rudder. Rudder use causes water to be forced sideways using the area of the rudder. The more angle, the more water is deflected, the faster the boat is turned. The boat shell is steered by pushing the stern sideways to direct the bows differently. It takes time for the bows to head in the new direction!!!

PLAN A LONG WAY AHEAD (25 strokes distance) for the overall route you want to follow. In your planning.....

CHECK a long way ahead for the position of other craft going the same direction as you (and don’t lose sight of them in your blind area (hidden behind the bulk of your crew, the craft may stop and you will pile into it.) You will need to stay on your side as much as possible, definitely if you see boats coming the other way towards you on your left.

KEEP an eye out for boats appearing coming the other way. They may go into your blind spot (from your right) in right hand bends in the river, to come out on your left side of your crew. IF THEY DON’T SHOW WHEN YOU EXPECT THEM TO, THEY MAY HAVE STAYED ON YOUR SIDE OF THE RIVER in the area blocked from your view by your crew. You may need to steer towards your right hand bank until you can see them out to your left of blind area to make sure your crew is kept safe. If still in doubt, stop and if you feel it necessary, get bow to look and shout if there is a problem. This should rarely get to this, but if you cannot see someone who you believe to be on your side, your boat may be a dangerous missile, even if you are fully in the right place on the river, and the other person is in the wrong.


How to steer on a curved river. going right to left Blue is good, red is poor.

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9. Spinning the boat

To spin the boat, you will have been paddling upstream on the right of the river. “Next—stroke.............. easy----- oar ................and drop”.

Check all is clear to spin:

  • No crews coming up from behind – let them pass or wait for them to stop if at the common turning point for all crews
  • No crews coming the other way – let them pass if there are.
  • Not on a corner
  • Not near bridge pillars
  • Not in a place where the stream will push you into difficult positions.

“Spinning the boat,

  1. "Paddle on bow and three GO” When the boat is about 45˚ to the bank
  2. “Joining in backing down stroke and six...................(when the bows are approaching the far bank – you can ask bow to watch it if you are not sure how much room you have) "Dropping out Bow and three”
  3. “Join in 4 (backing down!)” This should bring the stern back with you approaching the bank, pushing you upstream backwards on what was the going up right hand side of the river. When the stern gets towards the bank...
  4. “Join in paddling on bow, three and five, (“easy stroke side” if it seems the right thing to do to allow the boat to be pulled over to the downstream pointing right of the river.)”

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10. Coming back to the Landing Stage

In an VIII, you are expected to paddle past the boathouses to spin the boat, and then come back up-stream to land. In IVs and un-coxed small boats, the general expectation is to come straight in as they are already on the right side, and common sense says that anything other would be less safe. The advantages of the VIII path is that the craft is in the right orientation to go straight into the Jim Newcombe boathouse without needing manoeuvring on land, or to be re-launched for 2nd outings. If done as a club standard, then boat circulation around the congested landing stage area is more predictable and ordered, and thus safer.

After spinning to point back to the boathouses, just be holding the cox-box mike, so you can walk away from it at the landing leaving it at the cox’s seat. “Whole crew, paddling light,.......ready....GO” When approaching the bridge, “drop out stern four” When coming into the bridge area “drop out 3 and 4” to just leave bow pair to pull you into the stage area. This next bit is the biggest test of boatmanship for every cox (no pressure!!) As the bow ball enters the stage area you should be pointing 11 o’clock towards the stage “easy bow pair....blades up on stroke side, lean out to bow side............hold it up 7” these calls should see your bowball coming quite close to the concrete, then be held away fromit by about 50cm, as the stern of the boat swings in under the momentum of the crew and the drag of the bowside oars on the water, and if necessary, the backing of 7.

You should be ready to jump as the stern comes close to the land, and then drag the boat into the stage by 4 or 6’s oar. Hold the rigger down at 4 or 6. Lean on it with most of your weight directly on the point where the rigger frame touches concrete (so as not to bend the rigger at the contact).


“Bowside blades across, stroke side getting out” will lessen the weight on the water side and weigh down more on the land side, and strokeside can get their blades out from land. “Strokeside holding the balance, bowside blades out” “Bowside gates shut, bowside getting out, shoes on quickly, all blades to the side” Then make sure that someone has got trestles out for the boat, and they are spaced to go under 2/3 and 6/7 seats. NOWHERE ELSE Getting the boat out “Whole crew, hands on...........1..2..3..Lift” “Walking it back to trestles” If washing the inside, it needs to be put on as it is, right way up. If washing just the outside shell, you need to spin it now. “Spinning it over, river side riggers over, .2..3..spin” “Bow/stroke side wash the boat, stroke/bow side blades (and seats) away” You must check the fin/rudder here After washing and blades/seats tidying, put the boat away if finished for the day. The procedure for walking the boat back to storage is basically the reverse of the start of the session.


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11. Your rudder and how to use it

Firstly, if the boat is hardly moving, the rudder will hardly work. With this in mind, then work out which way your hands have to move to steer the boat if it is moving! There is a strong temptation to use the rudder too much. Too many adjustments, too strongly applied. It takes practice to find the correct calm use, but try to “guide” rather than “steer”. If your desired course cannot be followed with gentle rudder application, get one side to row harder to help the rudder’s action ”bow side pull us around...............................(several strokes later when you feel enough has been done) even pressure.....GO”. If still more turn is needed, get the other side to ease off “bow side pull us around, Stroke side ease off a little.(several strokes later when you feel enough has been done) .even pressure.....GO”.

The crew should welcome this, as it means that they are not working just to have you wipe the effort out by the rudder. THE USE OF THE RUDDER DIRECTLY SLOWS THE BOAT DOWN As you put the rudder on more strongly, it progressively REDUCES in effect for two reasons. 1 as the rudder turns past 45˚ against the flow, it behaves more as a turbulence creating brake than a water deflecting steering rudder. 2 As more braking slows the boat, less speed = less rudder steering effect

Happy coxing!




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8. Ergo technical and Hip pivot exercises :

Help sheet one.

Ergo work: Row very light with feet on the floor! Just moving the seat back and forwards, legs only, leaning over in catch position. After 20 strokes, put one foot onto the footplate. After another 20, change feet, still just moving catch position back and forwards. Change feet over another two times. Then, both feet back on, gradually increase the handle ACCELERATION over 20 strokes. n.b. DO NOT try to pull the handle from the start of the stroke! You should be feeling the legs start the stroke, pushing the seat back. You should also feel that the body is suspended through the middle of the stroke, and there to accelerate the handle through to the finish. Now on the recovery…..feel the opposite being done to the stroke movement. At the finish, push the handle away from your body to start the recovery, pushing smoothly until the arms are straight. Once arms are straight, push the handle further away by leaning over forwards (the hip pivot). Then push the handle further away by pulling the heels under the seat.


Other Important Ergo Tips

….use mirrors to
  1. Try to keep your shoulders on much the same level as possible throughout the stroke (a little drop at the finish only is acceptible, if undesireable).

  2. Despite it being commonly seen that forearms tip back……keep your forearms horizontal as you draw through to the finish. (feet out really does help on all low rate work).

  3. Sit tall; once the body has opened, draw the elbows back hard out to the sides. Do not keep on rolling back with the body and pulling the hands up the chest elbows in, dropping the elbows down and slouching the back. Rowing does not do this!!!! Never let athletes do this, as it heads down the route of “feeling like harder work” but leading down an unproductive path, where the rower thinks they can work harder and harder, perfecting something that cannot be applied in the boat. (It works ok on the ergo because it lengthens the pull possible on land, but it cannot be applied in the boat because you cannot pull that high up the chest with oars, and the roll back drives the bows into the water at the finish to slow the boat.



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9. Technical development: discussion of detail

The development of technique turns a physiology into a boat moving rower. Whilst the suggestion cannot be the fastest way of developing increased physiology, it may be the fastest way to rationalise how to generate boat moving efficiency with the available physiology. It will only work if the brain is fully engaged in working out what the goal is on every movement, and how to move the limbs to best achieve the movement. The strongest movement should NOT feel like it is the hardest movement. If you just try to work as hard as possible physically, you may end up with an awkward less effective solution. Better posture = Greater effectiveness The 10 minute technical Rates should always be “calm”, with a focus upon: - the way that you move to draw the handle back towards your chest in fixed seat –long elbow travel. -the way you just use the leg drive to commence the stroke in legs only – heads / backs / arms set. -and finally the way you smoothly blend the two together when doing a full stroke. – accelerate!!!

The result that is being sought is this:

The drive should be made up of three smoothly blended sequential efforts: a leg drive, pelvic opening of the back angle, and a shoulder and arm draw. The sequential bit is important, to prevent each of the muscle groups fighting against each other through a long duration of the strain. Sequential application should allow each major group to drive more explosively for a shorter duration, whilst the other elements are either loose (shoulders during leg drive) or braced (back, arms, wrists). The timed pieces: putting it into practice At rate 30, you should achieve a recovery time of about 1.1 seconds compared to 0.9s pull. The 0.9s can be thought of as 0.5s leg squeeze, 0.2s hamstring effort, 0.2s shoulder and arm draw. As the duration increases at the lower ratings, changes have to be discovered. These changes are.....small in the drive phase, ideally. The recovery phase should s t r e t c h significantly. so At rate 20, you should achieve a recovery time of almost 2 seconds, compared to a 1.0s pull. So, recovery can be 0.3s hands away, 0.3s body over, 0.2s really getting the body over!!!, 1.2s rolling smoothly and calmly towards frontstops, landing gently. The pull; 0.55s leg squeeze, 0.25s body swing from the hamstring, 0.2s from the shoulders and arms.



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10. Summer to winter ergo

This year, try the following on the ergo........


try.... 1 minute fixed seat, 1 minute full stroke (holding onto the arm movement!!!), 1 minute legs only, 1 minute full (holding onto legs movement), 1 min fxd seat, 1 min full, 1 min legs, 1 full, 1 fxd,1 full. 10 mins total; score?

Stroke power development: (women rates where different)

  1. Week 1. 1 minute rate 30. (women rate 28) record the split, then
  2. Week 2 2 mins rate 28 (women 26) try to maintain the same level of commitment to each stroke as the duration increases, and see by how little the 500m split drops each week.
  3. Week 3 3 mins rate 26 (women 25)
  4. Week 4 4 mins rate 25 (women 24)
  5. Week 5 5 mins rate 25 (24)
  6. Week 6 6 mins rate 25 (24)
  7. Week 7 7 mins rate 24 (23)
  8. Week 8 8 mins rate 24 (23)
  9. Week 9 10 mins rate 23 (22)

The aim is to turn longer erg pieces into very rhythmical rows: powerful strokes and long technical recoveries with an exaggerated sense of hands away, body swingover, and controlled slide forwards.

  1. Week 10 12 mins rate 22 (21)
  2. Week 11 14 mins rate 22 (21)
  3. Week 12 16 mins rate 21 (20)
  4. Week 13 18 mins rate 21 (20)
  5. Week 14 20 mins rate 20
  6. Week 15 22 mins rate 20
  7. Week 16 24 mins rate 20
  8. Week 17 26 mins rate 20
  9. Week 18 28 mins rate 20
  10. Week 19 30 mins rate
  11. 20 Alternate ergs bi-weekly.



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11. Further refining the catch

As the hip pivot develops (RRC tech sheet1), the effective length of stroke should develop. Longer reach at the catch should make the catch easier if it is done correctly.

The secrets to be found.

The best catch is the end of the previous stroke. What is believed to be the catch is usually given an attack.NO attack needed! The best catch involves no desire to pull on the handle, but a strong desire to spear the tip of the spoon into the water, end on.

The appearance of a good catch

The spoon should go into the water at the end of the recovery. The water should stop the spoon’s progress towards the finish line with a little backsplash pushed up by the back of the spoon as it slices in (without lifting, just dropping loosely). Water should grab the front face of the buried spoon, resulting in a spurt/spray of water vertically and NOT a scrolling frontsplash resulting from rowing the spoon in.

The mechanics.

There should be no movement through the stroke until the catch is concluded. Once the spoon is fully enveloped by the water, the legs should squeeze the boat against the loom through the pin. This is not a sudden jarring movement, but should be a smooth squeezy pick-up. Increasing pressure from the legs should build to maximum drive mid-slide, to be taken over by the hip pivot (tech sheet 1), and then developed into the hardest possible draw to the finish. Acceleration is the key result desired from a correct catch. The softer the catch, the greater the potential for acceleration.

Common Faults

Only a very few rowers :

...get the spoons in at the catch. The vast majority row the spoons in way after their change of direction.

...don’t pull the handles at the catch. Hanging / resisting is the only feeling wanted.

...are relaxed enough not to plough the spoons in too deep.


The catch should be a time of the greatest calm and the greatest precision in your change of direction.



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12. Stretches for rowing

Generally, hold each stretch for 20 seconds, find a gentle ache initially in the target muscle first, and then in the last 10 seconds, try to develop the ache to a useful feeling of development. Working from the head down.

Download the RRC Stretching Guide:



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13. Eating to Win

How much do you want to win?

Attention to your diet, day to day and in your key race month. (Based upon works of Dr Barry Sears, a very qualified biochemist and food scientist who initially worked on sports nutrition for the Stanford University swim team – in effect the USA Olympic swim team in 1980s – coming to nutrition from an "eating to be healthy" viewpoint)


For your best results, try the following:

Try to ELIMINATE glucose. For quick snacks: fruit (fructose) and/or milk (lactose) to replace sweets. Limit processed grain rice or maize products to 25% volume of your total daily intake. Grain is including pasta, breakfast cereals (glucose!), white bread, other flour products like biscuits and cake (more glucose!). If you need it in your meal – only eat reasonable (not one whole plate of just pasta!) quantities of good pasta (egg, fresh, whole wheat, NOT BUDGET white varieties) with other things. Porridge is good because of its complexity and fibre content. Be aware of salt input.


Where to get calories from

  1. Fats: as a dressing or sauce, add olive oil to meals where suitable – salads, pasta dishes. Eat things like avocado, nuts, and oily fish like salmon.
  2. Protein. Favour the paler meats for the next month: chicken, turkey, lean lamb. Eggs, fish and nuts again bring a great mix of fats and protein. Buy the best quality that you can, and eat less if necessary.
  3. Carbohydrate. Try to use as many different types of vegetable and fruit as you can in addition to a reasonable portion of rice, pasta, potato, beans or pulses, make space for dark green, red, orange, yellow coloured fruit and vegetables.
  4. Proportions: you may eat a desirable proportion of 65 carbs/15 protein/20 fat at present. It is possible to eat very poorly in this ratio, or with good choices, make each component really high value within these proportions to have an ideal diet. On your plate, 1/4 fish/meat/eggs, 1/3 pasta type carbs/ rice / root veg, 1/3 salads and coloured veg, and a space left for olive oil, avocado, nuts like almonds, cashews, and so on as a addition to the salad or meal to make the diet complete.
  5. When to get calories Try to eat 5 moderate sized meals a day WITH NO SNACKING. Timing: 7, 11, 2, 6, 9. Each meal should have fairly equal sized portions and proportions of F,P,Cpale,Ccoloured. Cut out all alcohol for the month. Obviously, no smoking.
  6. Try to maintain reasonable hydration. Be aware of requirements over 24 hours, and maintain small but steady inputs after a good start to the day. DO NOT FLUSH through with excessive zeal.

Notes: This should not be a "crank" diet.


 A good healthy diet

should try to minimise empty nutrition components from the diet. If the food component hasn't got a real beneficial element other than calories then IT IS NOT A FOOD THAT IS A WINNING FOOD. We only want winning foods for the next month to give us the best chance of doing our best. Each food component has to compete for a place in our diet. Ditching the poor quality components may help each of us to do our very best. Only the very best is going to do. This diet suggestion is what we are evolved* to digest to use and satisfy our bodily needs (*in the very very very competitive environment of the prehistoric world – lose a race and you die of starvation, or you lose your right to mate, or you are something else's meal). Your diet is not a diet to satisfy the present day "convenience chemically enhanced industrial" food industry product.

Insulin and Glycemic index

The diet components indicated are great because by selecting and combining one from each group or combined (pasta and olive oil), they can reduce the requirement for insulin to hammer down the blood sugar surge required whenever simple sugars and highly processed grain and cereal components (low glycemic index foods) hit our stomach. The slow digesting nature of the good fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates (high glycemic index) release energy steadily from one meal to the next for the body to utilise as the additional demands from physical activity arise. Insulin is an extremely powerful hormone that has many effects. It should only be required in small quantities as a fine tuning substance. Bad quality diets that are high in simple carbohydrates require greatly elevated "spike" levels of insulin. Poor carbohydrate use may abuse our insulin response, possibly indirectly contributing to the factors leading to diabetes in many, and involuntary obesity in many more. Insulin has, apparently, an effect on a different group of substances in our body called eicosanoids. To some, these are wonder substances that can make us feel a million dollars if we allow them to do what they should. Insulin abuse by bad diet prevents eicosanoids working as they should, and in susceptible people, this leads to lethargy, obesity, cardiac, endocrine, immune response and cancer problems. Our diet has a bit of an effect on us all, and a massive effect on some people. Every one of us is an individual and we respond differently to different foods, but this is a pretty sensible way of assessing what we eat. It takes a lot of effort to eat as well as we should. Apparently, it is a fantastic way of improving your life if you can stick to it reasonably long term, or at least more regularly make choices that fall on that quality side, rather than cheap quick-fix pap food.

Credits For more info: Google Dr Barry Sears : for his qualifications on why he knows. The Zone diet : for what he says to eat, in detail.




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14.  Pulling Posture & the place for weight training

Allied to flexibility, especially hamstring length

The most important thing in rowing (after the will to work very hard) is the postural strength to transmit the force generated by the leg drive through to the resisting handle force.

Your legs drive the footplate away. The handle would like to move away with the boat. You have to apply a force to the handle to hold it still for over half the stroke.

The force is most efficiently produced by the postural muscles of the lower back, around the spine, trunk generally, and pelvis, resisting and so transferring the tension, the SUSPENSION, that is generated by the leg drive.

However hard the legs can drive the footplate, only the element that can be resisted by the posture can ever be put to use to generate propulsion. SO: the postural strength is far more important as the limiting factor to performance.

Postural strength can be assessed by how confidently the body can stay in a strong neutral shape as the legs drive.

Weakness can be seen

  1. When the body has to change position to put it in a stronger (straighter) shape to receive/resist the leg drive, seen as the back opening up to commence the stroke where the legs have been relegated to secondary mover to the back's premier position in the stroke initiation.
  2. When the leg drive is not resisted by the upper body at all and a classic "bum shove" occurs.


The place for weight training

The only benefit derived from weight training is to generate greater power and control of movement.

Greater power

can be the primary moving muscles being co-ordinated better (for example) in the clean movement, leg drive pushing the floor away, then drawing the weight up the chest to rib level using the hamstring opening followed by the arm draw. More confident co-ordination will generate more powerful movement.

Greater strength endurance

can be developed by the repetitive exertion lifting a challenging weight an increasing number of times, with increasingly limited rest periods. Having a definite set weight provides a measured / measurable task to give objective challenges for the mind and body to rise to.

Greater Strength

will come from muscle development in part, and also in large part from mental change in terms of confident co-ordination, expectation, and effective practised technique, all combined with postural improvement.




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15. Suspension & Hamstrings


Imagine: MASSIVE HEADWIND you push on the stretcher, the handle doesn't move, WORSE, THE BOAT DOESN'T MOVE EITHER.

THE force in this instance will produce suspension, where a proportion of your bodyweight is taken off the seat and hung off the handle.

The aim of the rower is to generate this feeling every stroke, headwind, tailwind, no wind.

To generate suspension, therefore, the leg drive must be fast enough to stay ahead of the speed of the handle moving through the stroke. THE FASTER THE BOAT SPEED, THE FASTER THE LEG DRIVE MUST BE TO FIND SUSPENSIONS.

THE SECOND AIM of the rower is to maintain this feeling of suspension as long as possible before the body comes in to start the draw on the handle. As soon as the body comes in, pure suspension is lost, and you are moving the boat with hard effort rather than technical application of the rower's body weight.

The use of the body / arm draw maintains some suspension, at a much lower level than the leg movement. It is, however, a faster accelerating movement that will add yet more speed to that generated by the leg drive if the force on the handle from the upper body can exceed the drag of the hull against the water.


The use of hamstrings in the middle of the stroke is the key to being a top quality crew. It is the trait of all successful crews and scullers, as its absence is the root of most under achievements.

It is evident by the rock of the pelvis in the stroke cycle.

Recovery...The body over rock from the finish should see the trunk rock on the pelvis, from the finish position sat on the "tail" of the pelvis, to the hands away+body over shape now poised on the bony protrusions of the pelvis, trunk leaning forwards, hamstrings stretched.

The hamstrings should now be primed (under tension). The roll into frontstops should keep them long by maintaining a strong body shape, a tall pelvis, and a spine that is pointing sternwards from the pelvis. See quad above.

The drive phase must see the hamstrings become re-stretched as the legs straighten out to push the footplate away. THE MORE THE LEGS BECOME STRAIGHTENED BEFORE THE ROWER TRYS TO PULL THE HANDLE, THE MORE THE HAMSTRINGS WILL BECOME PRE-STRETCHED.

See pair, above Evidence: space under straight arms THE MORE PRE-STRETCH, THE STRONGER THE EXERTION. The stronger the exertion, the greater the pull the rower will generate through the middle of the stroke FROM JUST THE BACK, leaving the arms to make a fantastic finish to the stroke drive phase.


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