Rowing - Specific Scripts / Technique

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How does a good Rowing Technique look like?

„We can describe the rowing technique in various ways: Rowing-teacher and coaches are differing on the one hand about their idea, what is called the “good” technique, on the other hand, which perspective of the technique, we can use to judge or submit it.

To these we can count the following:

- Esthetical points of view (harmony of the movements).

- Individual features and possibilities put into practice (physique, condition, level of development).

- Biomechanical-physical requirements and principals.

- Time-minimizing: Technique is good, if the race-distance is rowed faster than the (all)

 other competitors can do this.

- Lowest possible energy-consumption (economy of the movements).

- Orientation at the worlds best (ideal/idol picture).

- Functional: under the aspect how the task is fulfilled.

            • Fritsch, W., 2000, S. 33 / Translation: JG 2003-01-17

                                                   Rowing Technique 划船技術

Three factors determine the speed of the boat.

They are:

1. Power   –  How fast the boat travels each stroke

2. Length   – How far the boat travels each stroke

3. Rate     –  How many strokes are rowed  

If a crew rowed at maximum capacity in all three of these components at the same time, it is doubtful they could row 10 strokes before technique withered and boat speed faded. The number of strokes required to complete 2000 meters is from 200 to 250 and clearly an equilibrium of power, length and rate must be achieved. Rowing is basically a power endurance sport, but it requires a high level of skill.

Choosing the „ right „ technique and then teaching it, is a coaching skill and there are many differing opinions about which method is the best. Whatever the method preferred, power, length and rate are the basic ingredients.


   Rate is the easiest to achieve. Keeping it at its optimum in a race is not the main problem. Length and power are the first to deteriorate when the pressure of the race reaches its peak.


   The most efficient part of the stroke is when the blade is passing at 90 degrees to the boat. Only when it is at this angle is its force propelling the boat wholly in the correct direction. In theory an efficient length of the stroke is from 45 degrees at the catch to 135 degrees at the finish. In practice the body prevents the oar from reaching more than 125 degrees. To achieve 45 degrees at the catch, the reach must extend beyond this angle. A longer finish can be drawn in a sculling boat, but it is inefficient to draw more than 130 degrees.


   Maximal power is achieved by appropriate sequencing of the contributing muscles from strongest to weakest.

Legs first …   …. The quadriceps and gluteals

Then the back …   …..The lower back

Then the shoulders and arms … …. The latissimus dorsi, tapezius, rhomboids and biceps.

The stroke

The boat is only as fast as the blade drives it.

The power transferred through the blade to the boat is only as much as the legs supply.

A good technique is based on the work of the legs to create most of the total power.

The catch

„ find the post in the water „

   The faster the blade inters the water the more positive will be the grip. the longer will b the stroke and faster the boat will travel.

The important points are:

1. The hands guide the blade to the water.

2. The legs apply the power.

3. The trunk and the arms link the legs to the blade. 

Middle of the stroke

„ the most efficient part „

   All the muscles are working through their middle range and the blade is at its most efficient point in the stroke. Make full use of this advantage by beginning the draw with the arms before midway. The arms must start to draw well before the legs reach the backstops.

The Finish

„ send the boat away „

   Retain pressure on the blade through to the finish by pressing toes on the footboard, by using the leverage of the trunk and by keeping the arms working with the body. Although legs reach backstops before the arms and the trunk have finished working, the toes should continue pressing hard to give support with the legs until the blade is extracted. The trunk should be moving towards the bow until the moment before the hands reach the body. ( if the arm draw starts too late, this timing will be delayed. )


   The rowing stroke comprises fast movements and slow movements. The essence of good rhythm in the boat is the contrast between them. Done, a good motion looks smooth, continuous and unhurried, so it can be difficult to see that contrast. The fast movement begins with the entry of the blade and continue through the stroke and the movement of the hands away from the body after blade extraction ( finish ). The slower movements begin when the hands pass over the knees and continue until the next stroke.

   The inertia created by the power of the stroke carries the hands down and away from the body when the seat is at the backstops. The body relaxes immediately as the blade leaves the water so there is no interference with the natural free-flowing movement. The seat moves slowly forwards in contrast to its speed during the stroke. The rower prepares by gathering, ready to spring from the stretcher onto the next stroke.

   The movement of the seat must be faster during the stroke than it is during the recovery.

   The sooner it leaves the backstops after the finish, the more time it has to reach the frontstops and the slower it can travel.

   The hands and then the body move lively away from the finish to allow the seat to start on its way forwards.

The recovery

„ Let the boat run, rest and prepare for the next stroke „


Hands, Body, Slide

1. Move the hands down and away over the knees

2. Pivot the body forward onto the feet

3. Move forward, rest the body and let the boat run underneath you

Artikel about sliding forwards

Prepare for the stroke

   To achieve optimum position for the application of power and forward length, note the following points:

1. Head high – encourages good posture for body and spine 

2. Chest against thighs – rotation should be centered around the hip joint, not the upper or lower back.

3. Shins vertical – strong position for the quadriceps

4. Relaxed but alert – poised like a cat ready to spring

The hand positions


– The oar handles should be held in the fingers, not in the palms.

The hands should generally be at the tips of the oars to maximize inboard leverage, with the thumbs pressed against the handle nub to generate sufficient outward pressure against the oarlock. 

> The handle should be grasped like one was holding a small bird: Firmly enough to hold on, but not so hard as to kill it.

The grip of fingers around the oars will automatically increase sufficiently when contact with the water is made. The arms and hands should extend along a horizontal plane out well over the gunnels as the blade angle is increased in preparation for the grasping of the water. The entry of the blade into the water will be accomplished with a relaxation or slightly positive „ flick „ of the hands and arms while maintaining the back angle ( not opening the back to achieve the catch )


  –    Hold the oar with the hands 4 to 6 inches apart ( 11 to 15 cm ).

  –    Turn  the blade with the inside hand.

–    Apply power with the outside hand.


   Contract only those muscles needed to perform a specific function. This is achieved by relaxation of the hands, arms and shoulder, the areas where tension will be most prevalent. The muscles of the upper body will be more effective if they enter into the catch in a relaxed condition. Muscles will contract instantly when a load is forced upon them.


   The importance of bladework must be appreciated. Only the blades move the boat, therefore an important part of the technique is the skill with which the blade is controlled.

A good blade is described as:

1. A long stroke in the water;

   Minimum loss of reach forward;

   Quickly grips the water;

   Covered throughout the stroke;

2. Utilizes power;

   Grips the water with minimum loss of leg drive;

   Works in a horizontal plane;

   Covered throughout the stroke;

3. Does not interfere with the run of the boat;

   Clean extraction;

   Carried forward clear of the water;

   Balances the boat;

   Rhythm where to poise;

It is always necessary to compose before any dynamic action. The question is, where is the best place to   „ poise „ prior to action. The best method to me is to poise during the last part of the movement towards the front stops. The inertia created by the draw at the finish is used to carry the away from the body, the trunk, into the catch angle and the seat from the backstops. The rower has time to relax, lets the boat run under the seat, and to prepare for the next stroke. The poise just before blade entry is sufficient to achieve a very fast catch.

Rowing styles 

   Rowing styles differ in where emphasis is placed. The emphasis, for example may be the catch, the finish or rhythm. Body positions and movements will be influenced by this emphasis. The method I prefer is based on rhythm.

The stroke is divided into two phases:

  1) The stroke or power phase, and

  2) The recovery or resting phase.

The rowers are trained to apply full power to each stroke and rest during the recovery, which will help them apply power to the number of strokes required to complete the race.

The ability to apply power is an essential requirement. Physical capacity is acquired by training, but the coordination of muscular contraction in the rowing stroke is the essence of good technique.

Alternative methods

   The rowing action is full of compromises. We all see things differently. Here are a few examples:

    •                                                             Bladework




a deep blade

water density is greater

less blade slippage

1. directional force is reduced

2. backwatering occurs

3. many inconsistencies

    •                                                           Bodywork

a long reach forward


a longer stroke

weaker body position at the catch

long slide forward

increases length of leg drive

reduces speed of legs

reduces trunk leverage

                                                                             The Catch

emphasis on legs

faster blade entry

slippage in back

back vulnerable to injury

emphasis on back


protection of back

slower catch

    •                                                           The Finish

body upright

less weight on the bow

less use of stomach muscles

reduced leverage of the trunk

weaker finish

long swing

longer and stronger finish

hands draw higher

pressure on bow

more value in slower boats

    •                                                             Recovery

fast hands

more time for sliding

encourages strong finish

helps relaxation

finish can be hurried and cut short

encourages a brutal movement

                                                                                                                                                Spracklen / JG Februar 2000