The drive is the part of the stroke when the rower users the oar as a lever to move the boat. The legs, body, and arms work together in a specific sequence and coordination of movements to propel the boat forward and keep it steady so that it can travel fast.
Many people believe that rowing is mostly about pulling the oar handle. In fact, the legs are much more powerful than the arms and are critical to a powerful drive. A good drive is one where the rowers:
- push with their legs,
- allow the core muscles, lats, and arms to engage in order to connect the boat to the handle, and
- coordinate/overlap the movements of legs, back, and arms.
Body positions and execution
Below is a picture of a rower as she is executing the initial part of the drive. Notice how the shoulders are ahead of the hips as the legs start to push back.
To execute a perfect drive:
Leg drive tips and key points
- A good recovery and catch are key to a good drive.
- The blade must be in the water before you push with the legs.
- It is important that you think of the oar as a lever to move the boat versus thinking about moving water.
- Engage your core muscles so that you connect your leg power to the oar handle and can move the boat effectively.
- Use your bodyweight effectively – use the legs first to get the body moving and once you have that momentum you can use your legs and body swing from the hips to accelerate the boat
- Allow the back to open or swing at its natural point – wait for it; find the timing
- Keep the leg movement powerful and fast throughout the drive, even as the hips and back join in, keep pushing on the foot board
- Control the oar handle so that the hands follow a straight path from the catch position to the body. The blade should follow a straight path through the water (just under the surface).
- Your shoulders should move back, not up.
- Keep the handle moving at the finish of the drive and ensure that you direct it straight back into your body, not down into your lap.
- Ensure that your upper body is steady at the finish so that you have a solid platform for the arm draw.
- Starting the drive by lifting the head and shoulders up and back instead of pushing with the legs – the cox may call that you are ‘rowing it in’ or you are ‘missing water.’
- Shooting the tail – pushing your bum back without actually moving the handle, the blade, or the boat.
- Swinging the back and pulling with the arms before using the legs.
- Releasing pressure on the legs too early – continue to push with the legs through the entire drive.
- Moving your upper body forward at the finish of the drive to meet the handle.
Drills to develop a good drive:
- Tempo/ratio rowing – super slow recovery with a quick catch and powerful leg drive
- On the erg – reverse pick drill
The drive checklist
Use the following checklist to work on specific aspects of the drive as you practice on the erg or in the boat. Choose one or two skills and work on them for a couple of minutes at a time.
|During the drive, you||Yes/No|
|setup in a strong position with vertical shins, good posture and loose shoulders|
|push with your legs and brace/engage your core to start the drive|
|keep your arms straight and do not grab or pull|
|get your heels down quickly and push through your whole foot|
|keep your hands and shoulders relaxed allowing your hands to grip the handle as you push on the foot board|
|hang your weight off the handle, feeling a connection through your lats as you push through your core/hips|
|keep your shoulders in front of your hips during the initial part of the drive|
|use your hip hinge with your legs to generate more handle speed as it moves over your knees|
|drive horizontally avoiding any vertical movement of your shoulders, head or hands|
|stay connected to the foot board at all times|