Putting it Together for a Powerful Stroke

Putting it together means that you execute each movement of the stroke properly and follow a specific order of movements. This will result in the body and hands being in the right place and the right time, proper posture will be maintained and extra movements are avoided. Following a specific style of stroke and a specific sequence of movements will help a crew simplify and practice the stroke as each rower is doing the exact same thing in the same order.

Rowers can use the pick drill and the reverse pick drill to perfect specific aspects of the stroke and to work on putting it all together with coordination and timing. The erg is great for working on the proper sequencing in the off season.

The pick drill and the reverse pick drill can be part of an erg or on water warmup. Practice the drills on the erg first and do not rush. Be careful not to simply go through the motions. Keep good form, rhythm, and ratio.

See technique drills for information on these drills.

Basic Steps for a Powerful Stroke

1. Prepare for the drive

Use the Recovery to set your body position for the catch and drive – extended arms, shoulders ahead of hips, vertical shins. You are completely relaxed but you are composed in the body set position.

2. Initiate the drive with power

Initiate the drive with a forceful push on the footboard at the very start of the drive. While you are being forceful with the legs, the rest of your body should be still and relaxed. Only your knees and shins will change position during this initial part of the drive; your shoulders, arms, and body angle should not change position and should only engage only after you push with the legs. Keeping them relaxed allows them to accept the load from the legs.

NOTE: if your heels are up at the catch, get them down quickly during the initial drive and push with the entire foot.

3. Accelerate through the middle of the stroke

The legs alone cannot complete the full stroke; they can only move the handle back so far. There is a point, just prior to full extension of the legs, when the hips/back need to join in. If you force your back to stay forward beyond this point the legs will not be effective, but if you time it right and get the back/hips involved just before the end of the leg drive, you will really be able to accelerate the handle. Continue the forceful push with your legs as the hips/back start to get involved.

4. Stay connected

For the majority of the stroke the upper body’s main purpose is to maintain a solid connection between the handle and the footboard. Do this with good posture, by maintaining stability in the torso and shoulders, and by keeping your feet pressed to the footboard.

5. Finish the Stroke

The arm draw to finish the stroke is a follow through using the momentum from a powerful leg drive and body swing. Beware of tugging with the arms, shoulders, head and neck. Continue to push with your legs at the finish of the stroke. Your legs may not be able to move the handle at this point but they play an important role in maintaining the connection between the handle and the footboard, which is critical at the end of the stroke.