The recovery is the part of the stroke where the blade is out of the water, the boat is ‘running’, and the rower prepares for the next stroke. The recovery includes all of the things that you have to do after you finish a stroke and release the blade from the water, including the following:

  • Rest and relax after a burst of power
  • Prepare the oar and blade angles for the catch
  • Get your upper body and arms in the best position for the catch
  • Get your legs in the correct position for the drive
Use the recovery to your advantage! Move smoothly without rushing to allow the boat do its work while you relax and regain a little energy.

During the recovery it is important that all rowers execute the following in an identical manner:

  1. move the hands away from the body
  2. rock over from the hips, setting the forward body angle
  3. slide forward
  4. unweigh the handle to drop the blade in the water

Body positions and execution

The image below shows a rower in the process of completing the recovery. Note the similarity between the body position during the recovery and during the initial part of the drive.

Each movement overlaps with the previous one to create a continuous motion.
Image courtesy of concept2

To execute a perfect recovery:

Maintain a tall sitting position at the finish and relax the shoulders and neck.

Move the hands straight out and away from the body; move quickly but don’t rush. The back and legs remain steady.

As the hands approach the knees, start to square the blade to prepare it for the catch.

When the arms are almost extended, pivot from the hips to get a forward body angle. The legs soften slightly and the body stays tall.

With arms fully extended and the shoulders in front of the hips, glide forward until you reach the front of the seat.

You are now ready for the catch. Do not lunge or change the angle of your back.

Key points

  • Maintain the same hand/handle heights throughout the recovery.
  • Relax the shoulders and keep the back straight.
  • Pivot from the hips; avoid rounding the back or dipping the shoulders.
  • ‘Float’ forward on the seat; do not rush or jerk forward.
  • It is critical that all rowers do the same thing in the same way on the recovery. Following a set sequence of movements during the recovery will allow all rowers to move together, prepare for the next drive, and minimize rocking of the boat.
  • Do not underestimate the importance of the recovery. A smooth recovery will allow for maximum run of the boat when the blades are out of the water and will set you up for an efficient catch and a powerful drive.
A good recovery can contribute to a long and powerful stroke. Work on your ability to rock forward from the hips after you release the blade and move your hands away. Getting good extension through the hips will help you to get a good oar angle at the catch. Be sure to stay in this strong position as you slide up to the catch. Lunging or over-extending at the catch will weaken your position.

Common mistakes

  • Failing to set the body angle early in the recovery
  • Bending the knees too early
  • Rushing forward on the seat, especially the last quarter
  • Lunging at the end of the recovery to get more reach
  • Rushing the recovery movements – they should be quick but should not feel rushed


Drills to develop a good recovery:

  • Pause drills at arms away and at body forward
  • Cut the cake drill
  • Square blade rowing (to take feathering out of the equation)
  • Super slow rowing
  • On the erg – pause drills

The recovery checklist

Use the following checklist to work on specific aspects of the recovery as you practice on the erg or in the boat. Choose one or two and work on them for a couple of minutes at a time.

During the recovery, you Yes/No
are you sitting tall at the release with a straight back in the 1:00 position
sequence out of the finish correctly – arms away, then body, and then slide – overlapping the movements smoothly
establish a forward body angle early in the recovery before the slide starts to move or the knees start to break
float up to the catch rather than “rushing the slide”
keep the handle level throughout the recovery with relaxed hands and shoulders
are ready to drop the blade into the water during the last part of the recovery