The Fundamentals of Rowing. Introduction

At the end of the day rowing is a very simple sport. It is simply who can get from A to B the fastest. In the summer the distance from A to B is usually 2000m If not less. In the winter it can be anywhere from 3km upwards depending on the event.

As we will all know, although rowing sounds painfully simple, it is in fact mind-numbingly complicated with a lot of variables, numbers and complications going in behind the scenes. This post is one of four to introduce you to the fundamental ideas which go in to making a boat go fast.

There are a lot of things which go in to making a boat go quick. We will be discussing three main areas of focus across these posts: Technique, Rhythm and Racing. Each topic will be discussed in great length, across a series of 4 posts, and broken down to its most simple features to help you understand further in to your training. 

For Novices & Beginners

The most important thing for a novice rower will always be absolutely nailing the technique. This technique will be the gateway to both rhythm and racing. Without technique you will defiantly struggle to nail the rhythm or be able to race effectively.  

The best way to learn technique initially is in the gym, on an indoor rowing machine. This allows you to safely (and warmly) make mistakes without fear of falling in. Once you are happy in the gym then it’s time to move on to the water.  

Once you have individually nailed the technique then you must get technically sound as a crew. Is means that you are all doing the same thing at the same time. Only once you are all able to move together can you start thinking of rhythm, ratios and all the rest of it!

Recommended post - The Fundamentals of Rowing: Technique

For Developing Rowers

A developing rower is someone who has been rowing for a while, understands the technique but feels that they need to improve before they are ready to race. Often this is the case with adults more than juniors. Adult rowers, once completing a learn to row course, are left to their own devices. Junior rowers are often led by coaches so will be constantly told how to improve and what to do to get to the next level.

My advice if you are an adult is to talk to more experienced rowers and coaches and try to get them to take you out for a session or two. Just having someone watch you and tell you what you need to be working on can really help to focus your overall training.  

Rhythm is often a step between learning technique and racing which is forgotten, especially if you don’t know what you are doing. Rhythm is all about the way in which you apply your technique to the boat. Bad rhythm results in poor application of technique which leads to an ineffective stroke. Good rhythm results in good application of technique which leads to a highly effective and powerful stroke.  

Rhythm is often an area in which developing rowers are lacking simply because they are so new to the sport. By solving the rhythm, you will often also solve issues like lack of balance or messy catches. For a boat which has rhythm, every stroke will feel firm, powerful and connected, generating good boat speed, giving the boat good send on the recovery. For a boat without rhythm, strokes will feel heavy and sluggish. 

Recommended post - The Fundamentals of Rowing: Rhythm 

For Top Athletes

For those who have earned the right to be referred to as an athlete, the only thing which matters to a is racing and winning.  

Once you have flawless technique, which you are able to apply effectively to generate a sustainable rhythm, you will be able to race. The challenge then is winning. It is not enough to be able to achieve a rhythm or be able to achieve high rate. You must be able to achieve a high rate with rhythm.  

But again, it is not enough to only have high rate and a good rhythm, you must also have a foundation of power to back it up.  

But yet again, high rate, rhythm and power is not enough. You must also have a race plan and set calls, so that you know when to power on, when to settle the rate and what you’re doing to get off the start. 

All of these skills mentioned take literally years to develop. I want you to understand that there is very little chance that reading a post online will make you faster. What it will do is increase your understanding of what you are doing and allow you to make your own changes to make yourself go faster.  

Recommended post - The Fundamentals of Rowing: Racing

Each of the posts in this series will cover aspects for all rowers of all abilities. If you are interested or have any questions regarding a post then please do get in touch via the ‘Contact us’ page. 

Harry Henderson

Level 2 Rowing coach & Gym instructor

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