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The Perfectly Connected Stroke

BY RICH DAVIS
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER

A solid connection between the legs, lower back, and arms is essential to move the boat effectively and sustainably. Because the legs are the strongest muscle group, the arms and back move very little during the first half of the drive, with the arms remaining straight until the legs are down. The leg drive is initiated the moment the blade enters the water. The acceleration of the legs increases the speed of the shell, but the arms and back have to transfer the energy generated to the second half of the stroke. Veteran coach Larry Gluckman (Trinity, Dartmouth, Columbia, Princeton) suggests that athletes picture a “power rectangle” at this phase of the stroke, formed when the wrists pass over the knees and the rower’s back is in the upright position and the legs are down. Think about these points: 

* Keep your arms straight for the first part of the drive. If you can draw your arms toward your body at the catch, your legs are not fully engaged.

* A strong lower back and glutes will keep your back in the correct position when the knees are down. 

* Strive for a “power rectangle” when you row, with wrists over the knees, arms extended, and the back upright as the legs come down and you press off the foot stretcher. 

* Keep your head up and your eyes fixed on a point on the horizon to keep your back from lifting early.

* The arms and back pry the boat forward once the legs are down. 

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