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Coordinating Your Performance


Devoting time toward improving the coordination of your body sequence and blade work is key to improving your performance on the water. The coordination of movement is integrated in your brain and spinal cord. The central nervous system (CNS) is constantly regulating signals to speed up or slow down reactions so it can execute an accurate response to an outside stimulus.

For example, if your blade starts to dig deep in the water, your CNS senses the blade angle and will signal the muscles of your hand to loosen your grip on the handle so you don’t catch a crab. When your movements are not yet automatic, the motion of your body or blade will be uncoordinated. As you practice repetitions of a drill or row a lot of concentrated kilometers, you will feel your nervous system develop smooth coordinated movements, and then finer skills will follow so you can manage different conditions, such as rowing in wind, rough water, or hitting higher stroke rates.

 One way to develop your coordination is to perform a skill with the opposite limb or in an unusual pattern. In sweep rowing, have athletes regularly switch sides to become competent on port and starboard. Include drills that alternate hands on the oar, such as outside hand only, inside hand only, or outside hand on the drive/inside hand on the recovery. 

For scullers, the Swinford Switch is an excellent drill for right-left assimilation and blade work. Scull with the port blade squared and the starboard blade feathered for 10 strokes, and then in one stroke, switch to the port blade feathered and the starboard blade squared for 10 strokes, making sure blades stay off the water all the time.

Marlene Royle is the author of Tip of the Blade: Notes on Rowing. She is a specialist in masters training, and her coaching service, Roylerow Performance Training Programs, provides support to improve your competitive edge. For information, email Marlene at or visit

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