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Warm-up Reset Drill


Each early outing as a new single sculler can feel like you’re starting again from square one. The hull is sensitive to every micro-shift of your weight or handle movement, so having a good drill in your back pocket to get settled in at the start of your row can help you catch your breath and get going. 

Once off the dock, begin with an exercise called the push-pull drill, or rowing in place. This is a warm-up drill that helps you establish your hands on the handle correctly and emphasizes blade depth, changing handle directions fluidly, and keeping the boat set.

To do the push-pull drill, sit at the finish position with the boat level, blades squared and buried in the water. Gently push the handles away, in a backing motion, following the same sequence as the recovery sequence—handles open wide as you approach the top of the slide, then stop at three-quarters or full slide depending on how comfortable you are.

Check that you are sitting tall and keeping some weight against the oarlocks so the rigger stays level. Allow the handles to press into the hook of your fingers as the blade gathers the water. Glance at your hand position and make sure you have the correct handhold on the oar handle (knuckles at 12 o’clock, palms off the handle, wrists flat and in line with the back of the hand for the drive). Then practice in place, moving back and forth on the slide, alternating rowing and backing, and keeping the blades square in the water.

Practice for three to five minutes. Repeat the pushing-away motion. Then, at the top of the slide, gather the pressure on the blades and gently change direction. As you get more comfortable, you can increase the pressure and length. During the exercise, keep the blades square and at the correct depth.

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

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