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Drill, Baby, Drill


Drill work is an integral part of technique training to teach stroke mechanics, improve skills, and synchronize a crew’s rhythm. Having a tool box of drills and exercises gives a coach choices about how to make improvement effective yet fun. 

It’s important to keep instructions simple and to the point. Demonstrating a drill at the dock or on the erg before launching helps rowers understand the purpose of the exercise so they can do it properly in the boat. Use drills to improve an element of the stroke that will be blended later into continuous rowing. 

Separate exercises into two categories: isolation drills and exaggeration drills. Isolation drills focus on repeating part of the whole stroke. For example: arms-only sculling; legs-only rowing; legs/back-only rowing straight arms; sweep rowing outside-arm-only on the drive/inside-arm-only on the recovery; sculling pause drills at arms/body away to focus on the position of the hands at the crossover. 

Exaggeration drills draw specific attention to an element or quality of the stroke and challenge the rower to perform in a manner that emphasizes what should be done in normal rowing. For example: fast hands away/extra slow slide; square-blade rowing; sweep wide grip with inside hand extended down the shaft; sculling wide grip holding the oars at the base of the grip; half-slide speed-ups; delayed-feather drills; pause drills at body over handles touching the gunwales so blades are high off the water.

When incorporating a drill, give rowers enough time to practice and master the drill. Use short sets of repetitions, such as 10 strokes, so that the quality of the movement remains high. Practice the exercise, then get some strokes in with continuous rowing. Repeat the drill one or two more times in practice sessions, perhaps making it the theme of the week.   

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