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    Deconstructing the Stroke Cycle

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    Address the stroke cycle in quarters to zero in on specific components you need to improve. Picture clearly what you want your blade and boat to do so that your body and hands can bridge the gap between mental image and motor patterns. During your outing, select one quadrant to focus on.

    The first quadrant is from the entry to the mid-drive point when oars are perpendicular to the boat. The entry is the final action of the recovery. Place the blade when there is still slight motion of the wheels as you compress the legs and continue to follow the oar handle around the pin. Focus on loading the blade and initiating the drive with the legs. Suspend your weight between the foot stretchers and the handle. Pick up the body swing as the boat builds speed.

    From the perpendicular to the release point or second quadrant, maintain the suspension of your body weight through the end of the drive. Keep the lats and core engaged. Time the arm draw to keep the load on the blade and stay connected to the footplate through full leg extension. Swing through the mid-drive until the end of the drive.

    The third quadrant includes the release, feather, and setting the body angle. The boat continues to accelerate during the follow-through, so it is important to maintain run by keeping the seat at the bow stops as you feather hands away and establish your body angle. It is here that you set your posture to prepare for the next drive.

    The fourth quadrant is where you need to maintain a quiet upper body as you approach the entry. Do not change your body angle as you compress, allow the handle to move outside the gunwale, and prepare the blade to enter the water.

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

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