HomeNewsThe Open Oarlock Drill

    The Open Oarlock Drill

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    Coaches love ruthlessly simple drills that require few words to explain. Need a surefire way to stop your stroke from dropping his handle into the coxswain’s seat or to get your 5-seat to keep his feet connected to his foot stretcher and maintain suspension?

    The open-oarlock drill, a straightforward and self-regulating exercise, is guaranteed to persuade your rowers to keep their body weight into their rigger and honor the arc the oar handle traces around the pin. Open the gate of the lock and off they go. It will be obvious if one does not maintain connection to the pin.

    Practice initially in team sweep or sculling boats until the water warms up. In an eight, row stern or bow four. Have one pair row with open oarlocks, one pair with closed oarlocks. Row for three minutes, stop, then change pairs.

     In a quad, row stern or bow pair. With the sculling pair, one athlete sculls with gates open, the other with  gates closed. Row for three minutes, stop, then change pairs.

     In a double, stroke seat sculls with oarlocks open, and bow seat sets the boat. Row for three minutes, stop, then switch who is sculling.

    Single scullers, wait until summer to practice this drill. Get started by opening the port oarlock and row circles with the port oar, keeping the starboard oar feathered, then switch to the starboard oar. Once that’s mastered, have a go at both oarlocks open and see how many meters you cover.

    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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