Shakira would have been a great rower, I just know it. Girl can swing some hips and that’s exactly what you need to do to get power out of your rowing stroke. If you’ve taken my class, you’ll often her me say, “Position yourself from 11-1”. Of course, I’m talking about back angle at the catch and finish of each stroke. I see people working harder than a one legged man in a butt kicking contest, but they sacrifice power because they don’t use their hips efficiently during the drive of the stroke, or prepare well for the next stroke.
Think about a deadlift for a second. At the bottom, shoulders are in front of the bar and back angle is set. As you bring the bar up your shins, you maintain that back angle until the knees, and then you use your hips to open up and finish the pull. On the way down, you close (flex) your hips until the bar hits your knees, then you lower with the legs. The same goes with the rowing stroke. At the catch, your back angle is in a closed position with shoulders in front of hips. As you draw back with the handle, you maintain a somewhat closed back angle, pushing hard with the legs, until the handle crosses the knee at which time you swing your hips open and finish the stroke with your arms. As you recover back toward the flywheel, you close your hips and after the handle crosses the knee, you bend your knees and glide into the catch.
If you don’t close those hips, you’ll never get the power you need for the next stroke. And that would be dumb. Your hips don’t lie and neither does the monitor, so harness that hip power by setting your back angle. You’ll be rewarded with effortless meters.
Have you ever tried to pat your head and rub your tummy? You have to really think about it to do the movements distinctly. With practice and focus, you can get it right, but often, it just turns into a
big, uncoordinated mess. That’s how I see the preparation phase of the recovery on the rowing stroke. Having fast hands and setting your back angle is like patting your head, and keeping your seat still and patient while you do your upper body business is like rubbing your tummy. It takes a bit of coordination to get the movements just right before you glide into the catch.
After you finish the drive, it is key to redirect the hands and the back angle toward the flywheel BEFORE you release the seat. It’s so easy to rush back into the catch and lump the distinctive movements of the recovery of “arms, back, and legs” into one big simultaneous movement. It takes practice and patience to hold that seat in place a split second longer so you can finish your upper body business in the right order.
I like to tell my rowers to “finish their business before they move the seat” so they can be prepared early as they approach the catch for the next stroke. If you have unfinished business coming in (knees bent before anything else happens or bending knees at the same time as you redirect your arms and back) you will not be prepared at the catch. And that means you lose power, control and efficiency. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Discipline yourself to take your time on the recovery and prepare well. No “unfinished business”. You might find out that rowing just got a little easier.
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