row2k Features
Olympic Rowing Technique - A Closer Look
August 31, 2016
Charlotte Hollings, Calm Waters Rowing

Mahe Drysdale and Damir Martin approach the line

If you're anything like me, you spent hours watching the Olympics. One thing I was never good at was watching technique during a race - all I want to know is whose bowball is out in front! Now that the races are over and we know the results, it's helpful to go back and look at the still photos to see what the athletes were doing.

As I've said before, we simply coach what the Olympians are doing, so I've picked out a few photos from the row2k gallery that highlight certain aspects of the stroke - the position of the body at the catch, loose not locked elbows on the drive, legs all the way down before the arms start to pull, the layback position, grip and nesting and finally the motion of the body out of bow.

This last point can be a little difficult to show with still photos but in the Ltwt Men's 4- race, there are two photos taken in quick succession. In the first (Photo #1) you see the French (the bronze medalists) at the full layback position and the next photo (Photo #2) shows the body well out of bow but without the arms extended. The body and arms come out of bow together, not arms then body.

Light men's four final

One feature I did notice while watching the racing was the incredible amount of layback the US Women's 8 (gold medalists) was getting (Photo #3), well beyond the often quoted 10 to 15 degrees. While we have been advocating more layback for years and regularly see crews getting 30+ degrees, the US Women are almost past 45 degrees! And yet at the catch, they're not forcing the reach (Photo #4). Shins are vertical, backs are comfortably rounded with the nose and chin just about in line with the shins.

The US women's eight leans into it

The Men's 1x race was a barn burner! I was expecting to see Synek push Drysdale (gold medalist) but instead it was Damir Martin of Croatia who turned the race into a photo finish. This photo of Drysdale (Photo #5) at the beginning of the drive shows just the smallest amount of splash at the catch with the elbows low and loose, not locked, and the back is rounded. At the release (Photo #6), you can see both Mahe and Martin in the layback position, chins tucked and ready to roll out of bow. Even though they're both just a few strokes from the finish line, they're not shortening their stroke at the release.

In the Women's 4x, Germany won the gold, besting their silver medal performance in London. At the end of the drive (Photo #7), note the nesting of the hands with the left hand slightly to the stern of the right hand so that the right hand tucks neatly under the palm of the left hand. Their shoulders are relaxed as they hang from their lats, the leg drive is complete but the arms have only just begun to pull.

The German women's quad

I also like the look of the Dutch (silver medalists) (Photo #8) rolling their bodies out of bow, not leading with the arms but allowing arms and body to come out together.

You'll find 1000's of photos in the row2k gallery, a small number of which I've highlighted here. I hope you'll go back and look at all the Olympic Champions. There are many similarities in technique among the gold medalists so study what they're doing and go out and row like an Olympian!


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09/04/2016  12:18:31 PM
Interesting stuff. I must admit I'm not a fan of the US W8 technique...they seem to give it an almighty heave at the finish. But it appears to be very effective and you can't argue with the sort of winning streak they have. There is a lot of layback...almost on the scale of Spracklen's Canadian crews!

09/01/2016  4:26:46 PM
I'd pay more attention to elite lightweight rowing technique...
08/31/2016  2:30:48 PM
Thank you so much for taking the time to do all this analysis and posting. I am new to rowing (CRI-Boston) but have been studying your YouTube videos and now this! You are fantastic!-Didi

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