Want to make sure that the next few months of erging really do become those "meters that make champions"? Try taking on-water drills indoors with you.
We'll start with one of the first drills most rowers learn to see if you can get something out of doing what may be the simplest and most mundane drill possible - which we think you can.
The Pick Drill
Out on the water, the Pick Drill- or rowing "arms only"-works on the finish, specifically: how the arms draw through, how a strong and stable core helps maintain connection, and how a clean release requires you to keep pushing through your feet.
Since these skills are at a premium on the erg, too, this drill can become a great way to use a familiar on-water drill to keep the quality of your erging high.
Why Spend Erg Time on Drills?
The erg is a very stable platform where you can learn any drill really well, and your drill execution can benefit greatly from some stability at the finish. Starting with a good drill on the erg will also lend constructive focus to your warm-up, just like those first drills off the dock or on the way to the starting line do out on the water.
Working on drills on the erg can help you focus on good execution that can help you get more from the drill when you are back on the water.
With the Pick Drill, on-water execution sometimes looks (and feels) more like chopping or swinging at the water; if you make sure you get some connection and draw on the erg, it will improve on the water.
Specifically, the indoor Pick Drill can help you focus on keeping the chain level with the floor as you pull the arms through, to hold horizontal pressure on the handle maintaining flat wrists to the end of the stroke, to keep the final pull well-connected sitting squarely on the seat at the finish, without worrying about an off-set or wobbly boat beneath you using a "tall core" to accelerate the wheel, which will help you gauge the "right" amount of layback to use on the erg
How to Do It Well
Start with your posture: with the handle against the body, sit in the position you hope to maintain on the water, with some attention to staying supported in the small of your back-a strong core makes the drill work. Be sure to sit squarely on the seat and keep your feet "engaged" on the footboard, pushing off your whole foot, from the heel up through the toes.
From there, you know the drill: row with just your arms, taking care to keep the body from swinging forward. Track the path your arms are taking: the elbows should draw out to your sides while the wrist-and forearms-stay flat. That will help keep the chain parallel to the floor, fixing the tendency folks sometimes have on the erg of pulling in too high, too low, or varying on the drive.
What it Feels Like
It should feel like you are moving the wheel smoothly, picking it up as it spins and accelerating it without ripping the arms or "throwing" the shoulders. You may also feel taller in the body and and-hopefully-find that you are using some pressure from the feet to create a good connection with the arms.
You should be able to feel good acceleration even without a lot of layback. Often, folks on the erg can start laying back farther than they might in the boat, simply because the design of the erg-with its long chain-allows it. The Pick Drill will keep you in touch with what good finish posture in the boat feels like.
Tips and Add-ons
Make it Longer: once you get that connection rowing arms only, work on holding it as you progressively work up to full strokes, by adding just the back swing and then some 1/2 or 3/4 slides strokes before going full slide.
Mirror, Mirror: setting up a mirror alongside is a great way to coach yourself-and watching yourself row arms only helps you check for proper layback, relaxed shoulders, a straight back, and that nice level chain at the finish.
Pause a Beat: start the drill with a short pause at the finish, so you can check your tall core and that push through the feet, or add a pause in as you go along to "reset" your posture as needed.
Build into It: if you find this drill helpful, maybe start each piece with a few arms only strokes to check yourself; it gets the wheel moving a bit, and starting with good connection and posture serves as a good baseline for connection and posture.
Do it well and move on: let's face it, this isn't an exciting drill, especially on the erg; hit a bit of drilling while you warm up, between pieces, or on cool down, get it right, and get to work on the real rowing.