Efficient, effective year round rowing and strength training

Monday, January 18 2021


I am a coach and I am trying to stop one of my rowers from opening his back at the catch. What are some drills or coaching cues that I can use to correct this?

Opening the back at the catch is a very common problem and one that will take some time to cure.  Many coaches spend time just telling athletes "don't open your back early!"  If these are the words they only hear, the chance of them making a change is slim. Another approach may be better.

Think why the athlete is opening early? Visualize the "mirror effect" going in and out of the catch. Look at what the athlete is doing before the catch. Often you will see the athlete dropping the body and hands right before the catch, and so the mirror effect is to open up right away at the catch.

Sit the rower on the erg and have them move in and out of the catch while maintaining their body position. They can hold the handle or just extend the arms and make believe they are holding the handle. Body angle should be maintained while the knees compress and extend. Handle and hand height should be level as well. Have them watch in a mirror as well or use video. Another key point is to teach the rower that the height of the hands does not effect the body. If the handle drops down the body does not follow. Same goes for the hands up at the placement. The body position is maintained as the handle loops up to place the blade.  A simple drill for this is to sit at the catch (in a team boat, do this in pairs) and move the hands up and down so the blade chops in and out of the water. Again body does not follow the hands. The arm pit angle opens and closes, but the hip angle stays the same. Body stays quiet.  You can also practice this off the water in front of a mirror - have the athlete stand with feet apart, one leg slightly in front of the other, leaning slightly forward.  As they shift bodyweight from the back foot to the front foot, raise the hands without losing the forward lean.  Shoulders stay down, watch that body angle forward does not change.  

Another focus point you can do is to concentrate on keeping the head and chin level.  A method Charlie Butt used was to tell athletes to keep their chin down as they started the drive. If the body opens early then the head will pop up. By keeping the chin down and the head level it helps keep the body over.