If you can nail down these four positions, your rowing will gradually improve as you become more proficient and efficient. Forget about the distance or if we are rowing for cals or meters. For the purpose of this article we will be focusing on positions that will improve your overall stroke. Four things to focus on, that, if done right, will continually help to develop your stroke. It is not practice that makes perfect, it is good, focused intentional practice that moves the needle to excellence. The four basic positions are:
As you can see in the picture below the catch is at the point when the handle is closest to the flywheel on the rower. In this position I want you to notice a few things. The back position is straight, but not upright. The shoulders are actually in front of the hips. This is important. It gives us leverage and creates a strong position for our legs to push off. If you find yourself in the catch with your shoulders behind your hips then something is wrong. The other important factor is the position of the feet. They are flat on the pad and ready to push off. Most people will start their catch on their toes. Take a look at the picture below. Imagine trying to hit a back squat on your toes. It is clearly an ineffective position. We can get away with it on the rower by yanking with our arms or trying to push harder, but those are all inefficiencies that we want to avoid. In summary, shoulders in front of hips, core tight, feet flat on the pad. The catch position should feel tight. You want to be bound up like a spring ready to explode.
Here we see the correct catch position. Back flat, shoulders in front of the hips and feet flat on the pad.
Here we see and incorrect catch position. Toes up, leaning back, and hips in front of the shoulders.
A closer look at incorrect foot position in the catch.
The drive is a dynamic position that is shown in the pictures below. It starts with a big leg drive. We often hear “Pull Harder” when we are on the rower. That advice is wrong. The arms should be doing a very small percentage of the work. The second picture shows the hip swing. A few things to note here. The core, mid-line or area around the stomach and lower back has been engaged and firing throughout this process. Also, notice how all the power has been leveraged out of the legs and hips and the arms have not been engaged yet. The last piece to the drive is pulling your arms in directly below your chest. The drive is a complex piece to the puzzle. For the simplicity of positions, try to drive with your legs, then swing your hips open and finish with your arms all while keeping your mid-line in a tight and active position.
This is a very important piece to the drive. Her legs have extended, but her arms are not bent. The first thing she did was get all the power out of her legs and some from her hips by starting to open them.
In this picture her legs are fully extended hips are back and last thing she needs to do is pull with her arms.
This is the finish of the Drive position. Legs extended, hips at 11 o’clock and handle pulled below the chest.
This is a small piece but often an overlooked one. This is the point from which the handle releases from your chest and the arms return back to a straight position. The major point to hit on here is the timing. You should not be holding the handle to your chest or trying to lean back a little further. You should be at 11 o’clock while the handle drives into your chest and release it directly after it makes contact. It should happen in a smooth horizontal movement with no up and down bouncing of the handle.
This is the mirror opposite of the drive position. As you can see in the picture below, the arms are released and at this point you could be finishing the drive or starting the recovery. It should look the same. The next picture shows the hips move first. Now you are back at a 1 o’clock position with the hips. Once that happens, slide back into the catch position by bending your knees and keeping your feet flat on the pads.
In the picture above Alexa is recovering, once her shoulders slide forward in front of her hips she will be in the catch position again. Notice how her back is flat, feet are on the pad, and arms are extended.
In summary I want you to remember a few basic positions. The Catch – you should have this position every time you are setting up for a big “PUSH”. Your back/hip position. You should be living between 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock. Not trying to lean way back or lean way forward. And finally the position/activation of your core. You should be bracing throughout the movement.
If you give this a go in a workout you will be slower. You will feel awkward and it will be hard. Why? Because it is all different, new and requires some practice. Give it time, be uncomfortable and ask for feedback. It will grow on you and soon you will be the one giving out advice on rowing efficiency.
Written By: Geo Rockwell