A longer rowing stroke means you'll go faster, right? But do you know what is effective length, and what is unnecessary length? The asensei youtube channel features livestream workouts from coach Eric Murray every week which are packed with insights and tips from one of rowing's all-time greats. In the Coaching Gold series we will highlight some of Eric's tips and insights from his Q&A sessions at the end of each workout and from webinars. This time we focus on how to optimize your stroke length whilst on the erg.
How to optimize your rowing stroke length?
Today’s coaching comes from one of Eric’s webinars in April 2020 and focuses on stroke length – a key consideration when thinking about the most efficient possible stroke which maximizes all relevant muscles groups. asensei’s goal is to create an environment for perfect practice and Eric’s insight, strung together from years of international experience, is critical to build a picture of what the ‘perfect’ rowing stroke looks like.
Effective stroke length vs unnecessary stroke length
In the video which you can see below, Eric starts by explaining that there is ‘effective’ length and ‘unnecessary’ length. He explains that the latter occurs when your shins are beyond the 90-degree point at the catch and your knees have begun to extend out over your feet. One of the most common misconceptions in rowing is that an athlete needs to hyper-extend at the catch and reach beyond what feels comfortable; Eric explains that if you do this, the first part of your stroke is tethered on overstretching and there is very little meaningful connection to be had.
Let the machine help you!
The indoor rowing machine is elastic, in the sense that if you let the handle go, it will snap back to the catch immediately due to the built in 'bungee' cord which loosely mimics the action of moving through the water on a boat. Olympic Champion Eric Murray explains that this natural elasticity will enable you to sense where feels right to begin the drive phase of the stroke – the machine almost does the work for you in creating a sense of proportionate length so that you can focus on the mechanics of the stroke.
Relax your upper body
In the video below Eric also emphasizes the importance of relaxation in the upper body; it is easy to tense the shoulders when approaching the catch position but a relaxed feeling in this area can allow you to add a couple of inches in stroke length by enabling a broader natural reach. That space in the shoulders not only feeds into your stroke length but sets the tone for smoother motion at the front and back-end.
Watch Eric explain in his own words and demonstrate in the short video below (3mins):
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