Common Rowing Technical Errors and Drills To Fix

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May 8, 2018
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learn to row drills to fix common errors

The following is a model that I use to teach relatively inexperienced coaches how to identify common rowing technical errors and a suggestion of some rowing drills to help fix them. There are a few videos that I would like to add to this (as indicated), and now that my schedule is becoming less busy I plan to update over the summer. This is not the definitive guide and I welcome feedback on improving the model and suggestions of drills to help fix common errors.

Please use the comments below or email me at with your questions or feedback. I also include a link to the document as it stands at this point in time and you can download that just below here.

>> Document For Common Rowing Technical Errors and Drills To Fix <<

Technical Model Example and Rowing Drills

Novice rowers should have a clear picture of what technique looks like and all coaches should be teaching the same technical model. Uniformity is important at all levels in your program. I would suggest finding video of some rowing that looks like the technical model you coach and using that from time to time as a benchmark. Below as an example of a technical model.

>> Click here to access the technical benchmarking file <<

The following are a list of common errors made by novice rowers, how to identify them and example drills to help fix the technique.

Holding The Oar Handle

Sculling: Coaching the correct grip

Sweep: Coaching the correct grip


Common Error How to Identify Rowing Drills To Fix
Hands and body not moving out of the bow before knees rise Knees break before the upper body angle is established. Pause Drills

Body Over Pauses on Ergometer

Cut The Cake Drill

Rushing the Slide Rower accelerates toward the catch or is not in control of the run or allowing the boat to run underneath them Understanding what that should feel like. Here is a link to an article** that the rowers can read that helps them to understand what that should feel like. I have copied it below as well

Teach the rower to use the oarlocks as a means to control the speed of the slide.



Common Error How to Identify Rowing Drills To Fix
Skying the blade Rowers blade moves away from the water line at end of the recovery Catch Placement

Slap Catches

Missing the catch Blade moves toward the stern before it is placed in the water Tap Drill

Slap Catches

If you have a tank, try the following drill.

Assisted Catch Placement

Blade and rower not connected early in the drive No bend in the oar until later in the drive. Backing drill


Common Error How to Identify Rowing Drills To Fix
Opening the back to early on the drive Rowers shoulders move toward the seat before legs engage. Tap Drill

Drive Sequencing Drill

On Erg Legs Only Drill

Missing the catch Blade moves toward the stern before it is placed in the water or the rowing “misses” the catch thus shortening drive length. Tap Drill

Slap Catches

Blade and rower not connected early in the drive No bend in the oar until later in the drive. Backing drill

Blade goes deep during the drive Rower “rowing over a barrel” and therefore drive not horizontal. Allow the rower to partially let go of the blade so that the blade “sits” at the correct height in the water. Explain that the oar is engineered to “sit” at the right depth without much help from the rower.
Rower not accelerating through the stroke to the release You can see that the rower is not accelerating through the drive. Acceleration drill.


Common Error How to Identify Rowing Drills To Fix
Blade not buried through to the finish Puddle becomes messy, you can see the blade coming out of the water early. Rower drops the outside elbow at the release. Bring the outside hand close to the inside hand.

Learn How To Feather and Square

Outside wrist breaks and elbow drops too low You can see the rower breaking the wrist at the release and learning away from the rigger with the elbow too low. Drill to help teach the correct positioning of the elbow at the release.
Blade feathers early Rower has difficulty getting the blade out of the water. Late feather drill

¼ feather drill

Square Blade Paddling

Rower not tapping down to release the blade You can see that the blade doesn’t clear the water or there isn’t much space between the blade and the water as they feather to blade and move the blade toward the bow. Pause Drill

Pausing at the release with the blade out of the water.

Pause Drill Video

Square Blade Paddling




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