Sculling Fundamentals Course| Your Sculling Technique Questions Answered

From The Desk Of Xeno Müller

In today’s competitive rowing regattas, rowers like yourself must have coaching that meets their needs to:

  • Improve your training
  • Increase your boat speed
  • Stimulate your spirit

Sculling is my life and my goal is to give rowing technique and training advice to athletes and coaches. In short, Sculling Fundamentals is the answer to your prayers.

Thinking back to when I was a junior, I would have loved being able to communicate with a rower who had won at the Olympics.

My course helps coaches improve speed and boat control of their crews.  Scullers learn how to use their larger muscle groups to win races.

Your passion is huge for rowing, and I know the sacrifice you make to get closer to your goal.

I enjoy working with any level of Sculling technique.

Help me spread the word!



P.S. Have a question? Send me a video!



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27 thoughts on “Sculling Fundamentals Course| Your Sculling Technique Questions Answered”

    1. Hello Tom,

      I am certain that the catch angle for shorter rowers is smaller than the one of Mahe Drysdale. I measure 191CM and in comparison to Drysdale and Waddell, I am short.

      There is a quiet movement of rowing with shorter oars to increase the catch angle by reducing the distance (span) between the oarlocks.

      I have no doubt that a great catch angle is quicker AS LONG AS those extra degrees are used to speer the water and create the “mystic” lift at the blade. Volker Nolte talks about this and it is nothing he invented, fluid mechanics are very similar to aeronautic physics.

      I will go as far as saying that having the oar parallel to the boat and the blade buried is good…. with the right blade… the curvature of the blade will matter there.

      Tom, thank you so much for asking the question here. I am making a huge effort to inform rowers and coaches that I am available to help them. All the very best from California, Costa Mesa, 92627. Xeno Müller Rowing Coach

  1. I know that in a double sculls there are some important distinctions from rowing in an eight. For instance, in an eight the front end drive can be very powerful from the start, but in a double the drive should almost “build” from the front end drive so that the mid-drive is the strongest part and the power curve looks like a perfect bell. Not to mention that this must be accomplished in perfect unison between the two rowers in order to maximize speed. Are there any other important nuances when rowing in a double that you’d like to share?

    1. Hello Chase,

      The only difference between a double scull and an eight is the speed. Building the stroke is done exactly the same way. That is something that I love about SMARTOAR, it clearly shows exactly the same power curve.

      There are rigging issues to consider. If the span is to wide, then the oarsmen do not have the ability to speer the water and end up starting the stroke when the oar engages the water at a greater distance from the hull and the speed of the water is greater with such a catch angle.

      Usually coaches tend to tell everybody in an eight how to set the foot board and that is usually as far in the stern as possible… For each individual that is not the perfect solution.

      The catches in an eight are more often than not rowed in…. that is something I work with when I do stroke analysis. The faster the boat the more difficult it is to let the blade go DOWN to the water as the seat still rolls into the stern.

      The slower the boat the easier it is to “catch right”.

      So…. to answer your question…. for me there is no difference except it is harder to row technically well in a boat that moves faster.

      Have a great evening,
      Xeno Rowing Coach, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

  2. How much Olympics champions train? Hours and kilometers per month.
    and What is the ratio between endurance, anaerobic, speed and gym?

    1. Hello Matyas,

      There seems to be a “magic” number of hours trained per year to get ready for a major championship.

      This number is 1000.

      Let’s assume you train 50 weeks per year then the amount of net training is 20 hours per week. That is what I used to do, plus minus a couple hours here and there and of course a lot less when I would get sick from a random virus or cold. As a matter of fact, when I would feel getting sick, I would not train.

      Kilometers per month varies with different crews and individual athletes. In my case I only trained once on the water for a good part of my preparation for the Olympics. The reason for this is to make sure that I would not overuse my body in one particular way. My cross training was fun brought endurance to a number of muscles that I did not directly use for rowing. This training effect was more important than I gave it credit for. When ALL your muscles are trained well, then the total amount of mitochondria is greatly increased and thus your ability to actively break down lactic acid greatly improved. Which leaves room for a harder sprint at the end of a 2K.

      I certainly loved pushing myself hard in the gym. In the boat the hard resistance did not exist because it resulted in more speed. But in the gym I was able to add weight to my reps and with every push or pull I imagined the strokes I was going to take at the Olympics.

      Out of 12 workouts per week, 8 were to develop the aerobic capacity, the other four were a lot harder.

      A word of caution I will happily through out: More is not better, quality, is more important than quantity.

      Good luck,

      Xeno Rowing Coach, Costa Mesa, California, 92627

  3. Hey Xeno, I have had a problem with my wrists getting very sore especially when the rate is high. How do I keep my wrists relaxed and concentrate on driving with the legs?

    1. Hello Liam,

      Your wrist may be getting sore because of how tight you hold the handle. See if a thicker handle does not fix that. Depending if this happens in sculling or sweeping you have two ways to thicken the handle. You can double grip a sculling handle or outside handle of a sweep oar. If your inboard hand during sweeping gets tight, you may have to wrap it TIGHT with tennis racquet grip.

      When I do stroke analysis, I ALWAYS look at how the rowers hold the handle. I am certainly NOT a fan of holding the handle in the fist. It is very surprising to me how many athletes do not hold the handle in their fingers. The thumb serves as a “safety” gate so that the handle doesn’t not slip from out underneath the finger tips. Holding the handle in such a fashion maximizes reach at the catch and the ability to hold on to the finish longer.

      Xeno Rowing Coach, Costa Mesa, CA 92627, USA

  4. Hello Xeno,

    Is it common for rowers to experience pain in the upper hamstrings during longer training sessions? If so, what is this caused by and how would one go about preventing it?
    How did you keep yourself busy during your “off” days from training? (when you were sick or in the transition phase?)


    1. Hello Sean,

      The pain that is created right at the edge of the seat…. is common. Some rowers have one or both legs fall asleep and that is a huge issue. Creating the right padding, so that the hip joints/sitz bones are elevated over the edge of the seat may help. Rowing seats are built funny, with two depressions to fit the sitz bones. In my opinion a foam should be used that molds to the butt and that could possibly relieve the pain that you are talking about.

      When I was sick, I had SUB-ZERO motivation to train. I simply laid low and hoped for better days quickly. When I was “forced” to not train, it always came at a good time. Usually after the Olympics or the World Championship, I was MORE THAN RIPE to do other things. By that time I had maxed out training and met mental challenges galore.

      Xeno and help me spread the word that I am doing this!

    1. Hello Kevin,
      Great question.
      Basically if you want to improve you need to put in the miles at the aerobic intensity. Don’t be surprised to be rowing 20KM straight per day if you train once, and up to 35 to 40 kilometers when you train twice per day.
      Clearly the antagonist muscles need to be trained too, otherwise you run into joint problems. Weight circuits are a great way to train endurance and also strengthen the entire body including the all so important antagonist muscles.
      We made sure that technically he was improving too. I controlled his style throughout the preparation by doing digital slow motion analysis.
      Cross training is extremely important too. Changing exercises keeps the mind fresh.
      As for the exact training program, I tailored it to Matthew and his schedule.
      I hope this helps.

  5. Hi Xeno,

    I am struggling with my hip flexibility, I stretch my hips and hamstrings every night with 4x 30 seconds each. Yet I struggle to compress my body at the catch effectively without my shoulders dropping.

    1. Hello Guy
      Great to hear from you. Here is a youtube URL that shows a stretch using a band, you can also use a towel. Key to stretching is to keep the lower back from buckling… When you lay on the floor keep one foot flat on the ground and the other leg you give it a bear hug, then slowly extend that leg without allowing the quad to move away from the chest. By contracting the quad, the brain sends the message to the hamstring to release. This is a very effective way to “fool” for the sake of a good stretching effect and result.
      The missing part in the youtube is the lack of bringing the quad to the chest and THEN extending the leg away while pulling back on the towel. This is a very effective way to stretch the lower back to stay supported during the leg drive in rowing.
      Spread the word Guy and know that a stroke analysis will bring you up to speed with your full rowing potential. All the best, Xeno Rowing Coach, Costa Mesa, CA 92627 949-400-7630

  6. I want to start off by saying I believe what you are with the tips and the answers is just flat out amazing. I recently started rowing (about 2 years now) and I am now 15. My passion for rowing is unmatched from any other sport, literally my life would be complete with eat, sleep, row. But now in Canada, we are coming up to winter season and indoor training is about. I have made major progress with my on water technique and overall athletic ability but as you may know erg scores mean a lot when applying for schools or universities and I need an indoor training program to drop my 2k. My club (St. Catherines) closes down for the winter season (with no indoor training) and I was wondering what I can do to become a better rower/erg-er athletically. Is there any specific training or program you would use to drop a 2k test? I am hoping to break 7:00 by the end of December so I have an erg score that looks good on a school application (at 7:12 currently). You understand, but I have the drive to become the greatest I can possibly be and I am willing to do whatever it takes. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    1. Hello Jason
      Great to hear from you and thank you for asking this question.
      In a nutshell it is quite simple to improve your aerobic capacity drastically and thus nail a new personal best on the bloody ergo.

      I can write you a training program that leads you through higher intensity workouts, but the following is totally doable on your own.

      Push 20K a day at a heart rate that is equal to (MAXHR-RESTHR)X78%+RESTHR. Keep the stroke rate between 18 and 22, and set the damper setting on the Concept2 rowing machine above 5.

      There are different ways to make rowing 20KS interesting. The way you describe yourself a simple music playlist will do. There are also good technical drills that you can do when you train to break up the monotony.

      It would be a pleasure to coach you through the winter months.
      All the very very best to you and please spread the word about my site.

      Rowing Coach, Costa Mesa, CA 92627 USA.

  7. Hey Xeno,

    Thanks for doing this. I have a million questions, but I’ll just ask one, haha.
    I find it very difficult to not dig my blades at the catch and for the first half of the drive in the single. I try to drop the blade in as lightly as possible, but I always end up covering 1/3 or more of the oar shaft. Are there any drills that can help me correct this?

    If I’m in a quad or in the tank, even a double, this doesn’t happen, or at least not as much.

    Thanks for your time,

    1. Hi Pete,
      There is a short list of things you have to keep an eye out. First, check the pitch on the blade, that could be an easy fix if that is part of the problem. Second, make sure that you don’t open the body and keep the shoulders tight at the same time. Third, make sure that you don’t do the squirrel arms at the catch. The later often happens when the “connection” is found with the upper body instead of through the leg drive. Since the double and quad are more stable, you are likely engaging the blade in the water in a more relaxed way. There are many different catch drills for you to do. One is the simple first quarter leg drive drill, which I KNOW you have done many times. The issue is that you need to find stability on the recovery in order to feel the same confidence as you have in the bigger boats.
      I swear on my head, on my Olympic head that is, take footage of yourself, be it on the ergo or the boat and check how your recover. I do these analysis all the time and using the legs actively on the recovery is extremely important to keep the upper body relaxed. I would love to coach you and show you exactly what I mean.
      Have a great evening. Also have a look at the latest blog entry that I have about the men’s single scull final of the 2012 OLympics.
      Cheers and help me spread the word. I love doing this. I love coaching worldwide using my laptop.
      Xeno Rowing Coach, Costa Mesa, CA 92627, USA 949-400-7630

  8. Hi,
    I have a problem with my balance in the boat while I start moving forward until I get to the catch. I’v been doing a lot of exercises in the boat, but none of them helped to much. I was wondering how much do you think it’s necessary to leave the oars up in the air, without touching the water ?and if you have an idea how to improve my balance?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Laura,
      Key to controlling the boat is to make sure you have the forward body angle and that you connect to your hamstrings before the rise of the knees and thus control the stability through the footboard by using vertical down pressure with your heels. There are a handful of exercises that can help you feel that.
      Xeno Rowing Coach, Costa Mesa, CA 92627, USA
      PS: Keep the shaft parallel to the water on the recovery.

  9. Hi Xeno,

    I am new to coaching and am looking after U18 girls at the moment. Their previous coach taught them that the recovery sequence should go hands away, shoulder extension, then body rock forward. I am finding now that they are hyper extending their shoulders at the catch and their shoulders are rising through the early phases of the drive almost like they are shrugging. I am worried that a lot of tension is being carried through their arms and shoulders, and they maybe won’t get the full effect of the leg drive because they are engaging these muscle groups too early. Is there anything specific I can do with them to help stop this?

    Also, I have heard the saying that the shoulders follow the arms away, but I thought that was meant to be an explanation of the body coming forward only once the hands were away from the finish, but it seems that in Australia this is being taken as a literal extension of the shoulder. Am I correct in thinking that I shouldn’t be coaching a shoulder extension?

    Thank you very much for taking the time to read my question!



    1. Hello Melissa,
      The key to body angle is that the head travels as horizontally as possible. This “frames” the body movements.
      There are different exercises to do to hang without shrugging. Depending on the different rowers at you have you can apply different technical drills. Visually for you it key that you can always see there necks.
      Have them row with one arm at a time and see how they react to it and make corrections.
      The most power is generated when the leg drive pushes away from the foot board with the upper body in a supported skeletel hang… the skeletal strength is so much stronger than the muscular strength. It would be a pleasure to help you with your crew. Let me know if the parents can pool the coaching fee together and we run an analysis of 4 of your girls. If the rest of them are interested we can do it again.
      I look forward to possibly working with you. Have a lovely summer in beautiful Australia!!!!
      Xeno, Rowing Coach, Costa Mesa, CA 92627, USA

  10. Hello Xeno,

    I wonder if you could help me in relationship to boat tuning for women lightweight, my height is 1.62 and weight 54. My coach don’t have a clue about that subject and I wanna get the maximum advantage of my boat. I wonder how much weight training advisable for women lightweight.

    1. Hello Barbara!
      Great to hear from you.
      It would be great if your coach could take video of you rowing on the water and then I will do a stroke analysis, I will then give you rigging pointers as well as explain technical drills to maximize your power application. Weight/strength training is important yet, technique is the most important component to fast sculling.
      I look forward to working wit you.

  11. Hey Xeno,
    Jason again. My indoor rowing championships are coming up on February 21 for us Canadians (Crash B for Americans) I am looking into buying your indoor training program. I just did my 2k yesterday and pulled a 7:10! I still need to drop my 2k 10-15 secs to reach my goal. Currently I am 15 years old, 6 foot, and I weigh 160lbs, is there anything you would change about the program to fit my needs?

    1. Hello Jason,
      Great to hear from you again.
      You are good to go with the program. The key is to make sure that you stay within the target heart rate. I explain how to obtain this information.
      Go for it. I have no doubt that you can break 7. IF you have more funds I would highly recommend the stroke analysis, but first things first follow the right program and you have a recorded technical lesson that goes with it.
      All the best,

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