It came to my attention that breathing technique is not a commonly understood in rowing.
I had two Olympic coaches, Harry Mahon, and Marty Aikten. They were respectively from New Zealand and Australia.
Harry and Marty taught me to row effortlessly.
Here is in words what such rowing technique is: At the catch ready to engage the leg drive, the upper body is at a “forward body angle” with the lower back supported so that the tilt occurs by hinging at the hip joint. The shoulders are set forward relaxed, arms are straight at the elbow, handle held in the finger tips. The head neck and back form an ergonomic line. The shins are vertical, and for most the ball of the foot is connected to the foot board, while the heels are off the board.
The drive is started through the legs, the heels descend onto the foot board as soon as the first quarter of the seat travels on the track. The body angle starts engaging the swing in the last quarter of the leg drive, when the legs are the most powerful and the seat travels the least. Engaging the upper body swing in the last quarter of the leg drive is key to being able to lever the short yet powerful travel of the seat/body.
The finish position has a supported lower back. The upper body is slightly beyond vertical. The forearms are parallel to the ground/water. Wrists are flush with the back of the hand, forearm, and first two row of knuckles. Chest is “out” because throughout the entire stroke cycle the back is ALWAYS supported. The handle travels to the body through the CONTRACTION of the latissimus muscle.
Recovery has the entire body relaxed. Hands travel away from the chest. Arms and upper body REST on the handle of the oars or the handle of the rowing machine. As the arms straighten out at the elbow, the shoulders and then the upper body follow, HINGING at the HIP JOINT. The knees stay straight until the hamstrings feel engaged, the rolling back into the catch occurs because of the contraction of the hamstring, AND NOT THE contraction of the hip flexor.
Key to efficient rowing is to HANG off the leg drive, letting the legs do the work, while the shoulders and arms hang straight.
Therefore breathing is key to the above technique: Absolute relaxation occurs through exhaling. With lose lungs, hanging of the leg drive is natural. As the acceleration progresses and the upper body swings OPEN the lungs fill with air and provide a strong finish position.
At higher intensity the breathing is doubled up.
Some rowers breath in on the recovery and exhale at the finish. This leads to a shorter stroke length and early use of the upper body. A the finish when exhaling the posture “crumbles” on the lower back, and usually knees buckle, instead of staying straight to connect through the foot board.
That is it for now.
Xeno Muller, Olympic gold and silver medalist, indoor rowing, rowing technique.
Xeno Muller, Olympic gold and silver medalist, writes about indoor rowing, rowing technique, coaching, staying motivated and injury free.
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1X Olympic Gold Atlanta 1X Olympic Silver Sydney