Carlos Dinares Tip #296: ROWING bending arms versus straight arms

Carlos, what do you think about the arms (elbows) bending at the catch, so the pressure changes to the front of the blade, then apply pressure? versus straight arms and apply perssure with legs?
Do you have a rowing tip on this – how to move the oar grips when the legs start moving? My elbows bend….is this correct? Thanks.

Ok here is what I think and I’m going to answer on a “practical way”. What I mean with a practical way is what I have experience MYSELF rowing my single at different rates, wind conditions, oar shafts and different rigging. Also what I have experienced rowing the Rowperfect3 and looking at the power curve changing the rate and the drag factor.

We all know that rowers win races with straight arms or bending their arms. We know that biomechanically it is better to have straight arms to get more efficient hang and more length.


The first thing is that we all need to knowledge that in sculling every arm engages the oar differently. This means that we can have an arm at the catch more straight than the other one that is more bended.
One of the more important principals or goals of rowing is to move the boat. In order to move the boat we need to connect the blade to the water and in order to do that at the catch we need to somehow find connection from grip to feet to push the boat away with each oar. In order to connect the grip to the feet we need to engage the body, lats, arms, elbows and wrists on a way that we can load the blade and push the boat trough the feet.
That is not easy at all. And here is the $1.000.000 key rowing more important tip!
No matter what you do with your body, CONNECT the blade to the water and move the boat from grip to feet. This is the first goal and it doesn’t matter how you achieve that. ACHIEVE it and later we will worry on the details on how this can be done better.

If you need to bend your arms to connect to the water but cannot connect to the water with straight arms that is ok. First learn what is connection to the water and what is the way to fully push the boat away pushing handle against feet.

After that you will try to learn to position your body on more efficient ways and develop more strength to be able to keep your arms more straight if you can.
In order to connect your blade you need to position your wrist, elbow on a way that works for you. On this positioning and angles of work of Wrist and elbows you might need to bend your arms. That way with those angles you can engage your lats and relax your shoulders for example. Different angles of wrist and elbow engages muscles differently. Just try it and play with it.
Another important think is the rigging or the wind. If the load gets heavier because of the rigging or because we get head wind, the drive will be slower and heavier and this will make it harder to carry the load far away from your frame. Also more strength will be necessary. A good way to compensate for that lack of strength or too big load is to bend your arms to get the load closer to your frame where you are stronger. If your try to lift a heavy object you will take it close to your body and lift it easier that if it is just far away and your arms are straight. If you row heavy or are have lack of strength and are connected to the water you will have tendency to bend your arms.

There is another situation where bending the arms will help and is to find easier connection to the water. If you keep your arms straight and your body set and try to connect and move the boat directly from your feet all the way to the blade is much harder than finding that direct connection from bending the arms or swinging the body. The idea is to find pressure in front of the blade as fast as possible as the blade gets on the water. To achieve that that is the main goal the rower will start doing it by bending arms and opening the body. As the rower becomes more skill and stronger and more coordinated he will be able to keep his arms more straight and his body more set and do it trough the feet. This is a process and it should be done correctly.

The KEY HERE IS:

If you are new to rowing and you are bending your arms or opening your body to help you find connection direct is ok! You are not ready to do it with your feet or don’t have enough strength to do it with extended arms yet.
Eventually you will evolve to a better posture, positioning, body strength and coordinated stroke.
Don’t make a novice rower to do what should be correct but doesn’t give him connection to the water. This is a mistake of coaches on my opinion. First learn to move the boat and later as your body develops and you get stronger and get better coordination you will position better and achieve more biomechanically efficient levers.

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