The Scottish Coastal Rowing Association

Fixed Seat Rowing Technique

Nothing is new in this world, and lets face it (regardless of what we tell our admiring friends) rowing is not that hard to get a hang of, although no doubt all of us could improve our technique to make rowing faster, easier, less injurious etc.  The illustration above, from the 1937 Edition of the Admiralty Manual of Seamanship, gives as good an illustration on fixed seat rowing technique as you will find anywhere else today.





We row pretty much the same way, although now we generally do so fully clothed.  We hope.

The notes on style in the chapter reinforce what is shown in the illustration. Highlights include:

  • Straight Back:  Erect but not stiff … swinging from the loins only at the hips and not from any point in the middle of his back as a secondary pivot. [This] eases the respiratory organs by opening the chest cage.
  • Swing: The time occupied coming forward should be the body’s rest; an erect head and open chest will enable the heart and lungs to work freely and easily. Any tendency to rush the swing must be checked …  As the body swings the hands should be at the same time stretching and reaching out as if constantly striving to touch something which is as constantly evading them.
  • Use of the Arms: The arms must be straight when swinging back. They must be considered as merely connecting rods between the body and oar.  The use of the biceps in rowing should be discouraged, as the [rower] who finishes [their] stroke by the aid of the biceps infallibly dog ears [their] elbows and sticks them out at right angles to [their] ribs, giving a weak as well as a cramped and ugly finish … It is important that the oar should be pulled into the chest and not the chest up to the oar. This latter will certainly shorten the stroke prematurely, and spoil the rhythm of the swing.
  • Hanging at the Chest: The oar must not hang at the chest. The hands must come away quickly, otherwise it will be necessary to rush forward in the swing to make up lost ground. This spoils the swing and taxes the endurance of the [rower] …

Feel free to add your views on good technique in the comments below. Crown copyright has expired on the 1937 Manual, so feel free to share the illustration.