‘Stillness’ in Rowing

It may be because rowing is such a dynamic sport that you will rarely see mention of the importance if stillness. Stillness is the key to a stable, balanced boat, which is (in my view) the most enjoyable boat to row.  Just to be clear, the stillness I am referring to here is an active stillness as opposed to simply ‘sitting still’.  It is the stillness of a rider on a dressage horse or a ballet dancer executing a perfect ‘Pas de Deux’. It is the elimination of all unnecessary movement while remaining flexible and responsive to the action around you.

This stillness is about control.  The rower(s) should be able to ‘freeze’ the rowing motion at any point during the recovery while remaining balanced in the boat.

This stillness requires core stability.  If you’re not familiar with the concept, just sit up tall and pull your stomach about an inch toward your backbone. You have now activated your core muscles.  The effect this can have in a boat is remarkable.  By reducing lateral body movement, it stabilises the boat and once the crew get used to maintaining core stability throughout the stroke, can transform their performance.

Beginners in rowing tend to be very bad at stillness.  They are turning their heads to look around at everything, twisting their bodies with every stroke and generally throwing their weight about in the boat.  With proper coaching, as they gain experience, they move less but move the boat more effectively, because their stillness eliminates the uncontrolled shifts in weight which plague beginner boats.

Experienced rowers can be impressively still – most literally so just before the start of a race and during drills, but also in the active sense whenever they are on the water.  Stillness is a requirement if you are going to follow the person in the stroke seat exactly. To follow someone else’s movements you must first eliminate your own.

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