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2018 FISA World Rowing Championships. Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sunday, 9th September 2018. GBR, LW1X, Imogen GRANT, competing in her heat.

With Spring officially here, a note on technique.

“A relaxed, overstretched position invites injury every stroke.”

As you eye your transition back to the boat, try paying attention to your upper body form. Strive to control the oar handle rather than the other way around. A so-called “packed shoulder” position will help you do that by increasing your connection to the handle so you are better able to direct and load the blade. To pack your shoulders and make them stable, start by lifting your chest up and then pressing your shoulder blades down as if putting them in your back pockets or pushing them down to the ground. Note that if you reach for the entry and then hang on the drive, you will be pulling your joints apart. This gives the oar handle control over you. A relaxed, overstretched position invites injury every stroke. When you reach, imagine your biceps are looking at each other. This creates enough rotation in the humerus to keep the shoulder set when you start to row full pressure. Reduced slippage in your shoulders also means less slippage in the water. Practice your packing on land first with a loaded carry exercise. Load your body up with extra weight holding dumbbells in each hand, then walk 25 steps as you lift your chest and keep your shoulders down.

Marlene Royle is the author of the book, Tip of the Blade: Notes on Rowing. Marlene’s coaching service, Roylerow Performance Training Programs, provides the program and the support you need to improve your competitive edge. For more, email Marlene at or visit

Photo credit: Peter Spurrier