The Stroke: Part 1

By Shane Farmer

In HD Videos

January 03, 2013

Video Article

The catch position on the rower is where you’re able to load up and prepare for the next stroke, Shane Farmer of CrossFit Rowing says in Part 1 of this series.

“If we’ve missed the catch, we’ve missed the stroke completely,” Farmer says.

With good posture, the chest needs to come to the knees so there is increased tension on the lower back and hamstrings, he adds.

“It’s like loading up a spring,” Farmer explains. “I never want to give up my posture to get length.”

Moving through the stroke is called the drive. It’s the only place where an athlete applies work to the machine. Sliding back up to the catch position is called the recovery; no work is applied to the machine.

“From the catch position, we lock the hips into place with this perfect posture—chest to knee—you start driving the legs away,” Farmer says. “Once the legs are done, or about to finish, you swing the back open and then snap the hands in.”

Video by Again Faster.

10min 54sec

HD file size: 265 MB
SD wmv file size: 131 MB
SD mov file size: 65 MB

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Additional reading: A Biomechanical Analysis of Rowing by Joel R. Martin and Bryan St. Andrews, published Dec. 6, 2012.

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9 Comments on “The Stroke: Part 1”


wrote …

I hear the instructor refer to 5 or 10 degrees of hip/torso movement, but all the students, except for one, are moving about 30 to 45 degrees. Then the instructor tells the student that only moved about 10-15 degrees to move back a little more to about a 30 -45 degree position. It's as if I could read that girls mind. She's obviously used a protractor. Can we stop sayting 5-10 degrees when we really mean 20ish? Or what is the right angle here?


replied to comment from Christopher Gebhart

Visually, they were at the right angle. But your right Christopher, that is more than 5-10 degrees in my opinion. I think that when giving people are verbal cue, which becomes a mental cue, 5-10 degrees is probably a smarter thing to say because if you ask people to go to 20ish degrees or so...they would probably overshoot it...especially during a wod when fatigue has set in. I guess it comes down to how well the trainer explains it.

I definitely enjoyed watching this video but I would have liked to see a bit more detail and explanation addressing the return to the "catch" position. I was taught to really take my time returning to the catch position. A drill that was used to teach me how to do that was to row without the use of the foot straps. That completely prevented me from using my legs to pull myself back to the catch. I had to rely on the chain pull and slope of the rower to return me to the catch. It felt very foreign to me at first but I understood immediately what I should be doing.

Excellent video!


wrote …

Great clip. Highly educational for me. Have been wondering why I struggle so much on the rower..


wrote …

Rowing is definitely one of my weaknesses so I look forward to applying these tips during my next rowing session. Thanks Shane! Can't wait for Part 2 of this video!!! Awesome stuff!


wrote …


The cue 5-10 degrees is either right or it shouldn't be used. Overemphasis during practice/demonstration is sometimes useful to make a point, but as a verbal cue, it is either right or wrong.

Part of why CrossFit is so effective is the scientific approach to fitness. No funny business.

With that in mind, I am not an expert and do not know which of the 5-10degree point or their actual position (or both) were correct. From memory, I was surprised at how upright rowers in the Olympics were during races....


wrote …

The 5-10 degree cue may be a bit hard to visualize. An easier way might be to look at how far back from vertical you need to move your chest or some other cue point on your body. For example if I look at my heart/nipple level which is about 16 inches above my seat I would need to move that 1.5 to 3 inches back from vertical to get 5-10 degree back slope. My collar bone is about 24 inches above my seat and it would have to move back 2 to 4 inches from vertical to get 5-10 degrees. Not really very much.

Looking at the women in the video they seemed to be way beyond that. Most of the other technique material I've looked at shows a much smaller back slope than what the women were doing.


wrote …

Concept 2 training video suggests upper body at the one o'clock position for catch and the 11 o'clock position for finish. This would be 30 degrees either side of vertical. Matches more what was shown in video.


wrote …

When/where is part 2?! This first part really improved my row! Can't wait for the second half!


wrote …

So glad we're addressing the layback discussion. I use the 5 - 10 degrees at times simply to get the point across without having people open their hip angle too far because it is such a prevalent issue in our community. However the 30 degree is more correct. We want people to hit 11 o'clock & 1 o'clock in the ideal position. I appreciate all the attention to the detail because the cues are important, often the one cue that we give to the whole group can be to impact the greatest amount of athletes and the cues I will give depend on what I'm seeing from different athlete's.

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