Faster sculling

Of course, Strength and Conditioning, Fitness, and on water practice sessions all contribute to SPEED, but the focus here is on Technical Mastery for Speed & Efficiency.

Strength and Conditioning Coach, Joe DeLeo, said that if he had to focus on just 5 things, in order to tackle ‘bad technique’/create excellent technique, it would be these 5 … probably in this order.

  1. Posture and Alignment
  2. The Catch
  3. The Drive
  4. The Finish
  5. The Recovery

Simple!, But what is a ‘Perfect Catch’, for example?

It’s a given that there are different styles of sculling, as well as subtle variations on the ‘ideal’ technique, for each part of the stroke cycle.

Different coaches have their own beliefs and methods of communicating what they think is most important.

And for each individual sculler, height, body weight & shape, strength, & ‘limitations’ affect how that translates into individualised technique.

But, for what it’s worth, here’s Joe’s 5 things, with my personal breakdown of some of the aspects I believe are important within each, to develop efficient and fast sculling.

  • POSTURE & ALIGNMENT
  • Tall chest, head up, on ‘sit bones’, not slumped
  • Smooth sequencing – legs, body, arms (& arms, body, slide on recovery)
  • ‘Hinging’ from the hips
  • Relaxed grip, straight yet loose arms at catch
  • The conditioning to be able to engage lats and back muscles at catch and the ‘core’ – glutes, hip flexors, muscles around pelvis during drive
  • PERFECT CATCH
  • ‘Pivot catch’ – blade takes catch with backwards and downward movement (means hands move up slightly and towards stern with ‘throwaway’ movement)
  • Light catch, ‘unweighting’ the blade, from close to the water
  • Instantaneous catch, on arrival, at full compression and furthest point of reach
  • Grip the water in swift catch-connect-drive sequence, right ‘out there’
  • PERFECT DRIVE
  • Horizontal sculling, perfect blade depth throughout drive
  • Smooth sequencing of legs, opening of body, and arms draw
  • Creating the hang/suspend and lightness on the seat
  • Draw up and sit up to maintain cover to finish
  • PERFECT FINISH
  • Holding ‘resistance’/cover to the finish – sit up tall, not ‘washing out’
  • Smooth release, skilful use of thumb, fingers, and wrist seeing how the blade wants to come out of the back of the puddle
  • Boat is ‘sent’ powerfully, but without any jerky movement. ‘less is more’
  • Clean finish without catching, or slapping the water
  • PERFECT RECOVERY
  • Relaxed, no tension, muscles can recover
  • Composed – sculling with rhythm, and ‘ratio’
  • Body set by half-slide so can ‘float’ into catch without any additional body movement
  • Moving ‘in sympathy’ with the boat, allowing the boat to run

No doubt there are many other aspects within each that could be included.

Parts or Whole?

And let’s recognise this is an approach of breaking down ‘the PARTS’. But in the words of sculling guru, Jimmy Joy, great sculling does not consist of “five parts welded together”

“ Each stroke must form a unity and all strokes must be blended fluently and harmoniously”

But he advocates the PARTS – WHOLE – PARTS approach to developing scullers because:-

It’s not possible to work on too many things at once. By focusing on one part of the stroke cycle it’s possible to make essential technical improvements in that part.

And then, to consolidate those improvements into the WHOLE stroke cycle, with a flowing. holistic movement and sensation.

In the ‘Comfort Zone’

Finally there is a degree of ‘comfort’ in having achieved a level of proficiency in the single. It’s good to feel less nervous, less apprehensive & vulnerable in a twitchy fine single scull.

But there is also the danger of getting ‘stuck’ at a certain level, content to ‘plodge’ up and down without actively working on those things that will take you to the next level. An example is not quite committing to a fully connected drive, or hanging back from the full compression position, sculling a little short. Some scullers never get past that point.

So a sculling camp with a series of intensive sessions, designed to push you a bit out of your comfort zone, and inviting you to challenge yourself to be a better single sculler than you thought possible.