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Measuring rowing technique

Does real time feedback on water help or not?

This post contains some thoughts on how immediate feedback on rowing technique can help a rower improve. But before going into that we've got a new video.

The Quiske crew made a trip to America and measured the junior women's four crew with our rowing performance system. We measured both the oars as well as the seat of each of the rowers during two rowing pieces:

This JW4- crew then went on to row Bronze medal at the World Rowing Junior Championships last month in Lithuania. Congratulations to the crew on awesome rowing!

The Quiske rowing performance system is still quite new and for us it was great to get data from this talented crew. We think the biggest benefit of our system is precisely for people rowing in crew and their coaches. The data from each individual rower can be uploaded to our cloud and overlaid and compared with all the rowers within the crew, to help the coach spot differences in rowing technique so that they can correct them. We will publish a tutorial on how a coach can use our cloud analytics later this week but in the mean time below some thoughts on how an individual rower can benefit from our App and analytics...

Real time feedback

When an athlete wants to improve their performance repetition is key, and immediate feedback helps.

Feedback off water is not as useful because the rower has already forgotten what they were doing...

The feedback needs to be immediate, there mustn't be too much of it and it needs to be easy to understand so that the rower can benefit from it and improve their technique.

With this in mind we've worked on the Quiske Rowing App and the user can choose to have just 4 or up to 8 real time numbers on display. The rower can focus on boat performance metrics or look at their oar or seat performance. Let's start with the most basic oar measurement: the stroke angle:

How can you make sure you reach the right stroke length every stroke?

You need to focus on getting the right length, not too much nor too little. This is especially important when rowing crew. Full body angle by half slide and compacting up to shins vertical at catch. When rowing hard and focusing on power the strokes can become too short. I find that seeing the stroke angle in real time helps focus on lengthening out to reach the right catch position. Below an example from my own sculling showing the blade flight path of my oar including the total stroke angle (97 degrees in this case).

Stroke angles in real time, every stroke (here = 97deg)

Do you keep your blade buried until the end of the drive?

At the finish it is important to keep the blade squared and partly buried all the way t the end of the drive. Only after that should you quickly tap down and feather. If you feather and pull down early you wash out and fail to accelerate the boat to the end of the drive...this is visible in our blade flight path as a narrowing of the curve at the finish. Below a blade flight path showing wash out. The catch is at the left, the oar is driving during the bottom part of the path and finish is at the right. Recovery happens on the upper part of the graph from right to left. At catch at the right the drive and recovery paths even cross over showing that the blade was removed from water too early.

Washing out at the finish. The oar doesn'r remain buried in water until the end of the stroke

Rowing technique is not only about oar motion though. Most of the power comes from the legs and legwork is something we can measure too:

Do you push hard and fast with your legs every single time?

I don't. When I get tired my legs go soft and my push off the stretcher loses its sharpness. What helps though is when I see the speed of my leg push in front of me as a number. It helps focus on legs.


Legs legs legs.


The real time feedback on leg work helps especially during very long rowing sessions, 10km an over. Here is an example of what our seat speed measurement looks like, we give the max seat speed during the drive as a number but also show the full speed graph of the seat both during drive, backstops and during recovery:

Getting real time feedback on your rowing performance helps see if you're developing in the right direction as a rower. Also the measured data can easily be compared with other rowers which hopefully motivates improving as a rower! What do you think?