Have you ever watched the Romanian Women’s 8 in full flight? Here they are in the 2008 Olympic Final.
Take a look especially at 1:04 and at 4:54
When they were at their best, watching them rowing was something to behold. It was truly unique – and deadly effective. Their results speak for themselves.
But their rowing style and technique really defined them.
At its most simple – they moved their hands very fast away from the finish of the stroke and followed with a really fast body swing forward. Then the slide was taken very – very slowly (in proportion to the hands and body movement). They crept up the slide as slowly and delicately as possible. (You can relly see this at 4:54)
Look at the overhead shot at 1:05 in the video. Watch out for the speed of the blades on the recovery of all 6 crews. Notice how quick the Romanian blades move off the finish and then slow dramatically in the slide forward.
- There is a notably big difference in comparison to the other crews’ bladework.
- See how they explode with an amazing leg drive off the catch and open up the body angle late in the drive phase?
And you know what?
They did the same thing – whether they were at 36 strokes per minute in the middle 1000 meters of the Olympic Final, or out for an easy training session during a World Cup Regatta.
Watching them train was great and was a real chance to see how they rowed their boat. The contrast between the hands & body speed and the slide speed during the recovery was almost unbelievable.
It was almost like they were doing a stop drill exercise -where you stop at various points during the recovery to help with timing, balance, co-ordination and all round general technique.**
Anyway – the point about the Romanian Women’s 8 is that they had a particular way of rowing their boat. And it wasn’t just confined to the 8. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the bow and stroke of the 8 teamed up to row the pair.
Which they won gold to match their Gold in the 8.
Rowing exactly the same style.
Oarsome Foursome – Completely Different Style (Still Effective)
Do you remember the Oarsome Foursome? If not – here’s a really great video of them training in 1996
See how they are much slower with the hands away?
But see how fluid they are after that initial ‘set’ point.
Look at how they just roll up into the front and into the water with the blades – in one fluid seamless movement.
I’m sure you’ve heard before that the catch is the ‘last thing you do on the recovery phase’? (or something similar). This rowing is a perfect example of that movement.
Important Features of Both Styles
Hands: Really Fast away from the finish.
Body: Follows the speed of the hands (quick)
Slide: First quarter on the recovery is quick. But then it slows dramatically.
Catch: After the very slow slide the blade drops in quick and the change of direction with the slide (and the engagement of the legs is dramatic.
Leg Drive: Go down hard and the body remains forward. The whole of the drive phase is very horizontal. See how low and level they move their bodies towards the bow? It looks like their whole style is based on not disturbing the boat run (in both the recovery AND the drive phase).
Back swing: Very dynamic through to the finish (which helps a fast spin of the hands away on the recovery)
Hands: Deliberate and controlled way from the finish. The guys sit very still at the finish with toes pointed, knees flat, core braced and the only things that move are the hands. See how they all meet at a point together?
Body: Controlled – and a noticeably separate movement from the hands. Very different from the Romanians where the hands and body move almost together.
Slide: Very fluid, direct and deliberate. Notice how well they match the slide speed with the speed of the boat.
Catch: Part of the recovery.
Leg Drive: Simple effective movement: Press (or push)
Back swing: Compared to the Romanians the back swing in the Australian Boat is much more ‘even’. Sure they open up hard together towards the finish, but they don’t over rely on the legs-back separation in the drive phase.
The use both together.
But notice how dynamic the finish of the drive is: The back and arms move faster as the momentum, power and boat speed increase towards the finish.
It shows excellent timing with the movement of the boat.
So Which is best?
It’s up to you. I been directly involved with crews rowing both styles at a serious level for a long time. We spent 2 whole seasons trying to row the Australian style and spend 5- 6 seasons rowing more like the Romanians (but not as extreme).
The crews I was involved in went fast with either style – Top 7 in the world fast.
What you can try…(and why)
Option # 1
If you are inflexible the Australian style may suit you better because the fluid movement in the recovery will give you momentum for a good
- Stroke length
Aim to purposively build the boat speed towards the finish.
Release the blade and feel your boat run. Make sure you brace and sit still on the finish and don’t disturb your boat.
The Australian style could also work well for you if you have a problem with the length of your stroke (you row too short)
Be very careful though. The oarsome foursome match the slide speed forward with a quick catch and connection. So for you to do it right, you need to match this.
Rowing the Romanian Style is a little more challenging in my experience. It’s a bit like walking a tight rope. Once you are moving and are in the groove then you are ok, if you stop moving or break the rhythm they you could be in trouble.
It also requires good control and flexibility – especially with your hips, hamstrings and lower leg joints and muscles.
Creeping up the slide is the balancing on the tight rope part – but the dynamic drive and lightening quick hands – body – first quarter slide creates a nice rhythmic momentum that will carry you a long way up the slide towards the catch.
It’s kind of like sting and float – with a high work to rest ratio.
It works on the erg too
You can try either of theses techniques on the erg. Study both videos and decide which style you think will work best for you.
** Actually this is one of the best rowing drills you can do to get your boat going well. Whether you are in a crew of 8 or in a single scull or are on the erg – it truly is a worthwhile drill.
P.S. Drew Ginn is the bow man in the Australian 4. He runs a great blog and site called rudderfish – which gives us all a really unique insight into the world of a multiple Olympic Rowing Champion.