Rowing technique: a manual for rowers and coaches
Andy Holmes double World and Olympic gold medallist
This is a practical manual for rowers and coaches. Whatever your level or experience, it will help you sort out your own technique, and show you how to teach beginners or improve the crews you coach.
We’ve tried to keep the language straightforward. You probably know most of the jargon, but for beginners there’s a glossary at the end.
The drawings are from action photos. But we all move differently, and have different body shapes. So it’s not so much how it looks that counts. What matters is how it feels, and how you work your blade to move the boat.
The manual concentrates on sweep oar rowing. But a scull is just a small oar, so sculling and rowing technique have a lot in common. There’s a section on the differences.
Sport science is constantly improving the way we train, prevent injury, eat, prepare psychologically, and so on. But good technique comes first. If you get it right, you’ll enjoy your rowing, and all the hard work will pay off.
Each generation we think we’re doing it right for the first time, but we often make the same mistakes. There’s a section on some of our dafter fads. And we end with a short look at some of the old masters of technique, because we can still learn from them.
There’s only one way to row well, and that’s what this manual is about.
Andy and I began work on 'Rowing technique' in the 1990s. We wanted to explain how to row well in a short and simple guide. Since we published the first edition in 2000, the manual has become an industry standard, used by everyone from beginners to top international coaches, in the UK and rowing nations worldwide.
I rowed at Latymer and Queens’ College Cambridge. Then I coached at Radley, St Paul’s and Eton, as well as working with college and club crews for many years. I have researched widely in the history of rowing technique.
My brother, Andy, also began rowing at Latymer, coached and inspired by Olympic silver medallist Jim Clark (Montreal, 1976). Following success at Leander and Kingston, he joined the GB national squad led by Penny Chuter.
In the four nicknamed ‘the unlikely lads’, coached by Mike Spracklen, Andy won gold at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, along with Martin Cross, Richard Budgett, Steve Redgrave and Adrian Ellison. The crew also broke the coxed four world record.
He went on to pair with Steve Redgrave, winning at the World Championships in 1986 and 1987, and at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. They also broke the world records for coxed and coxless pairs.
Andy worked with the French national squad, and he coached junior and club crews.
He died, after a short illness, on 24 October 2010, aged 51. He was a much-loved husband, father, brother and friend.
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