Rowing technique

Fixed seat rowing is quite easy, but good technique makes it even easier, and more fun! Have a look at the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association’s guide to Fixed seat rowing technique and this highly recommended series of short videos.

The main elements of technique

Straight Back
  • Erect but not stiff
  • Swinging from the loins only at the hips and not from any point in the middle of his back as a secondary pivot
  • This eases the respiratory organs by opening the chest cage.
  • The time occupied coming forward should be the body’s rest
  • An erect head and open chest will enable the heart and lungs to work freely and easily.
  • Any tendency to rush the swing must be checked
  • As the body swings the hands should be stretching and reaching as if striving to touch something which is constantly evading them.
Use of the Arms
  • The arms must be straight when swinging back
  • They should be considered as merely connecting rods between the body and oar
  • The use of the biceps in rowing should be discouraged: finishing the stroke by the aid of the biceps causes the rower to dogear the elbow – sticking it out at right angles to the ribs, giving a weak as well as a cramped and ugly finish
  • It is important that the oar is pulled into the chest and not the chest up to the oar.
  • This latter will shorten the stroke prematurely, and spoil the rhythm of the swing.
Hanging at the Chest
  • The oar must not hang at the chest.
  • The hands must come away quickly, otherwise it will be necessary to rush forward in the swing to make up lost ground.
  • This spoils the swing and taxes the endurance of the rower
Head up, straight back

(Adapted from SCRA

This illustration from the 1937 edition of the Admiralty Manual of Seamanship gives as good an illustration on fixed seat rowing technique as any.


Please note that nowadays we usually row fully clothed.