Online Water Drill Reference
This is by no means a definitive list of drills. These are some of the more
common drills that are used. The commands for calling these drills are in
bold. As a general rule, most drills should be done on the square.
However when all eight are doing them in the boat, the feather may be necessary.
After the drill has been done for the desired time, tell the rowers to "row
it out". The rowers will resume the normal rowing stroke.
The Pick Drill
This drill breaks down the parts of the rowing stroke. This is usually done
by fours or by six, however an adventurous coxswain can do with an experienced
crew can this by all eight. Each segment should be performed for about 20
strokes or so before moving on. This drill is done on the square. Rowers start
"at the finish, blades squared and buried. Rowing arms only, and
row."This teaches even hand heights for the balance as well as timing at the
catch. Then add the bodies over, where the hands are almost to the ankles, but
the knees have not started to bend yet. "add bodies over in two, one,
two". At this point, the slide is brought in, in various steps: "quarter
slide", "half slide", "three-quarter slide", then "full
slide". If time is a factor, go to "half slide" and then "full
The Pause Drill
This drill can be used to correct a variety of problems. You can have a pause
at the finish, hands away, bodies over, half slide, three quarters slide, at the
catch, or anywhere in between (e.g. 7/8'ths slide). Pausing at hands away is an
effective way to get the hand heights matched for balance. "Pause at hands
away every stroke, on this one". You will then say "row" to indicate
when to take a stroke. Pauses can be every stroke, every other stroke, every
five strokes, every ten, etc... Just make sure you tell the rowers, for example:
"Pause hands away every ten strokes, on this one." It is hard for the rowers to
keep track of the strokes and work on technique, so be sure to tell them when to
pause, "Pause on this one". Again, like the two-stop drill, the object of
this drill is to have everybody arrive at the pause together. When pausing near
the catch, you should be able to see a split in the boat, everybody should be
leaning into their rigger. Pausing at the finish, all of the bodies should be
over the keel (centerline).
The Two-Stop Drill
This drill adds on to the pause drill. This drill emphasizes control up to
the catch (to correct timing), corrects body position at the finish, and
emphasizes the swinging over up to half slide. Do this on the feather for all
eight, on the square if any pairs are taken out. The drill starts with a pause
at the finish with hands away. "Pause at the finish, hands away, on this one.
Two stop drill." Explain to the rowers where the two "stops" are before you
start. The usual is hands away and then half slide, however it can be shifted to
arms and bodies over, and 3/4 slide. "Hike" at this command, the rowers
should come up to the next "stop" which is half slide, watching the rower in
stroke for the speed up the slide. This is good to work on getting one speed up
the slide for balance. The rowers should arrive at the "stop" together, you can
tell from the blades who gets there early or late. "Row" at this command,
the rowers should come up to the catch, drop the blade in, execute the drive,
pausing at the first "stop" (at the finish, arms away).
The Progressive Pause Drill
This drill is the ultimate in correcting problems with the set. This is
essentially the same as the pause drill, except that the location of the pause
changes each stroke. The sequence starts at the finish. "Progressive pause
drill, pause at the finish, on this one". Then when you call "row",
the rowers come up to the catch, take a stroke, and then pause at the next pause
in the cycle. The pauses are at: the finish, arms away, bodies over, 1/4 slide,
1/2 slide, 3/4 slide. Don't pause at the catch on this drill. At the last step,
pausing at 3/4 slide, the rowers come up to the catch, take the drive, and then
pause at the finish and repeat the cycle. Because the pause keeps on shifing,
it's easy for the rowers to forget what part of the stroke they're supposed to
pause at. Tell them at the catch, "Row..., at the finish, on this one.
Row..., at arms and bodies over, on this one." You get the idea.
The Exaggerated Slide Drill
This drill is good for getting rid of check in the boat. With the call,
"Exaggerated slides, on this one" the rowers get their hands away and
bodies over at the same speed, but creep up the slide. The rating should be at
least below 10spm, if not lower. All of the blades should be moving the entire
time up the slide, the stroke is continuous, no pausing. If you see somebody
pausing, get them to slow down even more the next stroke. The rowers should be
constantly moving, and arrive at the catch together. When rowing it out, a
rating of a 16 will seem fast to the rowers, they should still maintain the
feeling of creeping up the slide.
The Three-and-One Drill
This drill emphasizes quickness at the catch with the legs, as well as not
opening up the body as the first motion in the rowing stroke. To start off with
a "pause at three-quarter slide" will set the rowers up for the drill.
"Three-and-one drill, ready, row." The rowers come up to the catch and
take the first 1/4 of the leg drive, popping the blades out at 3/4 slide. They
do this three times, and then a full rowing stroke, repeat. Count out the
strokes so they know when to do the rowing stroke:
"One.....Two.....Three.....Row." Be sure that the strokes are quick and
short. At most the blades should move a foot in the water.
Rowing Legs, Legs and Arms only
This is an extension of the three-and-one drill. This drill mainly teaches
body position, as well as utilizing the leg drive. This is good for rowers that
like to shoot their back open first. "Rowing legs only, on this one", the
rowers row with just the legs. The rowers should keep their body positioned
forward for the entire stroke. The next step "Legs and arms only, on this
one" the rowers pull in with their arms, but still keep their bodies
The Icing the Cake Drill
This drill really works on the hand heights, as well as the swing over.
"Icing the cake, arms away, on this one". The rowers finish off the next
stroke, get their hands away, with the blades out of the water, they bring their
arms back into the finish. Then they put their arms away and come up the
recovery as normal. The hand heights become very important during the "icing"
part of the drill. If they are uneven, the boat will crash down to either side
during this time. The next step is to do this drill with arms and bodies over,
"Icing the cake, arms and bodies over, on this one".
The Little Rascals Drill
This drill works on the timing, and emphasizes the difference between the
feathering (inside) hand and the pushing (outside) hand. It also stresses the
light touch the rower should have on the oar handle. Not to mention, the rowers
tend to have a lot of fun doing this one! "Little rascals, one revolution, on
this one". During the recovery of the stroke, the rowers use their inside
hand to rotate the blade one full turn, (360 degrees around), so it is twirling
around over the surface of the water. One or two revolutions may be performed,
depending upon the skill of the rowers (I've seen three!). The rowers should
only be using their inside hand to twirl, and the outside hand to push the blade
back and forth. The grip on the blade with the outside hand should be loose
enough to allow the blade to turn freely with the inside hand. It's not
recommended to do this all eight from the start, the rowers may crab out.
The Catch Drill
During the catch drill, the rowers should be instructed to catch on your
command, anytime during the recovery. "Catch drill, catch at my command, on
this one". This works on quickness at the catch (quick heels down, quick
legs down) and on the anticipation of the catch. At any time during the recover,
call, "catch" and the rowers should drop the blades in and perform the
drive, whether they are at quarter slide, arms away, etc... It is good to mix up
the positions, some at the end, some at the beginning of the stroke. This way
the rowers will learn to be quick.
The Dead Mosquito Drill
The dead mosquito drill can be used to correct balance, to check hand height,
and to correct timing. Have either a four or pair "gunwale" (pronounced
"gunnel") their blades (have them push down on their handles so the handle is
resting on the sides of the boat, the gunwales, so it is resting across their
body) while the remaining four (or six) rowers continue to row on the square.
"Dead mosquito drill, bow four gunwale your blades, stern four on the square,
on this one".
Different pressures at catch and finish
This drill can be used to emphasize the finish, the "send" at the finish, and
to work on a quick catch. You can have half pressure at the catch, full pressure
at the finish, so the rowers can get a quick catch because there isn't any
pressure on it, and they can really feel the difference during the drive. They
should be able to feel the boat/oar handle accelerate through the length of the
stroke. If you want to do this for a ten "ten half to full, on this one".
This really gets the rowers to feel how the boat should be moving during the
full pressure drive. To work on an aggressive first half of the drive, use full
pressure at the catch and half pressure at the finish. This way the rowers can
hear and feel the quick and hard initial part of the drive, and feel the slow
and heavy drive so they can feel a difference when the drive is at full
The Layback Drill
The layback drill obviously works on the layback. While rowing, the rowers
layback as far as humanly possible on each stroke, until they are almost
parellel with the boat and their back is almost touching the tracks behind them.
Also works those abs! "Layback drill on this one".
The Catch and a Half Drill
This drill is not done that frequently. It's done mostly as a reminder of
where the catch should be. "Catch-and-a-half, on this one". The rowers compress
up to the catch as far as humanly possible and get their outside hands over the
gunwales. This position where they are catching in this drill is actually the
correct position for the catch. Where they were rowing up until now was probably
about 7/8'ths slide. This is done occasionally as a reminder of where the catch
The Heel Kickers Drill
This drill works on the quickness of getting the power on at the beginning of
the stroke. While rowing at full slide with or without the feather, the rowers
exagerate the heels down at the start of the drive, really empasizing an
aggressive beginning of the drive. "Heel kickers, on this one".
Rowing on the Square
Rowing on the square can be done at any time during any drill, with all
eight, or only with fours and sixes. It is extrememly effective to work on the
hand heights. It also teaches the rowers to relax on the recovery, if they're
rigid, the boat will crash back and forth repeatedly.
Dead water Drills
These drills can be done to keep the crew moving and warm, while the boat is
stationary. While you're waiting for a coach to arrive or when waiting in the
warm up area in a race.
Another drill is one that works on the hand heights during the recovery as
well as at the finish, and the position at the finish (the layback). Have
everybody sit at the finish with the blades squared and buried. "Sit ready at
the finish, blades squared and buried". Look at the position of everyone's
blades. Are they all buried? Make sure just the blade is in the water, none of
the shaft. When all the blades are in and the boat is set, have everybody tap
down, take the recovery, and drop it back in at the catch, with no drive.
"Ready, row". Everybody should be tapping down together the same amount
so the boat stays balanced on the recovery, and watch that everyone is reaching
the catch at the same time. After they are at the catch, have everybody turn
their blades and come back to the finish, squared and buried to start again.
Locating Sweet Spots
This drill is done in dead water to find the "sweet spots" at the catch and
finish. These "sweet spots" are the ideal hand levels at either position.
"Sit at the catch, squared and buried", "Sit at the finish, squared
and buried". Make sure the boat is set, tell the rowers this is where their
hands should be at these positions in the stroke. This is a good thing to do
with a new lineup or rowing in a different boat, so the oarsmen get calibrated
to the rigging.
The Check Finish Drill
This drill is finding the sweet spot at the finish, while rowing. The rowers
take a stroke, and then tap down partially, keeping the blade in the water. They
feather up partially, while dragging their blades on the water. The rowers
should not be tapping down and then bringing their hands back up to check it
down. The blade should not leave the water at the finish. This emphasizes a high
finish (up into the bottom of the rib cage) as well as keeping the blade to the
end of the finish. This drill is done all 8, it must be done at less than 1/4
pressure!!! Any more and the rowers may be ejected from the boat! Keep the
V Out Drill
This drill is for making a crew get longer reach.. You start out with everyone
sitting with oars flat on the water and the boat on Keel. Start with the
stern pair and make them reach at the catch until you can see the 6 seat
between the V that is formed when they split out, once they are spliting
out for 10 to 15 strokes add in the 6 and 5 pair and push them out to you
see the 4 seat. and keep repeating this until all 8 are V out over the
side and you can see right down the boat.