Best Rowing Drills: Dartmouth Women's Head Coach Linda Muri Talks Technique

Linda Muri in the launch at Dartmouth (Photo courtesy of Linda Muri)

Longtime Crimson lightweight men's coach and newly appointed Dartmouth women's head coach Linda Muri knows how to move a boat effectively and efficiently. She combines an MIT-based knowledge and understanding of rowing mechanics with teaching savvy (Muri earned a Masters in Education at Harvard in 1997) as a coach—and did we mention that she's a three-time world champion (and nine-time U.S. national team) rower? Here, Muri shares three of her favorite multipurpose drills, useful on the water or on land.

1. Inside Arm Only

"Probably one of my favorite drills is inside arm only. I use it a lot for the catch," she explains. "They get a very nice catch because they can't muscle it in—they can't force the blade in. They can hear what it's supposed to sound like, and feel what it's supposed to feel like, and then they have to hold onto that as they go back to regular rowing."

But there's also a benefit as they initiate the drive. "The other thing I like about it is that it forces some control as they change direction. There's not much leverage—they have to hold the body well—so that contributes to getting them to hold their core right. They can't just jam the legs down because they're not going to be able to move the handle if they do that, so it's really three benefits from one drill." During the drill, Muri will either have the rowers rest their outside hands on their hips, or on the handle with the palm vertical (as though they just karate chopped the handle), which prevents the rowers from over-reaching at the front end.

You can watch the drill in action in the video below, with Mike Teti via USRowing.

2. Feet Out

"We definitely do some feet-out work, to emphasize staying connected at the finish," Muri says. "I like to have them thinking about staying connected all the way through, and maybe the heels come up just a little at the very end of the drive—obviously, you want to heels down as you begin the drive so that you're engaging the glutes and all the right muscles. But at the end, if the heels come up just a little that's ok, I want them to stay light on the feet—just resting the feet on the foot stretcher as they're on the recovery. I might take a wrench, and set it down on my launch, and say 'this is just sitting there—I'm not pushing it down into the boat.'

For a demonstration of feet-out rowing in action, check out Nick Trojan training with Carlos Dinares in the video below.

"I talk more about transferring the weight on the seat, so that the bodyweight is shifting from the back of the seat to the front of the seat on the recovery. And then just before the catch, the weight is going to transfer under the feet—under the toes. The way I have the rest of the stroke play out, I don't want them to have the weight come onto the feet right away right after the release," she outlines.

3. Static Catch Position

Lastly, Muri makes use of the erg to illustrate points of technique that transfer onto the water. It's a kind of rowing-specific planking exercise. "We warmed up a little on the erg. Their feet were out, and I had them set the handle down, and put their feet on the floor. Then I asked them to reach out like they were going to get the handle—so they leaned forward a little bit, and then I said 'just stand up one inch, so that your bottom is an inch above the seat.' They all had to hold their bodies—you could see a few of them moving immediately back into what I call a strong position, a strong posture, instead of sort of being slumped over. And then I made them sit there," she says with a chuckle.

"They need to be able to hold that position, so I try to emphasize that even when we're not on the water—getting used to that strong posture, that stable core, so that when they change direction on the water they're already in that position, and they don't lose all sorts of time and acceleration with the oar, which can happen if the body is in that kind of flopped over position."

Thanks very much to Linda Muri for sharing opening up the coaching treatise for our benefit! This is the third in our 'Best Rowing Drills' series (index here), following up on Kevin Sauer's favorite five, and Mike Teti's approach to technique. if you like the idea of more coaching articles and ideas from some of the masters of the craft, please let us know, and share the love—together, we can move the sport forward.


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