Longitudinal study of rowing technique

Longitudinal study of rowing technique

So far this year, Danish single sculler Sverri Nielsen has been the most successful in the M1x: he has won two regattas out of three and took overall first place in the World Cup series. I’ve been working with Sverri since 2014 (that year, he came 5th in final C at the World Championships in Amsterdam), and it was very interesting to see how his progress in ranking at World regattas (Fig.1,a) and increasing boat speed (b) are related to changes in his rowing technique.


Maximal legs velocity increased about 33% during the last five years and its peak happens earlier after the catch (Fig.2,1). Interestingly, the negative legs speed before the catch was also increased and its peak happens later, closer to the catch (2), which leads to sharper seat acceleration at the catch, a sort of ’bouncing’ from the stretcher.


Now, the trunk velocity increases later than in the previous years (3), which means Sverri managed to improve the early ‘opening’ of the back, and now, he starts using the trunk exactly at the ‘transition point’ (RBN 2008/07, 2017/11).

The negative peak of the boat acceleration became deeper and sharper now (4), and its first positive peak became higher and now occurs earlier (5). This means the gradient of the boat acceleration at the catch became much steeper, which works as a ‘trampoline effect’ (RBN 2006/02) and helps to achieve more dynamic acceleration of the rower’s mass during the drive.

Both Sverri’s Catch and Rowing Style Factors were continuously improving over the last five years (Fig.3) and now, they are very close to the target values, which is a good confirmation of my theories and models. The difference between now and before is that at the catch, Sverri changes direction at the seat slightly earlier than at the handle, and after the catch uses more legs and “opens” the trunk later.


Of course, Sverri also became physically stronger over the last five years: now, he pulls about 16% more average force, which in combination with 7% longer stroke gave him 23% more rowing power, while his progress in erg power was only 3%. This is an evidence that efficient technique helps to produce more power in a boat.

Sverri’s rowing technique and results were dramatically improved since last year, when Thomas Poulsen came back to coaching the Danish teamю He was a coach of LM2x DEN Olympic champions at London-2012 and Olympic champion himself at Atlanta-1996. I have been working with Thomas since 2009 and this is what he said about our collaboration:

“For me, working with BioRow is a great help and inspiration to stay ahead of the technical development. It is of great value to be able to combine my practical knowledge and understanding with Dr. Valery Kleshnev scientific approach to rowing. 

We are very pleased with BioRow biomechanical reports, but the most important thing is the conversations and dialogue with Valery. The Danish rowers benefit greatly from being able to follow their technical development year by year and watching their progress translate into more speed in the boat.”


I am quite far from the exaggeration of my input into the achievements of Sverri and other successful rowers I’m working with. I only provide a bit of extra internal information about rowing biomechanics and give some advice on technique improvement, which seems to work in the right direction, but it only a small piece in the performance puzzle. I think the most important thing is the desire of rowers and coaches for that information. It is evidence that they try to do everything possible to achieve their goals, not only with biomechanics, but in all other areas, and this is a key point of their success. 

©2019 Dr. Valery Kleshnev www.biorow.com