What part of the stroke/stroke cycle does it refer to
Lunging can occur at any point after bodies over but the point in the stroke where it’s the most prevalent is at the catch.
What does it mean/refer to
Lunging is another way of saying over-reaching, diving, or falling into the catch. When you go to the bodies over position, ideally you should be pivoting from your hips. Your range of motion is limited by your hamstring, knee, and hip flexibility so some people are able to pivot more than others but for those who aren’t super flexible, they try to compensate for that by bending forwards from their low backs to get their bodies over and attain some amount of reach. For those who are able to pivot forward without issue, they tend to think that more is better so they fall forward at the last second to get a few extra inches of reach when in reality they’re just derailing the boat speed.
One of the most consistent things I say to the crew in this situation is to remind them to set the bodies early and that all their body prep should be completed before the wheels start rolling. Any additional reach after that is lunging and it’s not only ineffective but it’s also detrimental to the speed of the boat. Noting the fact that they’re actively slowing the boat down rather than maintaining or building speed usually gets their attention if nothing else does.
I try to avoid saying “you’re lunging” or “let’s make sure we’re not overextending ourselves at the catch” too much because I think that draws attention to the problem (which could end up exacerbating it) rather than directing them to a solution, which is what those reminder calls attempt to accomplish. Sometimes it’s necessary to say those things (i.e. if it’s a consistent problem that isn’t being fixed) but I usually try to save this as a last resort. It’s also really easy to just say “you’re lunging” and think that’s going to fix the problem (and with more experienced crews that might be all you need to say…) but you still need to know what’s causing them to lunge in the first place so you can communicate the adjustments you want them to make. When I hear coxswains make simple calls like that over and over again and the problem still persists then I know that you have no idea what causes lunging or what you need to say to have the rowers make the necessary adjustments.
Pausing at 3/4 slide is a good drill to work on this because it limits the amount of momentum going into the catch and forces you to just drift up and quickly place the blade in the water. If you recognize that lunging is an issue with your crew and your coach says to do some pause drills during your warmup or to throw in a pause during a piece, 3/4 slide pauses can help you kill two birds with one stone.
What to look for
I look for three things all happening at the same time, or at the very least on a consistent basis within a couple strokes of each other. They are: skying the blade at the catch, an increase in the speed of their blade moving back towards bow when the rowers are moving through the top quarter of their slides, and the feeling of check in the boat. Individually those three things are separate issues with their own causes and effects but when they’re happening in rapid succession it usually means someone (or several someones) is lunging.
Effect(s) on the boat
The biggest effect that lunging has on the boat is in the amount of check it causes. Because you’re throwing your upper bodies forward and downwards so suddenly (and drastically), you’re generating a lot of momentum that is hard to counteract. Not only does this slow the boat down and create a lot of check but it also results in slower catches (mostly because you end up skying as a result of your shoulders and hands falling down towards your feet). It can also really screw up your back, not just because you’re swinging forward improperly but also because it can also cause you to shoot your tail on the resulting drive.
To see all the posts in this series, check out the “top 20 terms” tag.