Top 20 Terms Coxswains Should Know: Over Compression

Previously: Rush(ing) || Body angle || Pick drill || Suspension || Skying the blade || Quarter feather || Pin || Run || Lunge || Washing Out || Missing water || Footboard || Check || Ratio

What part of the stroke/stroke cycle does it refer to

The catch.

What does it mean/refer to

The position your body is in at the catch – hips behind the shoulders, shins vertical, etc. –  is called “full compression”. Over-compression is when you go beyond this point and your knees end up over your toes (instead of in line with your ankles). Shorter rowers (and novices) have a tendency to over-compress at the catch as a way to get more reach.

Relevant calls

I don’t make a lot of calls for this on the water because I can’t see when it’s happening (unlike other things I can’t “see” where I can pretty closely guess what’s going on based on the bladework). Plus, over-compressing on the water is a more rare occurrence than over-compressing on the ergs so even when I’m coaching it’s not something I see that often (at this point though that might be more of a factor of who I’m coaching than anything else though).

When we’re on the ergs most of what I’ll say will be simple stuff like “too far…”, “stop a little shorter…”, etc. if I see them coming too far up the slide and then once they’re stopping closer to full-compression (rather than going past it) then I’ll have them pause at the catch and tell them to think about what this position feels like and if we’re beside any mirrors I’ll have them look over to see what their bodies look like, where their slide is in relation to their heels, the angles their shins are at, etc. If you have less-experienced rowers who haven’t fully figured out where full slide/compression is yet then utilizing mirrors/video while on the ergs during the winter is the best way for them to figure this out. (You can also use the tape trick to help with this – figure out where full slide is and then put tape on the slide so that the rower feels the slide hit it if they compress too far.)

Sometimes over-compressing can be a byproduct of not getting the bodies set soon enough so if I see that happening then I’ll address that first (read the post linked below for more on that) and usually the over-compressing (which has them sitting straight up, heels right up against their butt, and hips directly under the shoulders) corrects itself.

Related: Top 20 terms coxswains should know: Body angle

What to look for

This is what correct full compression looks like…

…and this is what over-compression looks like (note the positioning of her shins at the catch)…

In some cases on the water, usually at the beginning of the season or if the rowers are switching seats a lot, you might find that the footstretchers (if they’re set too far towards bow) need to be adjusted to prevent them from over-compressing. This shouldn’t be the first thing you jump to though to fix the issue unless it’s completely obvious that it’s the cause and not the rower’s technique.

Related: Top 20 terms coxswains should know: Footboard

Effect(s) on the boat

The effects of over-compressing obviously have an effect on the boat but they more drastically (and obviously) impact the individual’s stroke than they do the entire boat. The biggest impact is on their power output because it puts you in a weak position when you go to initiate the leg drive; instead of relying on the quads and glutes to help you generate power as you drive off the footboards, you’re now relying on the smaller muscles of your calves as you start the drive. If you’re trying to get more reach you might get an extra inch or two but in the end you’re sacrificing some of your power to do so.

Related posts/questions

Hi! So I recently started rowing not to long ago, as I just did two weeks of long skinny boat camp. But as I was rowing I kept getting told not to over compress at the catch. Also to relax my shoulders. I am short, only 4’11 and I talked to the coach about coxing(my sister is a captain) in high school and he wants me to row first. Do you have any tips I can take from the rowing? Also how not to over compress at the catch? Thanks! I love your blog!

The Stroke Sequence 101: The Catch

To see all the posts in this series, check out the “top 20 terms” tag.

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5 thoughts on “Top 20 Terms Coxswains Should Know: Over Compression

  1. Anna Jordan says:

    When one is properly compressed, will some rowers be on the balls of their feet? I know that happens with me but I’ve checked to make sure my knees, shins, and ankles are properly in line and they are. Or…is the only good start to a drive one where the sole of the foot is flat on the stretcher?

Thoughts?

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