Top 20 Terms Coxswains Should Know: Cut the Cake

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

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

Cut the cake occurs on the recovery and targets the finish through bodies over part of the stroke.

What does it mean/refer to

“Cut the cake” is a drill that focuses on swing and body prep and emphasizes getting the hands out of bow at the same speed together in order to maximize the amount of run you’re getting on the recovery.

Related: Top 20 terms coxswains should know: Body angle

There are several versions of this drill but in the normal one you begin by taking a normal stroke and then on the subsequent recovery you pivot forward with the bodies, swing back to the finish (drawing the arms all the way through), and then swing forward again and come up to the catch. That swinging motion when the bodies pivot back and forth is the actual “cut the cake” part (although I really have no idea why it’s called that).

Relevant calls

The two main themes/calls that I base a lot of what I’m saying around are “pivot” and “stretch”. Pivot has to do with the swinging part of the drill, where you’re going from the finish position to bodies over, and I make calls relating to that because I want the rowers to be conscious of pivoting, swinging, etc. from their hips and not reaching or lunging from their low backs. The stretch call also relates to the bodies over position because when you’re sitting up and pivoting from your hips, you should feel just the slightest stretch in your hamstrings. (Obviously flexibility plays a big part in this … the less flexible you are the sooner you’ll feel that tug as you swing forward.)

Outside of those two calls, I’ll make calls as necessary to even out the speed of the drill if it looks like they’re rushing through the cut the cake part, as well as reminders to hold the knees down and/or break them together as they start the slides.

What to look for

You can see what the drill looks like in the videos below.

One of the things that makes cut the cake complicated and/or not fun is how easy it is to screw up the timing. It’s easy to think that this happens on the recovery when you’re swinging back and forth but it more often happens as a result of people driving at different speeds, which then causes them to finish at different times and then have to rush through the cut the cake part to catch up with everyone else. So, if you find that the timing is off, focus first on getting the finishes together before moving on to trying to match up the hands, bodies, etc.

Another thing to watch for is the speed at which the rowers move through cut the cake. It should be a natural speed that matches the speed at which they’re driving and recovering … it shouldn’t be a steady speed through the drive, fly through cut the cake, and then slowly proceed up to the catch.

Effect(s) on the boat

Cut the cake touches on a lot of different things like balance, swing, body prep, rhythm, etc. but the timing of the hands coming away at the finish is arguably one of the more important aspects of the drill. If you consciously go through the drill instead of just going through the motions then this can really help  the timing on the recovery by getting everyone moving together and at a steady speed, which in turn allows the boat to run out further between strokes (thus increasing the efficiency of each stroke).

Related posts/questions

I haven’t talked about this drill much on here so there aren’t any related posts or QOTDs to share but below is a video that shows a variation of cut the cake called “rusties” (it’s literally the same exact drill with a pause at the finish and bodies over instead of a continuous flow between the two) that we occasionally do as part of our warmup.

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

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