Drive Length

Aug 03, 2017

The Concept2 ErgData app provides a number of additional data options for your workouts, including Drive Length. Why is drive length important, and how can this information be used in your training?

First, it’s important to understand that there is no perfect drive length. While a long drive length means you can move the flywheel farther per stroke, it also means that it can be harder to take more strokes per minute (spm). Optimal drive length varies from one person to another depending on such factors as height, leg length, and flexibility.

It’s also important to be sure you are rowing with good technique before you start to work with drive length. Check our Technique Video and Common Errors. Once your technique is dialed in, start monitoring your drive length. Don’t watch it every stroke—look at other things and come back to it periodically and start to get a sense of your natural drive length measurement. Make a note in your log, or your memory, for future reference.

Starting with your next workout, after warming up and checking your technique, see how your drive length compares to a previous workout.

  • A shorter stroke may indicate that you aren’t yet fully warmed up or that you’re still recovering from a previous workout. It could also mean that your technique has changed. In particular, make sure your catch position is good, with arms outstretched and back leaning slightly forward from the hips. It’s fine if your heels come off the foot stretcher in this position.
  • A longer than normal stroke may indicate that you’re overreaching at the catch, leaning too far back at the finish, or, simply, that you’ve improved your flexibility. Use a mirror or video yourself to see what has changed.

Here are some technique tips to help you find your best drive length.

The Catch

Preparation for a good catch position begins at the end of the prior stroke. Extend your arms, and let your back follow your arms into a comfortable amount of forward body lean—the 1 o’clock position—before bending your legs to slide up the monorail. The angle at the catch should be set before the knees bend. The 1 o’clock position is created by hinging at the hips, not by rounding the back and shoulders. Reaching more towards the Performance Monitor for extra inches after you have already rolled down the monorail wastes precious time where the legs could be pushing instead. (See our Technique Video, starting at 2:25, and drills starting at 3:54).

The Finish

Similarly, the athlete’s angle at the finish should be strong and supported by core muscles. Extra layback beyond the 11 o’clock position is generally not efficient and can cause injury. Our Technique Video (minute 3:30) shows Excessive Layback. It is more efficient to use this time to move the hands quickly around the finish to prepare for the next stroke where you can move the flywheel again.

Team Dynamics

If you are an on-water athlete or coach, you may find drive length to be a useful tool in working with a team boat. Do all crew members row with a similar drive length? This will make it easier to get the crew working together well on the water. If there are athletes who produce good power but can’t achieve the same length, then it may be necessary to adjust the rig of the boat to accommodate differences.

We encourage you to experiment with the Drive Length data and see how it is most helpful to you. The goal is to find and maintain a drive length that optimizes your power and flexibility and gives you the best workout.

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