technique drills

Hey All, I have a question about technique exercises and was hoping someone out there could help. We have a paddler at our club who is really fit and a great waterman, but is having an exceptionally hard time incorporating more twist into his stroke. He knows he is under-rotating and I’ve worked with him about reaching out more and twisting his shoulders during the catch when he is planting the blade, but five minutes later he reverts to his old form. He is frustrated and wants to improve, but does not know how. I’m all out of ideas, but was hoping that you all might have some additional drills I can try with him. Thanks so much!

Submitted by aukaiNYC on Fri, 08/05/2011 - 1:51am




What about a hang drill where you just set up your stroke, pause for a second or two, then enter the water.

Get him to relax a bit more, he's rushing to get his blade back into the water


#2 Fri, 08/05/2011 - 5:01am


Want more twist? Best way to learn is on a surf ski, where you learn the three (3) priciples of paddling: rotation, rotation and rotation. Trouble is most canoe paddlers don't use their legs or twist anymore. They are successful using a hinge style of stroke where they push down or collapse on the shaft. And if they do use there legs, they use both simultaneously. Twisting or rotating is no longer popular, except in a kayak. Just my observation.


#3 Fri, 08/05/2011 - 12:28pm


Aloha aukaiNYC,

One suggestion: if he slightly alters his position on the seat (4-5 degrees) to be sitting "angled" on the seat. This can provide a greater forward reach at the entry point of the stoke as well as greater support with the legs and upper part of the hip .

It will also prevent him from over-rotating at the end of the stroke. Pls tell him to pay attention to his balance on the canoe.

I hope that helps.


#4 Sat, 08/06/2011 - 5:38pm


I had some success with friends and family doing this :
You seat straight in front of your kitchen table, with a chocolate out of normal reach.
The game is to reach for it with one hand while keeping the butt down (obviously), and the other hand firmly pushing down to the table in front of your plexus.
The table edge and the sticked hand block any attempt to bend over.
This forces you to twist your shoulder line if you REALLY crave to eat the damn chocolate.

If you don't like chocolate, oh well, that's a pity but you could try with anything else I guess ;-)

Another very effective exercice is to reach forward for the other side of the boat until you actually touch the hull - e.g. paddling to the right you first reach to touch the left side of the hull with the right edge of the paddle (might be easier in an OC1), then glide the paddle on the deck keeping the position to the paddling side to complete the standard stroke.
Reaching for the opposite side helps a lot to feel the twist ! This one comes from race kayak paddling skills.


#5 Sun, 08/07/2011 - 11:36pm


Drills are good for teaching what correct technique should feel/look like. The problem is that even to do a drill correctly you need a coach giving constant feedback for it to be effective. As you have observed, usually athletes will revert right back to their original, automatic form after the drill is over. Video is helpful but even then the gap between "feeling" the activity and seeing the feedback reduces the effectiveness. The real trick is figuring out how to teach a paddler to pay attention to the feelings, sights, sounds that will enable him to get constant feedback while paddling on his own. For the paddler who isn't planting the catch forward: Watch the distance between the bottom elbow and the gunnel. Catch forward = elbow close to gunnel= good. Catch back/weak = elbow high, far from gunnel= bad. Another thing is to sit right over him in the canoe and physically guide his body through the motion you want, and tell him to pay attention to how the weight transfer feels from his seat over his leg and back again. It doesn't really matter what cues he is using, the point is to self-observe while doing it correctly using objective measures (elbow distance, weight transfer, sight lines, whatever) so that he can observe himself and get constant feedback on the water without the assistance of a coach.


#6 Mon, 08/08/2011 - 9:02pm


Thanks everybody! Great advice and some creative drills. Really appreciate it!


#7 Tue, 08/09/2011 - 6:05am


I use the analogy of an Archer sometimes pulling on his bow, when teaching Junior paddlers. The elbow of the top arm (left or right) needs to be pulled back behind shoulders ( generate twist), then unwind (release).
Anybody can paddle fast. Paddling strokes need to be broken right down and analysed at a slower rate. This also helps build cardiovascular strength.


#8 Fri, 08/12/2011 - 7:31pm


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