Connection, suspension and the bent arm

30 May 2021


So with Harry, I learned to understand the concept of suspension, and what that really meant, and, and to me that’s making your bodyweight be suspended between two points, and the two points are the handles and the balls of your feet. And that was it.

Feeling the connection with the water

And he got me to think about what can I actually feel in the balls of my feet. Could I actually feel the pressure on the balls of my feet, and could I feel the pressure in my hands.

And sometimes he would ask me to score it on a scale of 1 to 10. So I might be sculling along, then on a scale of 1 to 10, how much pressure do I feel in my fingers? As that blade is out there, what’s pulling into my handle? What can I actually feel there? And what do I feel against my feet? And to get that early on in the stroke would be the catch.

So the first bit of the stroke is to come out, be loose and relaxed, get the blade to lock against the water and feel the pressure start to build. And then as I applied the force with my feet, to actually then feel – and a scull is light, a scull weighs 14 kilos – to feel that all I’m doing here is connecting my hand and the blade to my foot and putting my bodyweight behind it, and then the boat just starts to go without me doing anything. It’s gonna start to move – it’s got to.

Feeling the suspension

Once it starts to go, then I use the strongest bit of my leg drive. So then I’m using the strong bit of my leg drive. Effectively, there’s no weight on the seat – which is why it’s called suspension, because I’m suspended between the handle and my foot – and virtually no weight on the seat at all. I’m suspended.

I’m then pressing with that leg, pressing it down, as I say, shunting the boat along. And then I can use this big strong back and use my back.

Harry’s philosophy on the bent-arm catch

All of this phase, I’ve been really loose through my arm. And I remember at one stage Harry actually letting me have a bent arm. And I remember thinking that was quite weird. But I know Iztok Cop used to scull with a slightly bent arm.

And what Harry’s philosophy on it was, was that there’s so little muscle in your arm anyway, it’s better to waste a bit of arm getting locked than to waste any leg.

So if I go with my arm early, and I use a little bit of arm to lock it, that’s okay, because then it still stays strong and it communicates and it, it transfers the work that comes through my legs down through this possibly slightly bent arm, but through the lat, then into my body, into my leg drive.

So I was… sometimes, he’d let me brace the arm a little bit, so that I could capture all of this, and then get a suspension, really hanging on there, and get it moving through, and then still have plenty of arm left, actually; even if it’s like that, there’s still plenty of arm to finish it off.

Getting connected on the RP3 (RowPerfect)

So this is strange being back on the, on the RowPerfect because Harry used to love this machine. And I think it’s quite good for demonstrating this idea about getting connected, getting connected early on.

And I talked about when I used to get in the single, Harry wanted me to start at the frontstops, not the backstops. A lot of people go off arms only. We always would go from the front. And it started from this machine.

And I think it’s about this idea of getting a connection early and using the small muscles to make the connection, to then use the legs, bringing the back and then bringing the arms.

So when I used to do that start, I remember Harry would spend a lot of time on this machine just practising this little pick up. And just to make sure that this stays loose, the lats stay loose, and get connected.

I actually make it… make connection here, slowly to start with, and then look for acceleration as the boat speed starts to come up. And you can do it on this machine.

So there’s very little going on at the front… you’re just getting that connection with the fingers and the balls of the feet… And nothing else is going on.

And I’d go out in the single and practise it. And it’s funny because you can do different things and you’d still feel the connection in the feet and hands. And then start to lengthen it out. And once you get the first part of the stroke, then start to take a bit more of the stroke… And when I start to bring the back in, that big drawbridge… next you start bringing the arms in…

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About the

Greg Searle

British rower Greg Searle was already an Olympic Champion in sweep rowing when he was first coached by Harry Mahon in the single scull.

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