Effects of Intensive Crew Training on Individual and Collective Characteristics of Oar Movement in Rowing as a Coxless Pair

  • Feigean Mathieu
  • R’kiouak Mehdi
  • Bootsma Reinoud J.
  • Bourbousson Jérôme

  • Joint action
  • Rowing
  • Synchrony
  • Crew behavior
  • Individual pattern


This case study examined how two rowers adapted their rowing patterns following crew training as a newly formed coxless pair. The two participants were expert (double-oar) single scull-boat rowers. Performing as a crew in the coxless-pair's sweep-boat, where each rower operates a single oar, on-the-water data were collected before and after a 6-week intensive team-training program. Rowing patterns were characterized by the horizontal oar angle, oar angular velocity and linear oar-water velocity profiles during the catch (minimal oar angle) to finish (maximal oar angle) half-cycles of the propulsive water phase. After crew training, rowers demonstrated a tighter synchronization and a closer correspondence in oar angle at the moment of catch, together with a closer matching of the evolution over time of their subsequent oar movements. Most likely due to the inherent asymmetries involved in sweep-boat rowing, the stroke rower also developed a somewhat longer-duration larger-amplitude oar movement than the bow rower. Remarkably, both rowers revealed changes in the inter-cycle variability of their individual patterns of rowing. While the initially more variable stroke rower improved the consistency of his rowing pattern over practice, the initially highly consistent bow rower on the contrary relaxed his tendency to always perform in the same way. We discuss how the crew performance changed over training and to what extent it was associated with changes in individual behaviors. Along the way we demonstrate that the often-used measure of average continuous relative phase does not adequately capture the particularities of the coordination pattern observed. Overall, the results obtained at the individual level of analysis suggest that team benefits were obtained through distinct adaptations of the rowers' individual rowing patterns.