Ever since you started canoeing you have been told that there are two sources of power in the stroke. There is the initial lift and pull you get from dropping your weight on the paddle at the catch and there is the force you apply to the paddle by counter-rotating your body after the stroke. All of that is true.
You also know that in order to get a good pull after the catch you have to have rotated forward with your hips, your back, and your shoulders. That is also true. What almost always get left out of the equation is that the way in which you achieve this rotation is extremely important. What I want to discuss today is the limiting effect that focusing on shoulder rotation has on your stroke.
The proper order of rotation during the recovery of the canoe stroke is hips, back, then shoulders. Too often people seem to think that if they throw their shoulders around first, that momentum will cause the back and hip to rotate as well. But what really happens is that by rotating the shoulders first you end up in a position that will not allow you to get good rotation from your hips and back – and usually leads to a very straight up and down type of stroke.
My advice is always this – Forget about shoulder rotation. It is just a natural consequence of a good stroke. If the rotation starts in the hips and you think about moving both arms forward at the same time then it is easy to get into a position where you have good hip and back rotation. The trick from here is that if you just keep your body falling forward and move your arms so that the paddle is vertical, all the while trying to go forward with both arms, you can’t help but rotate the shoulders.
By doing this you gain several inches of stroke on the catch and you have some shoulder rotation to use as pulling power. So remember, when it comes to rotation, concentrate on the hips and forget about the shoulders.
For all you dragon boaters out there the same principle applies. Move both arms forward during the recovery so that you are cross-checking the person in front of you. As you get close to the catch move the bottom arm under the top one so that the paddle is vertical and you will have excellent shoulder rotation.