Over rotation?

This is me thinking out loud and asking for some opinions.

Recently there has been a lot of emphasis on torso rotation when paddling. I agree whole heartedly that this is required for proper technique, but wonder if some are over rotating…

I asked my best friend who was an Olympic coach, and he agreed with me on this, and actually pointed out videos of Barton, Chalupski etc., as examples of superb technique, with no over-rotation. He confirmed what I was observing with some paddlers…the stroke is too long due to extreme, and wasteful rotation. Thus cadence was too slow, paddle in the water too long.

So, I understand the different strokes of a conventional blade Vs wing, but it makes sense to me from a bio-mechanical standpoint that too much rotation can actually limit a paddler. It’s that powerful pulse combined with fast cadence that works for me.

Also guessing that most don’t rotate enough, so my observation is the rarity. But I watch people paddle and observe this almost silly extreme rotaion. I don’t see that with the champs. I’m fortunate to have friends who’ve helped me over the years, and I’m by no means a stroke expert.

Interested in thoughts on this. What is the right balance for you?

Never seen it.
There may be inefficient rotation where the motion is not effectively contributing to propulsion (anything can be done poorly). I wouldn’t call it over rotating.

Maybe this is just semantics. While I get your premise here - I would like to see just one video or in person example of this “Over rotation”. Many who think they are rotating show almost no visible sign of it. Hard to imagine the opposite being much of a problem.

Personally I feel that my strongest rotation is probably only 1/2 what it could be. As many here are saying - I am not racing/training seriously, nor am I in a skinny race boat or using a wing paddle most of the time. I adapt to power the stroke as needed.

That last paragraph is just the politically correct way of saying I’m sloppy/lazy/average and do not commit to working on the best possible technique most of the time. I don’t have great technique - but at least I know it. There’s always room for improvement.

Some here seem set in their ways to the point of being hell bent on trying to prove that their technique is better rather than bettering their technique! Interesting choice of how to use one’s available energies… L


How are you defining over-rotation? Like Greyak I’m hard pressed to see many people using enough never mind too much totso rotation. Is it possible your talking about shoulder (joint) rotation?



Other thread
hit on what I’m saying particularly g2d’s comments. Not trying to fight here, just genuinely interested to hear if others have similar reactions. Always trying to paddle better, and never will say I know best. How much rotation is required to maximize the power pulse of a stroke? Faster more powerful pulses seem to be what racers do, focusing on the catch and immediate power. By the time the hand is near the hips the paddle is out, or nearly out. It’s watching the videos that makes me wonder about this! Take care

That g2d, he doesn’t know what he is
talking about. You should pass through your full range of torso rotation on each stroke. Notice how conservation of angular momentum is converted efficiently into forward progress.

You really can’t rotate too much…
So said Greg Barton at his forward stroke class in RI this weekend. In fact, he said even he is always looking for ways to increase and improve his rotation!


don’t see much over-rotation
Most people don’t rotate enough and don’t rotate from the hips. I see shoulders going back and forth and maybe a little trunk twist but not solid full torsoe rotation originating at the hips.

I do see people doing too much work at the back of the stroke which basically ends up killing the boat’s glide. Yes the paddle should be coming out as the hand reaches the hip but you continue rotating out even as the blade exits and you set up for the other side. This is my biggest problem along with punching the top hand out too quickly and losing the verticle blade prematurely. Both are bad habits that destroy glide.

Blade in water too long
I’ve noticed with some paddlers that their forward arm crosses way over the center line,(that in itself not necessarily bad) whilst their back hand is behind their hip, and chest is twisted such that nipples point nearly perpendicular to the boat. The paddle blade is way aft! The result is NOT the powerfull wind-up and release, fast cadence we see with a guy like Barton, but a drawn out exagerated, slower stroke. I just question that. I watch a local surf skier often and observe this technique which does not look like Barton etc. No doubt many factors here, and I think it may have more to do with the paddle being in the water too long. My friend (ex-coach) has taught me to reach forward and sting the stroke so to speak with powerful torso, hip, leg action. But I don’t find myself severely twisted around by the time my paddle releases. To Jed’s point it may be me observing extreme shoulder rotation. Lots to learn!

Perfect technique…
You guys should all come out and paddle with me sometime, then you will finally see and understand.

That’s what many call shoulder rotation
This is exactly what many refer to as shoulder rotation and you are quite right that is considered bad form at best and wastes energy / effort.

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the diffference between the two but torso rotation does not use the shoulder joint or shoulder muscles while shoulder rotation sees the hands and arms make nearly the same paths through space but without any rotation around the spine.

Shoulder rotation is a step up from arm paddling but not by much. Torso rotation is a completely different animal.



You mention a stroke being too long as common problem and I agree, but it is not caused by too much torso rotation. The usual culprit is the collapse of the paddlers box, meaning that the shaft of the paddle is no longer is parallel to the plane of the shoulders. The clear indication is the bending of the onside arm and the dropping of the offside arm. This usually results in a horizontal paddle shaft. My vision of a forward stroke is where the trunk (neck to hips) rotates fully with each stroke, the shaft is vertical and with each stroke the upper hand becomes the lower hand and visa/versa.

I measure
the extent to which I focus on torso rotation by how sore my abs are afterwards. Sometimes, it gets so sore that I have to revert to some sharp elbow bending (arm paddling) for a rest. The one thing I always focus on is keeping my upper hand from diving down to the water as I push the stroke through. I try to keep it parallel to the deck as much as I can.

Sounds like a late paddle exit…
… as you note. If I understand your description, it is the correct position to be in at the end of the stroke, that is, the start of the next stroke on the other side, BUT with the paddle long since out of the water. It’s the windup on the other side.

And, did you mean nipples parallel to the boat? If so, then you are talking classical Barton/Reitz style. Their chest and nipples are indeed practically parallel to the boat, a position which cannot be achieved except by maximally rotating the torso at both the hip and the chest/shoulder level (which is different than shoulder paddling).

To drive that message home, Barton even describes the catch from that position as like spearing the water from the side of your body.


Make us a video!
> You guys should all come out and paddle with me

sometime, then you will finally see and understand.

OK, make us a video and upload it – then we will “see and understand” even sooner!


This has helped me understand what I’m seeing that looks wrong. Too much shoulder movement with too long a stroke. Shoulders moving independantly from chest and abs. A better term is what Jed said “over shoulder rotation”. My termonology was sloppy.

I would BUT…
my humility precludes me from showing off.

Thanks for all the great tips.
I had one lesson in torso rotation in May and all of your comments have greatly added to my understanding. I haven’t watched any videos. Now I have to switch back to my kayak to practice what you’ve just taught me. I’ve been paddling solo canoes for the last couple months (I bought a used Sawyer Summersong) - sometimes with a kayak paddle.

Your all very helpful. This thread and the other thread have been very informative for me.

work ethic
I have NEVER seen anyone “over rotate”.

But I have seen use of rotation at an inappropriate time.

There is a common flaw with a lot of sea kayakers (but rarely with WW boaters- read on). For many, the stroke stays in the water too long. At some point, usually about even with the hips, the force applied becomes mostly a yaw inducing force, and/or the angle of the blade in the water is at an ineffective angle (once past vertical, the blade “lifts” water, actually slowing the boat).

I formulated a hypothesis many years ago why many do this. Protestent work ethic! Since there is still resistance felt by the paddler, it must be good! Seriously, what the body senses is not always a good indicater of efficiency.

One point to understand is that the pivot point of the boat moves forward with increasing speed (also expains why no boat can be claimed to not weathercock, there is a boat speed component). Thus, racers have to reach much farther forward at their higher velocities,otherwise there will be too much of a turning force with their stroke at higher speeds.

What does this mean for torso use? In good racing technique, after the blade is exited from the water, the body continues to follow through with more rotation. The finish position looks much like that of someone about to apply a stern draw. This “pre- rotation” sets up the paddler for the next stroke with a maximally “wound up” body.

I would argue that this is not necessary for most sea boaters, at least at speeds below hull speed.

But what I do see in the huge majority of sea boaters is lack of enough torso use (a day at the abusement park for the arms), and too long of a stroke. And as Chris (Falcon) mentioned, it is becuase of the water side arm pulling too much.

A focus point, in addition to movement at the hips, is to think of the water side arm as merely hanging on the shaft. Resist the temptation to pull back! The results should be- the stroke exits more cleanly, the blade stays at a more efficient angle (at the exit, the blade is nearly perpendicular to the direction of travel)and does not induce negative drag,and the paddler expends less energy for the same speed, and produces less yaw.

Despite my years of kayak racing, I am essentially lazy. I still like to motor, but I do not like to work for it.


OK, make a video of…
… your humble attitude. You can stand pigeon-toed, eyes cast down, hands clasped at your navel. Actually, a still picture will do fine for this purpose.


Great metaphor!
Also, “no pain, no gain” kind of describes it too. If it doesn’t feel hard, then I’m not really trying.

I can certainly attest to that feeling of virtue when I make a good, long forward stroke, all the way back past the coaming, past the day hatch, pushing hard all the way. It was really jarring to be told that it was not only wasted effort, but actually slowing me down.

Just goes to show…