The cycle of the stroke
This position in the stroke is crucial in maximising the length of the stroke. The outside arm is fully extended and the outside shoulder should be dropped slightly and also extended forward. The reach determines the length of a stroke and a long stroke means more water is pulled. The reach position determines the rotation of the torso. If the torso is “rotated” forward upon the paddle entering the water, the torso will naturally “de-rotate” back to the normal upright seated position.
The catch phase is the most critical to the speed of the boat. The catch is the point when the paddle blade first comes into contact with the water. The top hand is held over the water, and then drives down on the paddle with the outside arm fully extended.
Once the paddle is fully submerged, the next part of the stroke is the Pull phase. The paddles should pull back directly parallel with the boat. The top hand stabilizes the paddle as the bottom arm and back muscles pull back. To use the back muscles effectively, the paddler sits up while pulling and continues to drive the paddle downward with the top hand.
At the end of the stroke, the paddle should exit the water at the hip. Allowing the stroke to go past the hip results in the paddling blade being at an angle that would slow down the boat. The outside arm bends slightly to allow the paddler to clear the water and then it is snapped forward.
This part of the stroke is the rest phase when the muscles are not working as hard. The recovery speed plays a role in determining the stroke rate. During recovery, the torso starts rotating and leaning forward to set up for another cycle of the stroke.