The Modern Trunk Swing

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The trunk swing is a deliberate coordinated movement between the long trunk action from the hips and the seat movement forward and backward. The shoulders should remain level for the most part. There is a little lift to the shoulders shortly after beginning the drive phase. This is referred to as the saltshaker. You lean forward to reach the salt and then sit back. This creates a slight lift of the shoulders. This concept and movement I learned sitting on a footrest in Bob Fitzpatrick’s living room.

The leg action carrying the seat and the trunk is a done with steady pressure on the balls of the feet. This movement remains light and relaxed even as tension is applied. It is dancelike and very fluid with no strain. Then when we look at the recovery we have the five movements as looking as one out of bow, the slight pause of the seat (“sit there until the cows come home” –Fairbairn). Then it is a reciprocal arrangement of the trunk and the seat to the front end. It must be exact and practiced those many hours over the winter months without the oar handle. It is part of the simulation. Place these two slightly different movement patterns together and you have the modern trunk swing. It is similar in principle to Hanlan’s pendular clock swing, but slightly more complex. It is completed over a longer track than Hanlan’s. Especially during the recovery phase the body’s proprioception must function overtime and the blades must remain just off the water for a quick entry.

The five movements at the release are completed so skillfully and athletically: the hands drop slightly, along with a slight break in the wrists, the arms are extended with a relaxed elbow, followed by the trunk moving through the perpendicular, and the knees coming up slightly. All of the five moves are slight increments to make the five look like one move on its way to complete the recovery at the full slide position. These movements are done with the control and patience of the actions of the arms. The hand (fingers) and wrist actions are slight. In sweep rowing the fingers of both hands are involved in the release and follow-through motion. So the action remains fluid from the end of the drive phase into the beginning of the recovery. There is no pause in the hand actions. You sit at release with a slight pause in the seat waiting for the hands to complete one action and begin another. The trunk remains erect and relaxed. The arms are firm. The shell continues to run level. The five movements are an intimate part of the whole cycle of the stroke.­

The trunk swing is related directly to our mental state as we move in the shell. Are we open minded? Are we trying to conserve? Are we looking for fluidity? Are we attempting to be integrated as we complete these various movements? We have to look for simplicity in the movements and look for supporting movements. The legs certainly support the upper body at the end of the drive. There is wonderful subtlety in the motions. It is pure refinement and with refinement comes conservation. The athleticism hits a high note and engulfs us. The shell flows level and continuously. The mind is totally engaged in the execution of the swing.

The trunk swing on the recovery represents one half of the stroke that has two wholes. The first whole is the release and full recovery. With the other whole being the entry and drive phase. The two whole parts are what we study to understand this stroke cycle and to make it a part of our being. It is something that we can do in the shell and something that we can easily demonstrate on land. It becomes part of our rowing athleticism.

The recovery part of the swing performed smoothly ensures that the shell runs fluidly and continuously from the release to the entry. This is the part of the stroke done above the seat. It must be completed with as much smoothness as our walking or running stride. There can be no hitches in the movement. We are a total fluid body in movement. The swing and the run of the shell are a directly congruent feature of the total stroke cycle.

The effectiveness of the Trunk swing relies on the continuous movement of the hands at the entry and at the release. This leads to an automatic movement of the body forward and backward.

The swing forward is completed with the nexus point. This is the forward point of the seat, the blade, the arms, and the trunk. The blade is in the water. The impact of the entry is felt through the shoulders and I can still remember that impact. Thus the shoulder girdle must be strong to absorb that quick change of direction.

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Painting of the Battle of TrafalgarA line drawing of how the blade enters the water at the nexus point.