Pause drills are used to isolate portions of the stroke motion and allow the crew to “find each other” at the pause. This type of drilling is important for rowers as they find their swing as a crew, and as they work to develop the seamless motion of rowing together. As a coxswain during these drills, you can help the crew execute the drill with success or you can seriously hinder their ability to perform for the coach. Your role is pivotal; take it seriously.

Commonly used pause drills

Pause at the Finish

This drill is important when a crew needs to feel the effect of their drive and how it can generate speed. Coaches also use it to isolate the movement of the rowers as they come out of the bow, demonstrating that the slide control a crew can establish actually establishes the free speed they can gain with a controlled recovery.

Pause at the Catch

This drill allows a crew to meet at the catch, just before they drop their blades. You’ll want to be clear on if the rowers are feathering at the pause. Ask your coach if she doesn’t mention it. One intention of this drill is to help the rowers feel the set of the boat at the moment in the stroke where the boat is least stable. Often your coach will make the rowers set the boat before continuing. You can add a word of encouragement during these balancing moments.

Pause at Body Over

Pausing at body-over helps the rowers bring their hands through the finish and get to the hands-away-body-over position as one unit. The timing of these motions is critical to a crew ensuring they are not disturbing the boat as she moves through the water.

Pause at Half-Slide

Pausing at half-slide is used for a crew that needs to unify their recovery timing. Inserting a pause in the middle of the recovery forces them to break the motion into two parts and identify who is early or late at mid-recovery.

Calling Pause Drills

To call these drills effectively, you need to act as any good orchestra conductor would, calling for the action you want immediately before you want it. Use this script for all pause drills, substituting the position of the pause your coach has called for. Once the coach communicates the drill to the rowers and signals you to begin, immediately call your crew to their starting position.

The Script

All eight at the finish

Re-establish the drill, reminding the rowers what the coach wants.

This is a pause drill. Pausing at the finish. One and pause.

Let them know if they will be taking a few strokes to get the boat moving.

Let’s take four full strokes before the first pause. 

Get their attention again.

All eight. And, row.

If you’re working with a novice crew, count the strokes, calling each number as the oars drop into the water. For all crews, novice or experienced, after you call stroke number three, establish that the drill is about to begin.

After the next one, pause at the finish.

Call the fourth stroke as the blades drop into the water and then call for the pause as your rowers are swinging their bodies into the bow and they are just about to get to the pause position.

And, pause.

Let one beat pass and then call for the next stroke. Insert the frequency of the pause on this first call.

One and pause. And, row.

Call the next pause with exactly the same timing you used for the first pause. 


Let a beat pass.


Repeat for as long as your coach tells you to. Be very consistent in your timing. Your rowers need to trust you and this is one of the ways to show them that you are trustworthy. By calling this drill well, you will help your rowers be successful and they will, in turn, work hard for you. During pause drills, you don’t need to be coaching. Your coach will address the changes she wants the rowers to make. Stay quiet. Pause drills let the rowers work things out. Let that happen.

Pause drills typically begin with the crew doing “one and pause.” As a crew masters the feeling of controlling their movement and also allowing the boat to run a bit underneath them, your coach may increase the number of strokes between pauses. As the increase happens, it is very important for you to communicate the change in frequency and to anticipate the pause and remind the rowers a half-beat before the pause position.

As you move from “one and pause” to “two and pause” (or any other frequency), alert the rowers of the change.

After the next pause, we’ll go to two strokes.

As you call the next stroke, call for two strokes. And, on this first cycle, count the strokes.

Two and pause. One. And, two. 

Again, call for the pause as your rowers just after the catch, as they are driving toward the finish.

And, pause.

Repeat this for each frequency change.

If a rower misses a pause, there's no need to stop the entire crew. Pause drills usually use low stroke rates; your rower will have time to catch up. Stay on task. Your approach to drilling can set the tone for the whole crew. Be the coxswain who brings success to the boat.