Mastering the Body Stroke is Key To Dragon Boat Success

Uncompromised core body position is the key to PaddleCore’s core body stroke. If your body position is off at any time throughout your stroke, it can result in diminished power and negatively effect the team’s paddling rhythm.

It can be tempting to keep pushing through each phase of your dragon boat stroke in an attempt to pick up speed, but one of the most difficult stroke aspects to develop is a deliberate recovery phase. Regardless of your team’s experience level, developing this part of the stroke is tricky because in order for you to execute the initial stages properly, you have to ‘slow down’ and be deliberate about your body movements while the paddle is in the air.

From a coaching perspective, we often see athletes instinctively try to race through the recovery phase of the stroke so they can get the blade back into heavy water where they can re-establish traction. Unfortunately, when this happens the core isn’t engaged, and the stroke loses its primary, and most effective source of power. A slow and deliberate recovery helps ensure you achieve correct core body position and set-up in preparation for the catch connection phase of the next stroke. You need to take the time to establish an effective “A” frame starting with your lower core body position.

Recovery Drill

‘Gates’, or check-points, encourage proper body position during the recovery phase. For example, if each number in the sample drill below represents a segment of the stroke cycle, you must stop after performing each segment and ensure your body position is correct. The more control and awareness of your body position during the stroke phase, the more you will be able to contribute to your team’s success.

The “Gates” drill can be done in four or five phases. This example below is four phases.

Gate 1_AGate 1_BGate 1: Starting in A-Frame position, the first gate establishes core body connection/traction as your paddle enters the water followed by core body de-rotation and acceleration through the water phase.


Gate 2_AGate 2_BGate 2: Starting with your bottom arm in “suitcase” position (bent almost 90 degrees), initiate horizontal and upward motion across your body using your top arm and core (first third of recovery phase).


Gate 3_AGate 3_BGate 3: Continue the recovery phase up and across your body through horizontal plane (second third of recovery phase).



Gate 4_AGate 4_BGate 4: The final part of the recovery phase when horizontal plane transitions into vertical plane ‘stacking’, resulting in “A” frame catch position – as you started in Gate 1 (final third of recovery phase).


What are your favourite drills to run as a team? Tell us in the comments section below!

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