This came to light when I was rowing a skiff a couple of weeks back with qualified rowing coach Julia Rooke. Initially I thought the pectoral girdle was something you got from Victoria's Secret, but she explained it is a set of muscles that hold the shoulders together. I mentioned it in passing, but Micheal Bogoger, legendary in cyberspace as Doryman, wanted further and better particulars, as lawyers say.
Chris,Well, Michael, here is the griff from Julia and husband Steve, who knows all there is to know about technique:
Are you going to share this new rowing technique with us? We want to go fast too!
The muscle that lifts the shoulders to the ears is the 'trapezius' - this acts as a fixator for the 'latissimus dorsii' (agonist) and 'anterior deltoid' (synergist) in the work phase of the stroke.Since then I have been trying to lower the shoulders at the catch and it really does work - it feels as if you are doing much less work.
The reason for not lifting the shoulders up (in vertical motion towards ears) at the beginning of the stroke is, that it restricts the range of movement and does not allow the elbows and shoulders to pass behind the bodyline at the finish of the stroke, ending up with a 'hunched' body position over the handles. More relaxed shoulders also improve use of body weight while working the blade in the water.
And doing less work has been my life's objective.