Benchmark your fitness: online rankings for indoor rowing

On workingouttheworkout, we’re big fans of indoor rowing tests such as the 4 min O’Neill or 2k erg protocols. These tests are a great way to track your fitness level and measure the benefits of your training programme, but the fun doesn’t stop there! Add your numbers to’s brilliant online world rankings for indoor rowing website and you can see how your best results compare across your age-group, or against the whole field. Plus, when you are next on the indoor rower, you’ll have a target to aim for thanks to your closest rival on the leader board.

Have fun with it : )


Workout diary: Sun 23 Feb 2014

Time for another workout diary. I’ll keep adding these as and when to give a flavour of how my workouts come together and switch up a gear.

Strength training

  • Close grip chin ups
  • – a bodyweight move to focus the mind and mobilize the back ready for…

  • Deadlifts
  • – this week’s BIG compound exercise. I’ll generally switch between deadlifts and power cleans; picking one of these exercises to concentrate on each week. Update – those deadlifts really bite 24 hours after the event. Without a doubt, you can initiate a ton of muscle growth with nothing more than a barbell and some plates –

    “A barbell can and will transform a human body dramatically, radically, and quickly if the right exercises are performed using the proper techniques and protocols,” Marty Gallagher of The Iron Bible

  • Cable front raise (performed one arm at a time)
  • – shoulders, front

  • Cable lateral raise (performed one arm at a time)
  • – shoulders, side

  • Seated row close grip
  • – and more shoulders, rear, with some back and biceps, which leads nicely to…

  • A sequence of –
  • #1. Reverse (pronated) grip bicep curls using a cable and straight bar attachment
    – Why the reverse grip? I’ll let Mike Robertson of’s Built by Science – Daily Trainer explain,

    “As soon as you go into a pronated grip, you lose the mechanical advantage of your biceps. In this position, your brachioradialis has a very strong line of pull.”

    In other words, it’s a neat way to emphasise the forearm (the Built by Science series does a great job of running through the anatomy on this and much more, and is well worth checking out for free on YouTube).

    #2. Normal (supinated) grip bicep curls using a cable and straight bar attachment
    – now it’s time to fully power up the biceps, which I pair with some tricep work, namely –
    #3. Single arm cable tricep extensions

    Next up is core, which I’m now trying to hit at least once in every workout (towards the end of the session, when the heavy lifting is ticked off the list).

  • Side-plank knee-to-chest (feet elevated on a bosu, 2 sets of 10 for each side, alternating after each set)
  • I pulled these into the session after seeing Galen Rupp’s weight room routine on Flotrack, via James Dunne’s Kinetic Rev site.

    This a tough exercise and will soon highlight any strength imbalances between left and right sides, which is an area I need to work on.

  • Chest fly machine
  • – I jumped on this for a couple of sets just to fill in some gaps from last Thursday’s press-focused workout, and to give my core a few minutes rest after those side-plank moves.

  • Wide grip lateral pulldowns
  • – Getting to the end of the strength session now. As in the last workout diary, I’m keeping the weight lighter rather than heavier for these pulldowns. Adding enough kg’s to stretch out the back after the deadlifts earlier in the session.

    20 min of 2 min easy / 2 min easy-moderate
    – my slow build up towards this year’s 10k race series (starting May)

    Related reading on workingouttheworkout

    Workout diary: Thu 23 Jan 2014

    10k reboot: turning back the clock

Fantastic fitness drills continued: the 2k erg rowing test

The more time you spend on the indoor rower, the fitter you’ll get. It’s more or less as simple as that. The indoor rower, most likely a Concept2 model D (or model E if you’re a member of a particularly swanky gym), is a core piece of gym kit and, along with the treadmill and power rack (or power cage), will deliver a substantial workout that chisels both heart and muscle.

To monitor your fitness progression it’s worth incorporating a test or two into your workout calendar. On workingouttheworkout we’ve already championed the O’Neill 4 minute protocol, and now it’s time to ratchet up the difficulty a notch or two and introduce the 2k erg test, aka – how long does it take you to (indoor) row 2000m?

At this point, let’s bring in four-time Olympic gold medal winner Sir Matthew Pinsent, via an interview on concept2uk’s YouTube channel, to give a quick spot of coaching before we set off on our stationary voyage across the gym floor –

“For me the idea of racing 2km was you go off as hard as you can, but not for more than 10 stokes, and then you’ve got a split in mind, and you try and hold that all the way through.”

“The tough time of an ergo [test] is from 1000m through to maybe 400m to go – that 600m is make or break, and you know when you get into that bit whether it’s going to work out all right or not be a good day.”

If you find yourself seeing any of the times listed below on your monitor when that magic 2km point arrives –

  • Senior Women (>59kg) : 6m45s (elite), 6m55s (development)
  • Senior Men (>72.5kg) : 5m54s (elite), 6m06s (development)

then congratulations, you’ve qualified for the USA rowing team!

Have fun with it, and anything below 8 min is a solid performance in my book. I’ll share my current time with you in an update to this post.

Updated 13 Feb 2014
2k erg time = 7m34.7s

Exercise during dialysis could improve both the quality of life and cardiac health of patients with chronic kidney disease

Getting patients suffering from kidney disease to cycle a modified exercise bike for 30 minutes, three times a week, while receiving dialysis could benefit their cardiac health – at least that’s the theory. Researchers in the UK based at the University of Leicester have been awarded £1.1 million to put the idea to the test in a five year study.

“There is something unique about patients with kidney disease who have very vulnerable hearts and so we need to start thinking outside the box to develop new therapies to reduce their risk of heart disease,” explained James Burton, Senior Lecturer in Renal Medicine and Honorary Consultant Nephrologist at the University of Leicester and Leicester General Hospital, who leads the team.

James introduces the work in the following audio clip –

Further reading –

Exercise provides hope for kidney disease patients and their vulnerable hearts (University of Leicester)

10k reboot: turning back the clock

After a few years in the wilderness, I was back competing last year (2013) in my local 10k series. It’s a fun race – mostly on-trail (grit/grass/mud) – and the distance sits well with a relatively low training overhead. Note to self: you do still need to train! See 2013 times for evidence.

Finish times for 10,000m local trail race

10k results: 2006/2007/2013

Anyway, the plan for 2014 is to revisit those “glory days” of 2006 and see whether my older and (hopefully) wiser self can once again duck under that magic sub-40 min barrier.

For more on my training plan, stay tuned to

Stoop blasting back exercises for desk warriors

If you spend all day, everyday, sat at a desk then over time (and from the side) you will look like the letter “c”. Not good. To help straighten out this situation, here are two of my favourite stoop blasting exercises – both of which are sworn enemies of the letter “c”.

• Seated cable row with a rope attachment or two handle straps
Using the rope or straps gives you a great range of motion to fully engage your back, bring your shoulder blades together and really open out your chest to defeat “the stoop”.

• Inverted row using a fixed bar
What’s nice here is that you can easily adjust the resistance by changing the angle of your body to the ground (the more horizontal you are at the start of the move, the harder it will be), or by bending your legs at the knee to shorten the lever. Also, as Carolina Hurant from Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA points out in the clip below, you can include this exercise as part of your outdoor workout by keeping an eye out for suitable bits of fence, or park furniture.

Other fans of the inverted row include Velocity Sports Performance of Santa Clara, US, who have included the exercise in their “drill of the month” series.

Lastly, to close out today’s post on building a desk-proof back, check out this awesome piece of improvisation from trainnowlivelater.

Bar work: introducing the power clean

The power clean (pulling the bar up from the floor and racking it on the front of your shoulders) is a beautifully intense exercise that puts mind and muscle to work with big rewards. Definitely one for the front-end of your workout when you’re feeling fresh and full of energy.

Sally Moss from Ultimate Performance demonstrates the move in the clip below –

If you’ve mastered the deadlift then you’re well on the way to getting to grips with the power clean. Give it a go – you’ll need some weight on the bar so that there’s enough resistance to work against, but as always start light and explore the technique before attempting to break any records.