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

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.

What to wear to the gym: style secrets part 1

Merrell trail gloves with socks to match (credit to DoTheFashionMaths for photo styling)

Merrell trail gloves with socks to match (credit to DoTheFashionMaths for photo styling)

If somebody tells you that they “just throw anything on” before heading to the gym, don’t you believe it. I’d venture that there’s nothing accidental about most of the outfits being worn on the workout floor. My contribution to the collective consciousness on this most important matter is…wait for it…to wear socks that match your trainers. I know, you’ve probably had to pull up a chair and sit down to take the full scale of that comment in, but it’s something to bear in mind ; )

Workout diary: Thu 23 Jan 2014

I’ve got a 3 hour company meeting tomorrow, which is a lot of sitting down time! Not good, unless I’m recovering from a workout ; ) Quick, let’s bring Friday’s session forwards and get to the gym!

Here’s how this evening’s workout played out –

First up, deadlift, beginning with a light warm-up set and then increasing the weight. It’s a whole body exercise, recruiting large muscle groups, so I place it first on the list and hit it while I’m fresh. Rippetoe’s tips on deadlift stance are spot on. As you begin the move, it might feel like you’re leaning too far forward over the bar, but the setup works a treat. Deadlifts build great forearm strength and will improve your grip no end.

Next, some lateral pull-downs (wide grip). Nothing heavy, the motivation here is mainly to stretch-out the back after those deadlifts.

And now onto shoulders, which I’ve decided will be the focus of this evening’s workout. First up here – seated shoulder press machine. I want to lift fairly heavy, and make sure that my shoulders are doing most of the work, which is the thinking behind picking a machine in this case over free weights. For the sets, I’ll pyramid the weight up and down, aiming to peak for the heaviest set.

After the shoulder presses it’s back to the lateral pull-downs, again to stretch out the back.

From here, it’s onto cable lateral raises to work the medial (or middle) deltoid, hitting the exercise one arm at a time. Then I switch to front cable raises to work the anterior (or front) deltoid, again doing the move one arm at a time. I’ll run through these exercises one after the other until my shoulders are well and truly cooked.

Now, time for some cardio in the shape of a light run. I’ve got some 10k races lined up starting early summer and so it’s time to progress up the training curve. The plan this year is to work first on running duration and then build up the speed. At the moment I’m running for 20 mins at easy-easy pace and will up this 30 mins over the next couple of weeks, before speeding things up. My PB is 39m51s (or something like that), so my body needs to be happy for running for 40 minutes at a time (at least).

Finally, it’s over to the rowing machine for a go at the O’Neill test to lay down a marker (you can see my result in the updated section of yesterday’s “how to row” post).

Workout summary
• Deadlifts
• Lateral pull-downs (wide grip)
• Seated shoulder press machine
• Lateral pull-downs (wide grip)
• Cable lateral raises (front)
• Cable lateral raises (side)
• 20 mins treadmill (easy-easy pace)
• Rowing machine (O’Neill test)