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


60/20/20 and 1(2,3) = perfect formula for rowing

Welcome to this evening’s post, where Jay Blahnik and Josh Crosby are going to talk through the finer points of how to row – tips that apply both to the popular Concept2 design as well as the whizzo WaterRower pictured in the clip. The rowing machine is a brilliant piece of kit, and much easier to master than you might think. Plus, it delivers a whole body workout, which can be a great antidote to a day spent in the office sat stooped over a desk.

Look out for the following teaching points from Jay –

“Get the order right – legs first, then core, then arms”

“Get the power right – 60% (legs), 20% (core), 20% (arms)”

“And then get the timing right – 1 count out on the drive and 2 counts back in on the recovery”

Now that we’re up to speed on technique, it’s time to find out what kind of shape we’re in via the Four Minute O’Neill Fitness Test !!!

Protocols such as the O’Neill test or the Cooper test, which relates to the treadmill, are useful ways to track your progress or assess your current condition, and for me make the aerobic segment of a workout more engaging.

I’ll update the post with my latest O’Neill result when I’m next in the gym : )


Distance rowed in 4 mins = 1045 m
Protocol = Concept2 rower, damper setting (5), start from rest
O’Neill verdict = above average (but not by much!)