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Sara Brubaker Erging

Specific Erg Workouts

It takes a long time to learn how to erg, but endless repetition of drills can get boring and it is nice to get a workout in every once in a while. I consulted with Sara Brubaker, a varsity rower, as well as the men's varsity crew head coach at the University of Florida, Montia Rice, to offer several workouts for ergers with all levels of experience. These workouts are simply suggestions, personalization will likely result in a more satisfying experience. Experiment with the workouts until you find something you like, but never be afriad to push yourself once you know what you are doing. It is very important to warm-up and stretch before starting a workout. At least 15 minutes is a good guideline.


The name of the game for beginners is getting strokes in. Because of that, this beginner workout is designed for low intensity, high repetition work.

The 10k

The 10k is one of the staples for rowers and ergers everywhere. It is a longer workout, probably taking the standard workout erger somewhere from 40-60 minutes, and the intensity is completely variable based on the individual.

You will set the erg to go for 10,000 meters. For this workout you want to keep your stroke rating in the range of 16-20 strokes per minute. Focus on the sequence throughout the drive and recovery. As you get farther into the piece experiment with pulling harder by applying more pressure through the legs. Try taking 10 hard strokes and then returning to your base level.


Once you have mastered the stroke you can begin doing more work with pressure. There are two parts to increasing pressure. The first part is simply load on your legs. That is to say, if you push harder with your legs then your speed will increase and you will cover more meters. The other way is with rating, aka strokes per minute. If you have a higher rating then the load on your legs will feel lighter because the resistance will be less. Essentially, the faster you move the less time the erg fan has to slow down and increase resistance.

These two factors work in combination. As you drive your legs faster the rating increases on its own and as the rating increases the load on your legs becomes lighter, allowing you to drive your legs more quickly. When beginning to experiment with more pressure it is important to remember one thing; the recovery should always take longer to complete than the drive. If the recovery ever becomes faster than the drive then you have what is known as inverted ratio and this is bad. Not only will it make it harder to push with your legs but you will also get less of a workout because you are giving yourself so much time to do the hard part of the stroke.

The 6k Test

Having already mastered the 10k, the 6k test is a workout in which the goal is to cover 6,000 meters as fast as you can. In order to maximize your speed you need to remember everything you have already learned about technique, without using what you have learned you will go slow.

Set the erg for 6,000 meters. The rating on this piece should probably be somewhere between 22 and 26 strokes per minute. If you get into the piece and feel like there is no way you will be able to complete the workout at your current split (the split is the average time it takes you to cover 500 meters throughout the course of your workout) then you should go just a little bit easier. On the other hand, if you feel like you are not going hard enough, you can pick up the pace. It is a good idea to do a quick mental assessment of how you are feeling about every 1,500 meters. World class rowers and ergers can do a 6k test in under 18 minutes, for most people a better guideline is in the range of 22-30 minutes.


Once you are comfortable with adding pressure you should slowly shorten the length of the piece and increase the intensity. Before attempting the expert workout you should be extremely confident in your fitness. Cross training is a fantastic tool and so is weight lifting.

The 2k Test

The mother of all erg workouts is the 2k test. 2,000 meters is the standard for racing both on ergs and in boats. The 2k is one of the most excruciating workouts in all of sports and should not be attempted by someone in less than near-peak condition. The stress and strain on the body is tremendous.

Set the erg for 2,000 meters. The rating for this type of workout should be somewhere between 28 and 32 strokes per minute. It is a good idea to do this workout with a friend because the friend can motivate you during the workout and also be there after you are finished. I had been rowing for six months before I attempted a 2k and I nearly fainted when I finished the workout. Anything below 9 minutes is a good score for women. Anything below 7.5-8 minutes is good for men.