An Assortment of the best “Excruciating Rowing Workouts”

Struggling to figure out what you want to do for a workout on the indoor rowing machine?? The beauty of the erg is that you can structure a workout to fit any kind of goal, whether it be low steady state, high intensity interval training (HIIT), long interval anaerobic threshold training, max power, etc…the erg does it all. So stop wasting time and read below from the readers of ROW 2K (including a bevy of rowing coaches, former national teamers and regular “Joes”).

You are sure to find one that will work for you! Row Away!

Excruciating Erg Workouts

from the readers of row2k

Every day in an ergroom near you

Bread and Butter (just try to keep it down)
7 by 2k: (2 min rest)
22, 24, open, 26, open, 24, 22
And you have to be within ten seconds of your best 2k score on the open cadence pieces.
More than one way to make 500m feel like forever

from Jon Hackathorn
The absolute worst ever administered by my coach, Tim Carrigg @ Ohio State, was 12x500m w/ 1′ rest. He felt our 2500 times were lacking, so a little interval work was the cure for what ailed us. This was done in the basment of a student union @ OSU that served as our boathouse. It has a very “gulag” like appeal, with grey walls and exposed pipes. Combine the bleak February landscape outside and the lactic enducing hell we were going through inside, this workout broke more than a few spirits. The strong surrvived, 2500m scores went down, and medals were won in the spring.

From Eric Leeder
here’s my candidate for worst workout, probably not an uncommon one, but you’ll remember it once you’ve done it:
The Dirty Dozen
12 x 500m @ 100% (all scores recorded)
you switch off with another rower. your time off is the time that it takes him to strap in, pull his 500, then roll off, while a cox or coach writes down the results. real fun.
Quien es mas macho

from Sean Gorman
This is a Dan Lyons specialty, that has a simplicity that makes it oh so brutal.
You simply hold a 1:28 split until it slips for three continuous strokes then the piece is done with.

You get five minutes rest and repeat. The process is continued until you cannot get the monitor to show a 1:28 for one stroke.

If this is done honestly there are few greater tortures to be found spinning a wheel. Substitute your 2k split goal for 1:28 and your good to go. Or as Dan puts it, just pull 1:28 for 2k and your rowing future is set.


The rating’s the thing
from Dave Stephens
High rates aren’t that bad, the worst are low rates here’s a workout we do:
6 x 10′ Category 5 (7 seconds slower then 20 min test)
Rating 12, 14, 16,12,10


Golf is for weenies; “Erg Speed Golf” is not. then there’s football
from Charles E. Ehrlich
I’ll contribute two workouts.
Here’s a workout I came up with last month. The idea started out as an attempt to play erg golf, but without a calculator handy I simplified things. Not knowing much about golf, I made the course par 78 (which I gather means more difficult than usual), and then I decided to put a speed element into it. The 18-hole workout was over in about 50 minutes and my guys were so toasted I had to cancel what I had planned for the next 30 minutes of practice.

150m = par 3, 350m = par 4, 500m = par 5
par = 2k target splits, over/under as in CII manual
150m, 1′ rest, 350m, 1′ rest, 500m, 1’30” rest,
350m, 1′ rest, 500m, 1′ rest, 350m, 2′ rest,
150m, 1′ rest, 350m, 1′ rest, 500m, 5′ rest,
350m, 1′ rest, 500m, 1′ rest, 350m, 2′ rest,
150m, 1′ rest, 350m, 1′ rest, 500m, 1’30” rest,
350m, 1′ rest, 500m, 1′ rest, 350m.

Then there’s the Peter Olrich Super Bowl workout (named after the only guy I’ve ever known crazy enough to do this annually):
start erging at the opening kickoff and keep going until the final whistle at half time. Get off and stretch. Start erging again at the second half kickoff and keep going until the end of the game. I challenged my guys to do this during the Fiesta Bowl this year – with the added fun that after every field goal they should maintain their 6k splits for the next commercial and after every touchdown should maintain their 2k splits for the commercial. I’m curious to see if anyone took up the challenge!

Lactate peaks at around 2:15…
from Oliver Rosenbladt
I don’t know if this is horrific compared to what some people have done, but the few times I’ve don it, it’s been a doosie:
6 x 2:30 min./erg

Every piece is flat out, 34-38 SPM, at or above 2K pace, with 5 min rest. You are expected to be sub 2K for the entire workout. (This comes from the German Men’s Heavy 8+ training program of 1995-6) 2:30 is too short to cruise and too long to row it like a 500…so it’s 800-850 meters of pain.

Athlete: “How long is the test?”
Coach: “Yes.”
from Simon Carcagno
I got 2 for you
the year before I got to Princeton, the frosh lights had to do all of the test distances in one day. so:

I’m guessing at 15 minutes rest between the first two, 10 between the 6k and 2k, 5 between the 2k and 1k and another 5 between the 1k and the 500.

The worst I ever did was 5x around the island by sixes in Tampa. everytime we went around we could see our time on that big clock on the shopping center. Took us an hour and forty minutes.

from LKD (Ken’s mother)
50K. No stopping.
This workout dreamed up and executed by Ken Davies. He only did it once.

More Vogel-iana, (and an hour of horror)
From Joel Furtek
Couldn’t let this topic go without returning to a Vogelian torture:
Vertical Death
10 flights of stairs all-out, then back down and start again you start at the bottom on 4-minute centers, time is measured on the way up, so if you take :45, that’s added to your time, and you have 3:15 to get back down and start again.

You do it 6 times, and get a composite score. Anyone not barfing by the third run isn’t going hard enough.

And my own:
Happy Hour – The Horror
with a partner: 1-2-3-2-3-2-4-2-3-2-3-2-1
your partner’s time is your rest
all pieces are flat-out, no ratings cap or pacing
all meters are recorded
what a way to end winter training
And from Chris Tolsdorf

This one I got from Tony Johnson when I was an assistant at Georgetown. My version may vary a bit, but its close enough. I used it very successfully on the UVA and Drexel Men. Successful in that they all absolutely hated it, a few guys probably puked, and I had so much watching their faces when I posted in on the workout board. I did the 10 2′ piece workout in the boat when I rowed for Vogel, and it is one of the most heinous workouts known to man, especially with Vogel yelling at you. He adds that special something. Anyway for the erg workout. 14 by 2 and 1/2 minutes, with 1′ rest in-between the first 10, and 2′ rest in-between the last 4. Of course the goal is to get all the pieces within 10 or 15 meters of each other. Totally sucks.
x’ on, y’ off

That would have to be a tie between:
4 minutes on, 1 minute off, times 8
2:30 on, :30 off, times 10

Though I’ve never experienced this, I hear that Yale heavies do 20 times 500m. Yikes.

Dane demo derby (sure that ‘ vs. ” is correct?)
from Jeppe K. Jensen,, DAN HPL2- ´97-´98
How about this one?
We have been practising this in the Danish Rowing Center, preparing for our indoor nat´ls. Its a 2x (10×90’/30´)/5″ @ 32-34
Psycho, or No?
This is best I can give you, although I don’t think it’s exactly Psycho. I do a 1 hour erg peace every day trying to keep the splits at a 1:50 at about a 26 or 27. Then just to spice things up a bit I throw in a good number of tens in between getting it down to about 1:35. The last 3 min I spend at a 1:30 with the last 45 seconds for a sprint were I get it down to about a 1:24.

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