Sometimes, we have questions – and aren’t sure who to ask, or whether we’ll be judged by our lack of knowledge. Here are a few of the most common questions that people new to indoor rowing (including us) often ask. It’s grown a bit – so rather than making you scroll through the whole page in hopes of finding what you want to know, here’s a list of commonly asked questions, which are then answered as you move down the page.
- Where do I set the lever on the side?
- How should I set up the footplate?
- You keep saying ‘Erg’. What the hell is that?!?!
- Do I need to use a Concept2 rowing machine?
- Someone just said they did “5K @ 2K+8 r28 x2 / 3r” Is that a Star Wars character name??!
- I want to get faster, how do I do that?
- Low rate or high rate?
- Should I do weights as well as rowing?
- What is this CTC thing I keep hearing about?
- Ok. That’s the CTC. But what’s BRIC? EIRC? WIRC? IRL? PB? SB? HD? Don’t you people have words?!??!
- Do I have to join a team?
- How do I join a team?
- Should I listen to music?
- WOD? Is that an insult or a rowing term?
- What’s HD?
- Ouch! My backside hurts when I row!!!!
Also, here’s a good webpage that covers the basics of indoor rowing
One of the most common, and most mis-understood aspects of using a Concept2 rowing machine is what the lever on the side does. It’s not an arbitrary ‘resistance’ setting that just feels easy at 1 and hard at 10. There’s a direct relation between this effort and how far you go. And, setting the lever to ‘7’ on one machine will most likely feel completely different to another machine set to 7.
There are some very clear, clever articles below which describe what is known as “Drag Factor” a lot better than I can. But… I’ll give it a try.
The numbers I’m about to use are wrong, but hopefully it’ll help to explain the concept of Drag Factor – which is what the lever on the side controls. If at feels twice as hard, like you’re using double the amount of effort at 10 than you are at 1 then the good news is that there’s a relation to how far you go with one stoke. If at setting 1 on the lever you went 10m with every stoke – at 10, which takes double the effort and power (in this example only!) you’re rewarded for your effort. Double the power means double the distance (20m).
So in this example, at lever setting 1 it feels easy – but as you only go half as far as at setting 10 – you have to row two strokes to match the distance of setting 10. Therefore expending the same amount of power to cover the same distance.
So no matter where you set the lever, the amount of effort you need to put into cover a set distance is the same. This is why Concept2 machines are great to use when racing against each other. Everyone can set the lever to where the wish, and it’s still an even field.
But this doesn’t clear up WHERE to put the lever. This is where “Drag Factor” comes in. This is the number given to the level of force you have to put in.
You access this display by choosing “More Options” from the main menu on the PM3/4/5 monitor – then “Display Drag Factor”. Most clean or new machines should give around 90 at setting one and about 200 at setting 10. It’s thought that a setting of 130 is similar to the feel of rowing on the water for men – and around 115 for women. But that doesn’t mean it’s where you have to set your Drag Factor. It’s a personal choice, often something that you’ll spend a lot of time experimenting with. Some folks will set it to 130 for their general rowing, but increase to 160 or higher if they’re doing short sprints.
A low drag factor (120 or lower) will reveal poor technique quite clearly, whereas higher drag factors can mask a poor technique – overcoming it with sheer muscle power – but the pay off for that is quicker muscle fatigue.
Here’s some proper articles about this from people who spent a lot more time than I just did in that example above!
Another personal preference. Standard wisdom suggests setting it so that when you tighten the strap, it goes across the bottom lace of your shoe.
Some people find this doesn’t suit them though – either because they don’t have the flexibility, or because they have long shins, meaning they have to set the footplate lower. Add to this that some find they set the footplate higher when sprinting than they do when doing longer distances, and it’s something you will need to get a feel for. Start with the ‘strap over lace’ idea – and move on from there.
The Concept2 UK website has a great article from coach / author Sam Loch about this. Click here to go viist.
It’s another word for a rowing machine – Ergonometer. You may hear is as Erg, Ergo or ‘That Damn Machine…’.
It depends what your goal is. If you want to compete – be it online or offline, it makes sense to use a Concept2 in your training, as that’s what you’ll race on in Indoor Rowing races, and what is used most for the Online Challenges.
But if you just want to get fit and see rowing as a good way to do it – and you have a machine you know will let you reach this goal, then there’s no real reason not to use it. Lastability, effectiveness etc all come into play – but if it’s just you on a machine with no desire to connect with the outside world, anything will do.
There are other machines that are geared towards bettering your technique (RowPerfect) or just plain look cool (Water Rower) as well as a variety of options depending on your price range. But the Concept2 Erg is the one you’ll find in most gyms, and at nearly all races.
- 5K means that they rowed 5000m
- @ 2K+8 means that the pace for 500m shown on the monitor was 8 seconds slower than their average pace for their fastest 2000m effort (so for a 7:00 2K – the average would be 1:45 – therefore 2K+8 would be 1:53)
- r28 means at 28 strokes per minute
- x2 / 3r means that they did it two times, with a 3 minute rest period between each effort.
Some people write these things slightly differently (r3 instead of 3r for example) but if you know the basic thinking behind this code, it’s pretty simple to decipher the nuances.
If you’re still a bit lost when it comes to all the terminology used in Indoor Rowing, the Free Spirits Forum have a fantastic ‘Lexicon Thread’ where Plummy goes through the most common terms.
A lot of this depends on where you’re coming from. If you’ve just started, then time spend on the erg will get your fitter, stronger – and therefore faster. But if you’ve spend a bit of time on it, and feel you’re not getting faster quick enough, the first thing to address is if there are any issues with your technique. Lots of information exists on the internet about technique on the rowing machine. Videos and articles will talk you through the whole of the stroke and what you’re supposed to be doing in a perfect world. But nothing beats filming yourself (from the side) and posting it somewhere like the Concept2 Rowing Hub on Facebook – and asking for technique advice.
If you’re fit, your technique is good, but you still aren’t fast as you like – it’s time to start hunting down proper training plans if you’re not already following one. (If you are, and you’re not getting faster, maybe consider whether the one you’re on is the right one to be on!) From the Wolverine Plan to esprit’s charity funding plan or the Fitness Matters plan, there are various plans described here that you can hook into and use to get faster – you just have to be willing to put in the effort! Nothing great ever came out of the comfort zone after all…
Finally, if you have the time, money and option of finding someone, personal coaching is a sure way to get faster. Internet plans are great – but require you to have a lot of self-discipline to keep pushing hard on every session (which is one reason why plans from Fitness Matters and esprit are so effective, as they’re based around a community of other people doing the same sessions). If you have someone coaching you, pushing you, and stopping you from easing off, often you can squeeze more out of your sessions that if you were on your own.
A similar effect to this can also be found without a coach by finding someone to be your partner-in-pain when training. Both of you could be doing the Pete Plan together, side by side – pushing each other to keep working hard.
Both. They both have their training value. Low rates generate power, help you with concentrating on proper form and can build a ‘strong engine’ (foundation) for everything else you do on the erg. High rates get you towards an anaerobic state, where you start to push your self harder and go faster, and develop speed.
There’s a saying (from Sam Blythe’s training plan) that you should be smart at low rate (build your foundation) and bold at high rate (don’t give up when it gets tough. And one thing to think about is that if you can generate a lot of power at low rate – how fast would you be if you could lay down that power at a high rate?
Resistance training is of benefit whether you row or not. However, this question is probably better answered by saying that it’s better for your rowing if you choose exercises that supplement and improve your training on the erg.
Core work, deadlifts, bent over row, pull ups, tricep dips, squats and TRX suspended rows are a selection of moves that can translate well to rowing.
The CTC is the ‘Cross-Team Challenge’ and is a monthly team challenge that is very popular with indoor rowers. Go to the “Online Challenges” page to read more about this, and other challenges.
BRIC is the ‘Bristish Rowing Indoor Championships. Usually held in December a the Lee Valley Velodrome in London.
EIRC is the ‘English Indoor Rowing Championshops. Usually held in January in the Manchester velodrome. The Scottish Indoor Championships, Wales Indoor Rowing Championships and Irish Indoor Rowing Championships run through the year too. And that’s just in the UK/Ireland. All over the world, different races cater for real life racing (see the ‘Calendar’ page on this website for more.
For sure the biggest race of the year is the World Indoor Rowing Championships. This used to held in Boston in tandem with the Crash-B’s (Charles River All Star Has Been’s.) But for the first time in almost 3 decades, the Worlds (WIRC) are taking place elsehwere, in 2018 they’ll be in Alexandria Virginia (USA).
IRL – this is the Indoor Rower’s League. An individual and team based event. See ‘Online Racing’ for more.
PB – Personal best. The best you’ve ever managed for a time/distance/session
SB – Season’s best. The best you’ve done this season.
HD – Handle down. Then you stop before finishing a session. Don’t do this. In fact, it feels wrong giving this a label, as it gives this ‘option’ validity as it has a name. If it gets too tough – slow down if you must. But don’t stop. And if you’re training or racing next to someone who HD’s – and you have the time (or can breath enough!) to shout encouragement for them to continue. Do it. They’ll thanks you afterwards.
Well, no. Not really. If you just want to go to the gym and row to keep fit and get faster – and that’s all you need to motivate you to keep going, then you don’t have to join a team at all.
Where a team really pays dividends is in motivation. From finding a community of like minded people you can share horror stories with, share workout ideas, techniques questions, compare your times with etc – there are loads of people out there to help. Forums and Facebook pages are great, but there’s something about being part of a team that can make people a bit more invested in helping you out.
And this doesn’t even go near the racing side of things. Between live racing, where being amongst team-mates can add extra enjoyment (and often an extra push to your row too!) and then online challenges, where you find you push yourself out of a comfort zone in order to gain better scores – it helps to be rowing not just for yourself, but for a team you want to be part of.
First off, decide who you’d like to join. There’s a page here that lists the teams who currently compete in the CTC. But you may also want to look at the Concept 2 team results page, which has a lot more teams involved. Tracking down who runs that team can be a little more troublesome (as we’ve found when trying to create the teams page on here!!)
But depending on how interactive you wish to be, you could join a team without getting in touch with anyone anyway. If you wish to join a team for the CTC, simply register, and pick your preferred team from the list. I’m sure if your results are impressive enough, someone from that team will track you down anyway!!
If you’re looking to join a team for the Concept 2 Challenges, then you set up your team affiliation through the Concept 2 logbook. Go to their Teams Page to sort this out. Meters you log in the season will then count to that team’s yearly total – and as various challenges pop up through the year, you’ll be notified if you need to go to the site and click ‘join’ or if it does it automatically.
It sure can help make the longer rows less lonely! Energetic, inspirational music can give you a kick when you’re going hard – and there are a few applications that will let you alter the beats per minute of your music so you can set up a playlist that matches your stroke rate. If you want to row at 32spm, that means playing music at 128bpm and rowing in time with the music.
A word of warning though – don’t play music any louder than you need to. Tinnitus is a terrible result of playing music too loud for too long. Be sensible – just keep it loud enough to hear over the fan noise or music in the gym etc.
WOD stands for “Workout of the Day” and has a companion “WOW” (Workout of the Week). Usually set up by someone who knows that they’re on about – it’s a suggested workout for people who like that person’s training/coaching methods, and use their knowledge to advance their own training.
These are particularly powerful if there are a group of people doing them and can then compare results / horror stories. Also useful if you’ve arrived on your machine and can’t think of what session to do that day!
This is a case of you don’t want to know. Giving this a name legitimises it as an option. Last chance to not read on….
It stands for ‘Handle Down’ – when you give up on a row and stop. Make every effort not to do this. It may be painful now, but not as painful as knowing you quit. If you want to get faster, you don’t HD.
Some of this could be down to your technique, but before you go to eBay and start looking at new padded shorts / new rowing machines etc, have a read of Concept 2’s own page on this sensitive matter.