The erg (or ergo or rowing machine) is the next best thing to rowing a boat as far as training rowers is concerned – and arguably better than the boat for measuring a rower’s power output accurately and repeatably. Sadly, for too many rowers, the erg is an instrument of torture to be avoided if at all possible.
From the coach’s point of view, the erg is just too valuable to be left out of the training programme so it is part of our job to make it less intimidating to the less-than-elite rowers who make up the majority of most clubs. I find the following approaches helpful:
- Coach your rowers on how to use the erg. It is an ideal platform for rehearsing the shape and sequence of a correct rowing stroke. A surprising number of rowers are self-taught on the erg and use very poor technique, so wasting hours of training which could have been used to build useful ‘muscle – memory’.
- Ask rowers to do their erg sessions in groups, ideally following ‘stroke’. Just as marching makes walking long distances easier, rowing together makes a 30 minute piece easier.
- Make it a rule that rowers have a 2 minute rest off the erg to stretch and take a drink after a maximum of 30 minutes exercise.
- Have each rower keep a personal record of their erg performance so that they know exactly what level of performance they are aiming for on every erg session.
- Vary the erg programme with short sprints, long UT2 sessions, 1k, 2k and 5k pieces. Use the Concept 2 website occasionally for their ‘Workout of the Day’ (http://www.concept2.co.uk/indoor-rowers/training/wod).
Indoor training at most clubs is centred on the erg and as with so many other exercise options, frequency beats intensity. It is an excellent route to fitness and deserves to be used to best effect.