Something we all get asked as coaches is ‘how to I get a more intense workout on the erg?’ and whilst the answer may be obvious to many, the answer a little more complex than it appears on the surface.
To experience the full fitness benefits of the indoor rower, you should do a proportion of your rowing sessions at a greater intensity. We all know this, but the reality is that most of us still like to work in our comfort zones and accept ‘pushing’ ourselves isn’t always the glamorous way to work on the rower. The thing about the indoor rower is it will not force you to work harder – you get out what you put int. The harder you push the more the flywheel spins and the more wind resistance will be generated.
The mechanics of intensity: Row faster and you’ll get more intensity right??
Heard this one A LOT when it comes to people trying to simplify the indoor rower. In reality something you will hear us coach over and over again at Dark Horse, is to increase the intensity on an erg you must “push” harder with your legs and connect to the drive with your torso and arms. This creates the effect of spinning the flywheel more and generates that increase in force.
In simple thoughts if your legs push an inch your handle should also move an inch.
Pushing harder with your legs should result in an increased speed to your drive, so the overall time of the drive phase decreases, and you will see faster splits times on the performance of the client. This is where the erg is just like the rowing on water, to increase your speed you should try to move that oar through the water faster, the recover is all about getting that oar back to the catch position as smoothly as possible.
Worth noting; if you rush the recovery it will not improve the overall average 500m split, this is portion of the stroke you need to be staying relaxed and catching your breath. This phase is all about setting up your next stroke and is used to compresses the core muscles used in the catch, and allows a strong brace as you return to the drive phase of the next stroke.
What does the screen tell me?
As you work to increase the intensity, the central display on the monitor is the most helpful one to watch. It gives you instant feedback on your pace every stroke, expressed as a time per 500m. The smaller this number means it takes you less time to cover the distance. As you drive your legs harder, you should start to see lower numbers in the central display.
It’s important to remember that intensity is not always linked to stroke rate (upper right number measured in spm or strokes per min). You can row intensely at a lower stroke rate, the only thing that changes here is the amount of time taken on the recovery. Similarly a greater stroke rate does not always mean a higher intensity UNLESS its the drive speed that is increasing.
Working hard can sometimes compromise your rowing technique, especially as you get tired. Be sure to maintain focus on your technique on hader workouts, and ensure you continue to row well whilst you row harder.
What does this mean for my training?
Simply put you need to ensure your overall training has a balance of both low rate /low force. Low rate / high force, high rate/low force and high rate/high force sessions. Especially as you get more confident on the indoor rower, it becomes critical to ensure you are working all these training modalities to gain the overall benefit to your fitness.
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