New Erging Blog

Today I was thrilled to get word from ready Brandy Mulligan that she has begun her own blog all about the erg! It will be great to have another resource for passionate rowers.

Go and check out her work today!

Rowing Equipment: The Cox Box

The key pieces of rowing equipment include far more than a boat and oars today.

Long ago a coxswain might have had a simple cone to focus his or her voice and they might talk into the bottom of the boat in hopes that it would carry their voice to the rest of the crew. Today as the coach on the water the coxwain is an integral part of any crew and the cox box and speakers that ensure precise communications with the rowers is no longer a nicety - it is an essential piece of equipment.

Cox boxes give stroke rate, stroke count and time as well to help the coxswain guide the crew in the perfect execution of a race plan. This of course with its most basic function of voice amplification carrying the coxie's voice to 2-3 or more speakers placed in the boat near the crew.

Nielsen Kellerman have produced the almost de facto standard - so de facto that their name "cox box" is the standard like Kleenex now means tissue to all or rollerblade means in-line skate.

It would be hard for anyone to dethrone the leading company - so many clubs have multiple units and training coxies to use a different brand or even to risk trying another brand with a relatively expensive purchase.

Still, others are trying to bring their game.

NK units don't give boat velocity and supply limited feedback to the coach after a workout or race. Some clubs combine the cox box with another piece of equipment like a speedcoach to get velocity (there is no consensus if these units really are accurate with bigger boats).

A company like Coxmate is worth a look. They produce several units - the most sophisticated being the SCT which handles the basic functions but adds velocity with a micro-impeller that is significantly smaller than the NK unit or even a GPS function. It also has a PC link for coach analysis.

in2Rowing made a unit packed with features, including GPS but their web site now says they are shut down "indefinitely."

Rowing Equipment – Erg Training Basics

You went out and bought a nice shiny new ergometer. Your rowing machine has been a dream for a while and now you have it at home.

Now what?

Well, do us all a favour and get some technique help, watch a video or better yet get some instruction – health clubs are full of often perfectly fit folks with the most embarrassing technique. I’d explain it here but you need something visual. Learn a bit and you’ll enjoy your erg. Ignore my advice and you’ll destroy your back, get little from the workout and look, frankly, like an idiot.

‘nuff said.

This isn’t jogging folks. You don’t get on the erg and shuffle along with little effort. The rowing machine is the ultimate full-body burn-a-tonne-of-calories exercise device.  It also isn’t sprinting – the first few strokes will seem easy, especially with health-club technique – but it isn’t. Slow down Charlie – if you sprint your workout will be over in a minute or two at best.

No, you need to learn to settle into a hard puling 18-22 strokes a minute rowing workout. Pull hard, then relax. Runners like to work hard all the time. Rowers like to pull and then enjoy a small break as they recover for the next stroke. Enjoy that time!

So – sort out your ergometer technique. Learn the basics of pacing and how to handle the low stroke rates of 18-22. Now enjoy the thrill of a long endurance workout.

Your first bout on a rowing machine will of course depend on your current level of fitness, but let me suggest that you try to maintain your pace for 10 minutes without stopping. Sounds easy, but if you are learning then it won’t be (see info on pacing and technique).

Get that down and extend your time on the machine. 3 x 10 minutes is a good aim or 2 X 20 minutes. The variations are endless - just keep your heart rate up for an extended period of time. No so much that your lungs are searing and your heart wants to blow out your chest wall. Just enough to make talking tough, but not impossible.

Later, we’ll give you some tips for maintaining your rowing machine and for changing up your workouts.

Rowing Equipment III: Oars

Along with boats, oars are the most basic and important piece of rowing equipment.

Today all oars are constructed from a mixture of carbon fiber and fiberglass, permitting the construction of a lightweight oar with the ability to control important properties, notably the stiffness of the oar.

Sculling oars come in a variety of lengths from approximately 280cm  - 295cm or more, with custom options available from leading manufacturers. Sweep oars range from 370cm to 380cm or more, again with custom lengths as well. Today, most oars come with the ability to adjust the length to a degree, typically at the handle.

The "blade" often refers to the part that is placed in the water to propel the boat. While some clubs will invariably still have the older Macon style of blade in their stock the "hatchet" style of blade is used be virtually all competitive crews now. The hatchet blade offers a greater amount of surface area, and it is used with shorter oars as a result. Its center of balance is toward the top of the oar, rather than the middle as in macon oars. Most rowers find them easier to grip the water without technical mistakes. The shaft of the oar is connected to the blade assymetrically - higher up on the blade which minimizes the amount of shaft in the water (which contributes to drag), as well as maximizing the surface area of the balde that can be submerged.

The exact size and shape of the hatchet varies between companies, and individual companies even offer a variety of shapes.

The path of the oar through the water during a stroke is not uniform. The forces applied as a result change throughout the stroke and rowers are also more effective in applying force early and through the mid part of the stroke than in the later part of the stroke. Manufacturers dedicate considerable time and energy to research as the shape of the blade will change how effective it is in each phase of he stroke.

Oar Manufactuers:

Concept II - USA Concept II, maker of the most-used rowing ergometer, also provides the majority of oars used in North America.

Croker Oars of Australia have significant market penetration in North America and around the world.

Empacher - the German boat builder also makes their own oars.

Rowing Equipment II - Rowing Companies

There are several companies of note to look at when you want to purchase rowing equipment, whether it be shells, ergs, oars, or more. We will attempt to put together a comprehensive list of rowing boat builders here. If you have other rowing equipment companies that you would like listed, please contact us.

Rowing Boat Companies


Hudson Boatworks World and Olympic Championship Racing Shells
Kashper Racing Shells
Levator Boatworks Singles for Every Body


Vespoli World Class Racing Shells
Pockock Racing Shells
WinTech Racing Win More. Spend Less.
First Boat
Resolute Racing Shells
Alden Rowing Shells  Manufacturer of recreational, traditional, and competitive rowing shells, oars, rowing gear and accessories. 
Durham Boat Company, Manufacturer of Dreher  sculls, sweeps and carbon boat parts 


Carl Douglas Racing Shells, UK
Janousek Rcing Boats, UK boatbuilder
Empacher Rowing Shells
Sykes Racing, Australia
Fillipi Design, Implementation and Selling Rowing Boats and Accessories

Is your rowing company not on this list? Send us a note - - and we'll be happy to include you!

Rowing Ergometer Race Strategy

Thanks to reader Daniel Carvalho of the Galit Club in Portugal sent along a spreadsheet that helps with erg race pacing.

Ergometer Strategy Spreadsheet

He included the following explanation:

The file named Ergometer (did not know what else to call it...) allows us to actually see some interesting details:

  • The dependence of 500m split (mm:ss,0) and Power (W) (decreasing the 500m split from 2'02'' to 2'01'' is not the same as decreasing from 01'38'' to 01'37'' - Ok, most of us know that. But usually coaches tend to say that heavyweights should be x seconds per 500m faster than lightweights. That is not a reasonable demand since 4s/500m (e.g.) at conversational pace is not the same as 4s/500m when you are pulling hard)
  • The most economical power (and 500m split) for any distance is 44W (03'19,6''). I am still surprised by this conclusion (see Power - Split - Calories folder, cells in green) (I used the C2 formulas. Hopefully the calculations are correct.)
  • Suppose you want to know how fast (and how powerfull) was James Reichert when we pulled 9127m in 30minutes (1994). Simply type 9172 in a grey cell signalling 30min in the C2 Ranking workouts folder and you wiil find out that the average split was 01:38,1/500m and 370,5W (which is what I pulled in my latest 2k erg test... hehehe)

The file named Ergometer - Training zones according 2000m Erg Test is pretty simple.
You may want to rename the tags correspondent to x% of the 2000m average power.
Other than that seems a good way for dosing your workouts.

(All unprotected cells are GREY. Watch out for the decimal separator being a comma).

(visit us at