Rowing Blogs - Weekend Reading Anyone?

It has been a pleasure seeing the growth in readership of this blog. Readers have come from across the globe with a wide range of interests. Over 250 of you have subscribed for our updates and more still visit each day. is one of the best known Blog Directories. They list 168 blogs with rowing as one of their topics! Of course not many of those have rowing as thier main topic. Here are a few of the blogs that I have had the pleasure of reading over the past six months or so. If you have a chance please take a look at the work of other rowing bloggers:

If I have forgotten any, please leave a comment with this post so I can follow up!

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Rowing Coaching Education - Rowperfect Resources

Thanks to Rebecca Caroe of Rowperfect (and her own blog) who sent me an email with references to several of their resources related to recent posts here. I would encourage you to go over and have a look. In the near future I may get a chance to expand on some of these resources but for now, a brief summary and an encouragement to take a look.

Resources from several Rowperfect seminars is provided including:

Information on Seat Racing by Duncan Holland

This relates to my posting of an excel sheet for use with a pair matrix, and our poll on selection.

He includes some important points:
  • It is a big assumption that a pair can select an eight!
  • Don't repeatedly test young people on the erg.
  • Fit the test to the training (and events) at the time - longer in winter, shorter in summer.
  • Seat racing assumes athletes have comparable fitness, skill, honesty and motivation.
Although just points from slides, his layout of how and why to use fours, rather than pairs of eights is well worth a read if you plan on doing any seat racing.

Training to Perform presented by Paul Thompson

British Rowing Technique presented by Rosie Mayglothling

Athlete Testing Protocols presented by Martin McElroy

This one relates to our most recent post on peak power as a valid sub-maximal test for evaluating athletes and athletes progress. This includes protocols for:
  • Sub Maximal
  • Strength Power
  • Step Test
  • Anaerobic Capacity
  • 1000m
  • 500m
There are some great resources there and excellent graphics to help demonstrate the testing protocol.

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Peak Rowing Power Predicts 2000 m Erg Performance

The latest issue of The Rowing News contains an excellent article by Ed McNeely describing peak power and how to measure it on the erg. McNeely's article raises some intriguing points, but it also fails to mention one important factor - body mass - and how it affects this measure.

Peak Power is essentially the highest wattage obtained when setting the drag at 200 over 10 strokes. Others use slightly different protocols, but they all measure essentially the same thing. Refer to McNeely's article for a complete description of how to use it in your training.

McNeely mentions that several studies confirm that peak power is one of the best predictors of 2000 m erg preformance. This would seem somewhat counterintuitive. Rowing is 80% aerobic, while peak power is a measure of anaerobic performance - and mostly the ATP-CP system that works for only a few seconds. Yet McNeely is right.

One study found the correllation between peak power and 2000 m erg performance at r=0.92 p<0.0001.There are others that have found essentially the same result.

This is not isolated to rowing, and also holds for other aerobic sports, even ones where the athlete must carry his or her weight even more than in rowing. Similar findings have been reported for 15 years in cycling. this article from South Africa by several authors including Tim Noakes, who recently was a keynote speaker at the Rowing Canada Coaches Conference found a strong correlation between peak power and both VO2 MAX and a 20 km cycling time trial. Interestingly another cycling study found that peak power increased from 864W to 940W or almost 9% after ingesting a controlled amount of caffeine.

In rowing, researchers have seen a 1.2% improvement in 2 k erg time and a 2.7% increase in mean power with caffeine ingestion. The same researchers in another study saw similar results with most of the improvement coming in the first 500 m - perhaps suggesting the effect was largely anaerobic, as is peak power.

Implications for You - and What McNeely Missed.

Peak Power is simple - perhaps for many even fun - to measure. Athletes don't seel the same pressure, or pain, that they do in a 2K erg test, yet the feedback it gives may be largely the same. We won't eliminate the need for 2K tests, but this may be a simle way to monitor training more regularily.

Train for power - McNeely describes how in his article and there are several other ways to include power training in your plan.

What he missed - the article I cited notes that the strong correlation between peak power and 2k erg times is true only when you consider lightweights and heavyweights separately so be cautious in how you use it to compare athletes. It would be better used to compare an individual athlete's progress in

Don't forget our recent post on weight adjusting erg scores. First - the same formula cannot be used to adjust a measure of peak power. Second, well - weight matters. In fact the article that found the strong correlation with peak power also reported a significant correlation between body mass and 2 km erg performance!

Finally, remember that this information is derrived from studies on elite athletes. MCNeely points out that it may be a good measure because elite rowers are all so comparable aerobically and anaerobic measures may then be an important determining factor. I seriously doubt that this is true for club, masters or junior rowers.

That said, in my coaching experience it can be a useful measure with elite junior athletes, although whether peak power has the same correlation to 2K time in juniors I can't say. It would be interesting to have some coaches take both measures on their next round of testing and report the results here to our readers!

More Excel Examples for Rowing Coaches - Time Trials and Pair Matix Seat Racing

Since the last excel file I posted on doing weight adjusted erg scores proved to be our most read post to date I decided to post a couple of more example sheets for you. They are not necessarily ready to be used at a local event tomorrow, but they provide good examples of going beyond basic excel functionality to enhance your coaching. Athletes may well be interested too if only to gain a better understanding of some things coaches often talk about.

While I liked using ZoHo for posting the last online spreadsheet it didn't perfectly recreate my work in Excel and the next two examples are more complex. So, I have posted them to a free file sharing site called "" Please go there and download your own copies of these two examples. As always, feedback is most welcomed and if you find them useful I would love to hear from you. I am also happy to make some changes if you need anything different but aren't up to speed with Excel.

Pair Matrix.xls

This file allows for easy calculations used in a traditional "pair matrix" for seat racing. It is limited to 4 port rowers and 4 starboard rowers, but simply putting in the name of the athletes and the times for each trial will rank each athlete. Scroll to the right of the matrix to see the ordered ranking of athletes. Of course not everyone feels that crew selection in a pair is the best way to select a larger crew, but that is for another post.

Time Trial.xls

This is for using Excel to calculate times in a time trial or head race. It is far more detailed than a simple calculation of (finish time - start time) as it reports perecentages of gold standards and percentages of winning times, and it also ranks crews on a separate worksheet without the need for doing any sorting. It's probably well suited for a coach to use with several crews in his/her club, but would need a bit of work to run a whole head race. I hope that it does provide some useful examples.

Download the files at

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Interesting Study on Fight in the Dog

Thanks to JW Burk over at Fight in the Dog for this interesting link. It suggests that ancient rowers of Greek Triemes may have been as fit, or fitter than today's elite rowers. I expect there are a lot of holes you could poke in the assumptions and informtation sources used in the article but it still makes fun reading.

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Rowing in the News

You may notice a newsreel in the header for the blog. Google has released this new tool recently. It will pull all news articles with rowing in them. I'm sure a few non-rowing articles will slip through but I hope this is an interesting and useful feature for you. Let me know what you think!

Archives - GPS in Rowing

Another look back into the archives for new readers today for our articles on using GPS in rowing. Some of these posts included good commentary by readers as well. Please add more if you have anything to add.

New Series - GPS in Rowing

GPS in Rowing the NK Position - Interview!

Volker Nolte Study - Impeller vs. GPS

In2Rowing adds GPS to cox box

Garmin Interview on GPS and Rowing

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Crew Selection Poll Closed

Let's hope the results of this poll are indicative of common coaching - any comments?

When asked how you would select a novice crew, you responed as follows:

1. Combination of ergs and technique evaluation: 42 votes
2. Seat Racing: 16 votes
3. Weight Adjusted Erg Scores: 6 votes
4. Subjective evaluation of technique: 2 votes
5. Other: 1 vote
6. Raw Erg Scores: 0 votes

I would still guess that lots of coaches would use raw erg scores so this may be a comment on who reads this blog. Still it's encouraging to see how many people want to be as fair as possible.

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Crew Selection Poll

To go with the last few posts, we present a poll on crew selection. You don't need to be a coach, just consider what you would do IF you were a coach. I indicated NOVICE just to make the decision a bit more interesting - in that technique would be somewhat more uniform and leaves a coach tempted to assume that they can mold the athlete. We'll say that this is a selection for a race within two months.

Please use the comments section and let us know your rationale.

Poll now closed see next post for results.

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Spreadsheet Tool for Weight Adjusting Erg Scores

As I mentioned in the last post there may be a better way to weight adjust scores for a whole crew than to just enter each of them in the Concept 2 calculator. I use excel for many things and have posted a speadsheet using Zoho Sheet that you are free to use. It is far from perfect I'm sure, but by entering a mass (in kg only for now) a distance and an erg score you are provided with several bits of information. You can use it below or for a better and more powerful view click the link to save it on your own machine as an excel file. I tried using Google Spreadsheets for this but when saved in excel format many formulas were lost for some reason. Zoho is also imperfect - losing title formatting and inserting some extra rows - but it is a simple way to provide a file for downloading.

  • Split gives you the average 500 m split for the piece.
  • Watts the average watts for the piece.
  • P:W power to weight ratio as described in the last post.
  • Physics .167 is the weight adjusted erg score using a .167 exponent as described on the Physics of Rowing site.
  • Physics .222 is the weight adjusted erg score using a .167 exponent as described on the Physics of Rowing site.
  • And finally the C2 .22 is the scorce as calculated by Concept 2.

Feel free to use, or modify this as you see fit. I'm sure I have made a few errors and will not be bothered at all if you find any and report them to me. If you send me any fixes or improvements I will incorporate them on the sheet published so that others can use them too.

If you need the original excel file, send me a note and I'll get a copy to you.

If you do find this at all useful or informative please drop me an email to let me know, please!

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Weight Adjusted Erg Scores - Find the Hidden Gem in Your Crew

With so many athletes having just completed, or possibly on their way to, an indoor competition this month the idea of adjusting erg scores for weight comes to mind. Many a smaller rower has wondered how their erg compares to the bigger athlete "pound-for-pound" so to speak.

Indeed, a browse across the web will find more than a few casual articles suggesting coaches are beginning to use this as a selection tool. It would obviously be a point of great debate, but several coaches are using it even as as a primary method of crew selection, especially for longer head races.

What is it? How is it measured?

The most well-known source of information is the Concept 2 web site, where an online calculator is provided to adjust erg scores. They describe their calculator as "a controlled, measurable way to compare their athlete's potential." This is a better way of putting it - potential - rather than pure ability which would take into account skill on the water.

This calculator works for any distance, but lets look at a 2K race. One athlete (Jimmy) is big and powerful and at 220 lbs. finishes in 6:10. Another (Kenny) is a lightweight, also with a very strong score of 6:20 but at only 155 lb.

Jimmy 220 lb. 6:10
Kenny 155 lb. 6:20

Assuming equal erg scores - who do you want in your boat?

Run them through the calculator and you get the following adjusted scores:

Jimmy 5:53.6
Kenny 5:35.9

The calculator says Kenny should be the faster rower, by a good margin. But what does it mean? Concept 2 says this score represents "how fast you would be able to go in an eight-oared shell if all eight rowers had the same adjusted score as you!" Wow - gimme 8 Kenny's any day!

There is a complicated formula behind this, also reported on the C2 website:

wf=[body weight in pounds/270] ^ .222

In plain english:

weight factor adjustment = (your body weight in pounds, divided by 270) raised to the power of .222

So essentially, you calculate an "adjustment factor" using this formula, and then you multiply your time by it.

For the individual it is much easier to use the online calculator. For coaches looking at many scores, there might be a better way - more on that in a subsequent post.

The same formula is reported on wikipedia in their section on the indoor rower, but without reference. I assume the author of that article borrowed the formula from C2.

Where does this come from?

There is no explanation that I have seen on the C2 site as to how their formula was derrived although they do note that the 270 in it used to be 170 and the adjustment was intended to better reflect performance in an eight. If anyone knows more, please leave it in the comments section.

Another great source for this topic is The Physics of Rowing site. It is an amazing resource for those looking for detailed answers to all their questions.

Many people have heard of the "power to weight ratio" suggesting that your power (in Watts - though an erg split is proportional to this) can be simply divided by your weight (typically in kg) to adjust erg scores. The Physics of Rowing site points out that we usually use the "cube root" of weight - or weight to the power of 1/3. The site doesn't explain why this is, but one can assume that since rowing is not a weight bearing sport and because all of your mass does not translate into increased drag on the shell then your mass cannot directly be used. To put it another way your power:weight ratio does not change directly with any increase in weight because that same increase in weight does not slow you down proportionally. If you double your mass you won't double the drag on the shell - it will only go up by some portion of the increase in your mass.

Ccalculating just a power:weight ratio for our friends in the example above would be done as follows:

First convert their average split from time into watts (there is an excellent explanation in the C2 Training Guide on page 225) but is essentially 2.8 / pace^3 where pace is time in seconds divided by distance. The resulting average wattages for their pieces then would be:

Jimmy = 442W
Kenny = 408W

Divide each by the cube root of their masses to get:

Jimmy = 95.3 W / kg^(1/3)
Kenny = 98.8 W / kg^(1/3)

Kenny has a better power:weight ratio but it does not appear quite as dramatic a difference between them as the C2 formula reports. Using just power:weght and not understanding what it means one might not see clearly the difference between these two athletes. Note that if the units are suitably large this 3.6 W / kg^(1/3) difference may well be very big, but most people wouldn't see it and it converys no information about the effect in a shell.

The Physics of Rowing article goes on to try and evaluate the effect of excess weight on performance on the water. It ends up derriving a formula that deals with the rowers mass in addition to excess deadweight (cox (sorry coxies), oars, cox box etc.) that has to be distributed amongst the rowers - which it pegs at 15 kg per rower - and uses an exponent that takes into account how drag is affected by extra weight. The more weight you add to a shell, the more the wetted surface area increases. But they suggest that this works differently depending on the size of the shell. In the end they end up with a formula that looks like this:

F = (90 / (mass (kg) +15))^0.167

The "factor" that this calculates needs to be divided into the erg score - unlike the C2 formula which is a multiplier. Of course you could just calculate the inverse of this factor(1 / F) and then it becomes a multiplier.

Note that this uses a power of 0.167 which is based on assumptions about wetted surface area in a larger crew boat. The 0.222 used by Concept 2 would come from assumptions linked to a single, where an individuals weight has a larger contribution to the change in wetted surface area. This is how the Physics of Rowing site describes it - but C2 report their formula is for an who is right? I can't say, but does it really matter?

Let's apply this formula - we see these adjusted scores:

Jimmy: 6:30.7
Kenny: 6:15.7

It still reports Kenny as faster, although not as dramatically. I would wager that if they are decent rowers the C2 formula reports better numbers for an eight.

Why the differences in these three comparisons (we could make it four by changing the exponent in the Physics of Rowing formula, but it makes only a small difference)?

First, all three are just mathmatical models. Appropriate assumptions based on known information is used to compile a formula that is hoped to predict something. These assumptions are based on something but they are just that - assumptions. There is a reason for the 0.167 exponent, for example, but it can't be said to be exact in every case. Not all shells have the same drag in the water or respond to excess mass in exactly the same way. The extra weight carried was also given an assumed value - but is 15 kg per rower correct - no, of course it can't be in all crews and all boats.

The variation in these formulae is to be expected, they are simply different models. Some may be closer to the truth than others, but we would only know for sure through controlled experiements to test the models. In any case the fact that there is variability points out clearly that we cannot rely on any one measure as a "gold standard."

So - to sum it all up - What should you use as a coach?

ASSUMING equal technique:
  1. These formulae strongly suggest that simply picking a crew based on raw erg scores would be a serious error - I hope nobody is doing this anymore???
  2. The fact that the formulae are not perefect models suggests that simply using one of these formulae to pick a crew would also be a mistake - better than a raw score probably, but a mistake.
  3. I would recommend using one or all of these to adjust erg scores to give you a truer picture of your athletes. Doing so might open your eyes up to an athlete with more (or indeed, less) potential than you realized.
  4. DO NOT overemphasize the weight adjusted score. The potential health implications of athletes trying to better their score simply by losing weight cannot be ignored. Point out that for a lighter athlete, losing one pound changes the score by about half a second and there is no way that amount can be a factor in crew selection.
  5. Test on the water! In the end, that's what it really is about isn't it?
A thought for on-water testing:

The Physics of Rowing information suggests that erg scores adjust somewhat less for an eight. There is an additional change in adjustment if you modify the amount of deadweight. If this model is correct it might have implcations for seat racing. Some coaches believe that the pair matrix is the fairest way to select an eight...but is it possible that a larger athlete is penalized more in a pair, perhaps losing in the seat racing when they would indeed have made the eight faster?

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Pacing for Races - Guest Post by Mike Caviston

As promised, we have the pleasure of presenting a guest post today. Mike Caviston has been sharing his research on pacing in rowing and other sports on the Concept II message board for some time now. He was kind enough to agree to putting this post together for our readers. Thank you Mike!

I asked Mike to introduce himself, and while he covers most of it, I think he does so modestly. He doesn't mention below his three CRASH-B wins, his 1988 World Record for lightweights or his 2002 6:18.2 World Record for the 40-49 lightweights which still stands. I'm sure I've missed a few things but suffice it to say Mike isn't just reporting scientific theory - he has lived his research and the results speak for themselves!

My name is Mike Caviston and I have long had an interest in the physiology of training and racing for many sports but especially rowing. I have a master’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Michigan, where I have been a Lecturer since 1994, primarily teaching
courses in Exercise Physiology and Sports Biomechanics. I compete in indoor rowing (40+LW category) and for more than 20 years have been involved off and on as a coach with the U of M’s men’s and/or woman’s rowing programs. My last stint was as conditioning coach for the
women’s team from 2000-2004, when I designed a training program called the Wolverine Plan (details at

To achieve peak performance during any race (certainly a 2000m rowing race) requires optimal pacing, though this is often overlooked by coaches. Neither is the topic especially well covered in the scientific literature. A few published studies tend to confirm my belief that even or negative pacing results in the fastest times for events that last in the range of 5-10’ (as opposed to the all-out start approach favored almost universally by rowers, where the opening 500m is the fastest segment of the race); results from other studies aren’t so clear. Frustratingly, the designs of several experiments on pacing don’t accurately reflect real racing conditions. I decided to search for results that included split data from elite competitions (Olympic and World Championship finals) and do my own analyses. I found sporadic results for events from running, swimming, cycling, and speed skating, as well as ample results for rowing. I also analyzed results for indoor rowing from the CRASH-Bs. My general approach was to compare “winners” (top half of the field) to “losers” (bottom half) on the basis of pacing, focusing on the speed of the first segment of the race (e.g., first 500m of a 2K rowing race) expressed as a percent of final speed. Overwhelmingly, I found that for all sports the faster, more successful athletes started more slowly (relative to their final times) than their less successful competitors. Complete data and more details can be found in a discussion on the Concet2 web site’s Training Forum.

Here is a quick summary of some of my major findings and conclusions:

• As illustrated by data from indoor rowing, the faster the start (relative to final average pace), the worse the overall performance. Starting extremely fast results in what is commonly referred to as a “fly-and-die”, but starting even a little faster than the final average pace results in suboptimal performance. The data shows a clear negative correlation between start % and final time. My recommendation is to start at a pace 1-2% slower than what is estimated as actual capability for the race, and to slowly and gradually build intensity to the finish.
• What has been shown to be true for indoor rowing surely applies to rowing on the water. Classic OTW strategy involves a fast start, cruising the middle, and sprinting at the end. Analyses of indoor results show this strategy to be less effective than simple negative splits (each successive portion of the race as fast as or faster than the one before). Since so few crews have raced with a negative-split strategy, it is difficult to show with much statistical weight that negative splits are more effective, but there is still evidence that in international competition negative splits are at least as effective, and possibly more effective, than the traditional fast-slow-slow-fast race breakdown. As with indoor rowing, the outdoor rowing data reveals a clear trend that faster starts (% of final pace) result in poorer performance.
• In addition to very clear evidence that all-out starts are not optimal for racing the 2K distance, there is evidence (less conclusive) that all-out starts are not advisable for shorter races either (i.e., 1000m or less).

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Xeno Posts on Harry Mahon's Technique

Do have a look at this post over on Xeno's blog - a great read on technique from a legendary coach.

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