How To Pull The Erg Harder (Learn 3 Ways)


#1 Load up the Front End

The erg responds well to a front – loaded power phase. If you are working hard at the back end of the rowing stroke you are probably limiting your erg splits because:

A. Working the handle hard towards the finish is not very efficient
B. You are missing out on the natural erg response to loading the first 70 – 80% of the drive.

So if you can spend your power early in the drive and not rely on back loading towards the finish you can produce more efficient power. And it’s a power curve that the erg monitor responds to  – sometimes by up to 1 second/500. (depending on your rating and power)

2# Work hard through the most effective part of the stroke.

Do you know what part it is?

The catch?

The leg drive?

The finish?

All or some of the above?

The answer is that it’s the part of the drive phase where all your levers are simultaneously engaged.

The point where your legs, back and arms are all loaded at full leverage.

Depending on your technique it’s where you have around 75% of the slide used, your body swing is in maximum speed of action and your arms are about to engage towards the pull phase.

To get it right your timing is crucial.

  • Unwind your angles … make sure your legs, back and arms are connected in time with the speed of the handle.
  • Don’t shift your seat back ahead of your handle (because you will be early with your legs and late with your back swing and pull phase)
  • Don’t open your back up at the front end (because your legs will be late and your back swing and pull phase will be early )
  • Don’t start to pull until you have your legs and back almost spent (because you will be early with your pull phase)

It’s all about timing the opening up of your angles.

#3 Relax the finish

This is tightly connected to tip #1. If you spend your power over the first 70 – 80% of the drive, try to release and relax the (dynamic) last few inches of your pull phase. As the handle comes in towards your body…. release the tension….. let it flow around the turn…. and move it away towards the beginning of the next power phase.

Releasing the power a little earlier will help you to relax your arms and upper body, save you energy and enable you to focus on Tip #1 and Tip #2.

One Final Tip…

All 3 are intertwined and changing 1 will require you to change all – for maximum efficiency and more power.



  1. I love your site!

    If the maximal power point it at 75%, then would it be a good idea for competition to do half strokes with a larger drag factor and higher rating? I imagine this has been tried and decided by ergers before me.

    Thanks for your response,
    Todd Hansink

    • Brandy Mulligan

      December 22, 2011 at 1:05 am

      Hey Todd,

      I just replied to your other comment in 7 Steps to Good Erg Rowing Technique.

      The topic in this post is related somewhat to what we spoke about in that other post.

      To answer your question:
      I have seen people try it.
      But I haven’t seen anyone really improve by doing it.

      It think the main reason is that you need the full 100% of length to gain enough momentum to really unwind your power through your body angles at that power point.

      I have seen one guy shorten up the stroke length occasionally (2 – 3 times) during an all out 6k test, just to get the wheel moving again.
      It worked for him (sometimes), but it probably cost him a lot of energy.

      Then again, maybe he was physically able to clear that extra effort from his system quickly and return to normal rowing power and length (naturally)

      Mostly it was frowned upon because, we were in a rowing setting where rowing (as in boat) technique was encouraged on the erg. (And in case you haven’t guessed by now, I don’t believe that applying rowing boat technique is good for going very fast on the erg.

      Hope this helps,
      Feel free to ask some more questions.

      Here’s to your good erging,

      • I saw a youtube clip of Rob Smith rowing a 500m record and I noticed that his rating was high, and I assume his drag was high if not maximal,…and the most impressive thing I noticed was that his strokes appeared to be partial–his shins not going anywhere near vertical. From this I infer that he is minimizing the deceleration of the flywheel by “tapping” the wheel with the most powerful segment of his stroke.

        Now, I was wondering (and I do basically understand the cost of a high rating) if such a technique–partial strokes with high rating–has been successfully used over the 2k distance (indoors) with any success.

        Your response indicates, No.


  2. i want to know everything i can learn about erg rowing i live in winston salem nc and this is no meca for rowing please help me

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