Erg Rowing Tests – 7 Tips For Domination

Ok, preparing for an erg test involves  making sure you do things like some good 2k erg specific workouts. It should also involve having a solid 2k erg strategy as well as doing some mental preparation for the test itself.

But there are a lot of other things that you can do to help you score a good 2k. Let’s take a look.

#1 Nutrition

For endurance athletes like us, we need lots and lots of carbohydrates. Because intense erging burns gets it’s fuel from carbs you need to make sure you eat diet high in carbohydrates. I’ve followed this rule for many years and the difference between a high-carb diet and a low-carb diet is like the difference between night and day.

# 2 Hydration

You can run car with gas, but if you don’t have oil in the engine you’re going to blow it. Your body needs water like a car engine needs oil. Water is lubricant. And because you wouldn’t want to put any old oil into your BMW, you wouldn’t want to put any old water into your body.

You need a good hydration strategy that ensures you are topped up and ready to pull hard. Sports drinks like Gatorade are good because they have electrolytes that help you retain the fluid. Otherwise you’ll be just pouring water down the drain – literally!

# 3 Lactate Threshold

The best workout in the world for erg test preparation is 3 times 1000 meters faster than race pace. You need to do this session 1 or 2 times per week for maximum effect. Warm up well and set the C2 Erg monitor for 1000 meter intervals with 3 minutes rest. Go off hard and maintain a pace that you can hold for the entire piece.

Hold on towards the finish and make sure you do not back off the power. Repeat 3 times. Each 1000 will get harder but this is ok – it’s where you earn your race day pain tolerance gold.

# 4 Caffeine

Taking on a good dose of coffee roughly an hour before a hard workout or test can work wonders for your perceived effort. Some studies have shown a 6% drop in perceived effort after the ingestion of caffeine.

But the thing with caffeine is that tolerance can kill its potency. If you are a regular drinker of coffee, tea, caffeine drinks or even high percentage cocoa chocolate – the benefit you will gain on race day will be reduced significantly. For best results, stay off all caffeine for about 2 weeks before a big race. You might suffer a little from DTs but stick with it – it will be worth it.

# 5 Mental Toughness

This term is as elusive as it is important. Mental strength and Erging go hand in hand. Embrace the fact that you are a unique person able to withstand large amounts of suffering and discomfort. It’s what sets us apart. If you are having problems with your toughness examine your physical condition. Most mental strength issues have their source in over-training, poor hydration and nutrition or lack of fitness.

# 6 Race Strategy

I’ve mentioned at the beginning that you need a solid 2k erg strategy. But I want to mention again how important it is to have a race approach – particularly 2k race strategy. And while it’s something that you can learn and get better at with experience, you can avoid many mistakes by talking to other more experienced ergers. Ultimate erg domination will only come when you have nailed down an excellent world class 2k erg tactics.

# 7 Relax on the Burn

One major difference between the average and the dominant erg rowers is their ability to row the last 500 meters almost like it’s their first. All good race plans are almost symmetrical – the first and last 500’s are fast with the middle 1000 slower. Because the last 500 is cumulative it’s where the most pain is.

The best way the top rowers deal with it is by being more relaxed the harder it gets. Tense muscles will only lead to a restriction of blood flow to the parts of the body that need it most. So row like the champions – and stay loose.

Next Steps – Supporting Articles



Mental preparation


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  1. Hey,

    I’m trying to pull a 153.4 6k, but I don’t feel comfortable with my goal. My coach prepares my team for a 6k test by doing a 7x1k on Wednesday, a 4x2k on the next Wednesday, and a 3x3k the following Wednesday, all at race pace. I haven’t hit my goals on a few of these pieces and I haven’t felt very good on them. I’m wondering what types of protein shakes if any and at what times should I drink them, also how much water should I take in, and what types of meals for maximum performance should I eat.

    Thanks, Thomas

    • Brandy Mulligan

      March 6, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      Hey Thomas,
      Protein is fine but if you are doing pieces at race pace intensity you should give a priority to carbohydrate recovery drinks. Most good carb recovery drinhs have a little protein in them to boost recovery but have a big focus on carbohydrates.

      This is what you burn during hard pieces and you need to refuel yourself. Begin immediately after and aim to have a high carbo mean within 2 hours of the session.

      Also on rest days make sure you are eating well..

      It’s hard to tell how much water you need to drink. However, a good rule of thumb is if you are passing the water too fast then either a) you are over-hydrated b) the water is very cold c) you drank too much too fast. Aim to sip regularly.


  2. I’m a second year, 14 year old rower. My 2k time is at a terrible 8:50 and I would like to get it down . How would I go about that ( I’m 180 pounds 6ft)

  3. Hi,

    I have been rowing for 1 year and tomorrow morning is my second 2k ever. I got 8:02 on my first 2k and I gave up on a few strokes in the middle. Do you have any tips for breaking the piece up mentally, or in general how to not lose steam and heart. My body is not done, but my mind tells me to stop. I want to break 8 minutes but I am letting intimidation keep me from 2king.. literally! Any tips, inspiration??

    Thanks, W

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