Crash Your 2k Erg Score Test Strategy

Note, this was written as part of a three part series, you can learn about Part 1, the advanced 2k erg here.

Attention…. Go!

Scoring good 2k erg times is all about doing what the good ergers do. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery and when it comes to a 2k erg test, imitation of the top Olympic rowers is definitely they way to go.

So what’s the 2k erg strategy of rowers who regularly score great 2k times? And more importantly what do you need to do to erg like them?

Most of the top ergers follow the same pattern and it can be easily analysed by breaking the 2k test into 3 parts.

How to Start The 2k Test

They go off very hard for the first few strokes and settle down into their average pace early (after about 20 seconds). They then hold their split at an even manageable pace which is been worked out before hand using an erg score calculator, or from memory.

For example, say you want to pull sub 7 minutes for your 2k. You calculate that you need to have an average split of 1:44.3 /500 for the entire 2k. This will give you a finish time of 6:57.0.

What to do in the Middle

Having gone off hard for 20 seconds your average split might be around 1:40 and as you settle down into pace the average will climb.

Maintain pace and do not go for power 10’s or pushes unless you are experienced and fit enough to be able to cope with the extra power. This is a common mistake made by many beginner rowers (and some not so beginner!). If you want to get the most out of yourself you need to be pulling hard – on the red line with high average power.

Red lining your pace means that you are in a position where you are flicking between grinding to a halt and just about able to hang on and manage.

How to Finish

With 500 meters to go slowly raise your power (drop your split by 1 – 2 seconds/500) and hold it until 300 meters to go. From this point on it is all about slowly winding your power and rating up to the last stroke.

Some rowers prefer to delay the beginning of the push for the line to between 400 and 300 meters to go. Decide for yourself on the timing of your sprint. Factors like how good you feel or how fit you are will weigh heavily on the timing of your sprint.

If you have trained well and are well prepared then you will have practiced your sprint to the line. This is what all the great Olympic rowers do. And because they have practiced sprinting (no matter how hard it feels or tired they are) they are able to sprint on auto pilot – no matter what.

So if you have gone off hard and lowered your average power over the first 20 seconds. AND rowed the middle part of your 2k test on the red line. AND you have practiced sprinting in training (no matter how tired you are) you can row yourself to a 2k best time faster than you imagined.

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  1. Great write-up, and exactly what my coach is training me for right now. My goal is to break 6 minutes at the NW Ergomania event on February 5th. I’m training every day with structured workouts, and doing increasingly longer tests that follow the formula you laid out. So far so good! Happy Erging to you, Brandy!

    • Brandy Mulligan

      December 31, 2010 at 5:27 pm

      Good going Brandon. Maybe you could come back after the NW Ergomania event and let us all know how you pulled. Remember stick to your guns, no matter how difficult it gets. Keep it up!

  2. Brandy,

    I’ve been training hard to get my time down after two stress fractures and a lot of your articles have worked for me. Can you give some advice for 5k tests? That would be really useful as well.

    Thanks! Happy erging Brandy!


    • Brandy Mulligan

      October 24, 2011 at 10:52 pm

      Hey Lux,

      Thanks for your question!
      I plan on writing a lot more this winter – focusing on longer erg workouts/races.

      Like 5ks and 6ks

      But basically, to do well on the longer tests, you need 2 things:

      A great aerobic base (takes specific workouts and some time)
      And a high anaerobic threshold (again specific workouts but can be done in weeks)

      Stay tuned.


      • Do you think you could write about 5k/6ks this summer instead of over the winter?
        I know that longer distance rowing is usually done in the fall, so people are trying to prepare for that season during the summer.
        Just a suggestion.

        • Brandy Mulligan

          June 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm

          Hey Clare,

          Thanks for your suggestion.

          What type of stuff is important to you when preparing/racing 5ks and 6ks?

          Here are some things I can write about:

          • Workouts
          • Test Strategies
          • Sessions near race day that can really boost your score
          • Special Nutritional plans that can make a massive difference
          • Drag Factor Issues and Erg set-up.
          • Playing around with drag factor in pre-race sessions to help get a better score
          • .

          Please let me know – And the same goes for anyone interested in making personal suggestions – let me know about the things important to you and I will do my best to help you.

          Keep it on!


          • I am planning on doing a 6k next week. Could you give any tips that I could use in the next few days? Also, I would like to hear what you have to say about the special nutritional plans you recommend.

  3. Hi, Im Nate, and im looking to get my 2k time below 7:15 (which is my current time). I’m a 15 year old novice rower. I was wondering if there are any tips besides the awesome ones listed that you could give me?


  4. I’m a J14 girl who’s been rowing for just under 4 months and my best 2k time is 8:37.7. I was wondering if there are any ways of improving it other than just practicing as I am? I do a 2k pretty much every 3 days with other training in between, and want to improve my time as it comes into the head season. Any advice would me much appreciated, thanks 🙂

    • J15 here, just keep going, I didn’t pb for about a year, but what really helped is doing some hard workouts and getting better at them, for me it was more of a mental thing. Speak to your coach, they will be able to give you a couple of workouts that can help and fit in with current training. Also try some cross training such as running or swimming. Whatever you do, just keep going.

      Good luck

  5. Thanks for this, we’re about to start on getting people in our box going for their 2k scores and are looking for strategies to help them as they evolve. What you offer here will be a great base for them to try and stick to as they learn what they can do, how hard they can push (well, pull) and when.

    Off to explore those other links.

    (I’ll be trying for sub-7 today; getting nervous!)

  6. Hi there
    just started rowing, was wondering if i would like to get my ergo time to 8:30 for a 2k. what should my splits be for the 500/1000/500 be.

  7. Hi!

    I’m a new rower. I’ve just started training after about 5 year of doing nothing at all. I’m immediately addicted to the prospect of competitive rowing and so I’m really keen to improve rapidly and get on par with the young ones at the club! ( I’m 32 years old male 93KG and 5ft 9inch on height )

    I could lose a stone and my strength wi need to improve which is a case of time and hard work. I need help with rowing machine training session examples that will blast my current time of 8.03. I am struggling with the choice between lower damper settings and higher reps against a huger damper setting with a stronger powerful stroke. Any advice to get sub 7.00 ASAP would be great!

  8. Hi, I am a 57-year old 190 lb. male. I have been rowing roughly 4x/week for the last five years, going from 20 minute rows, to 24 minutes, now at 30 minutes. (During this time I have lost 50 pounds, thank you, Concept2!) Today I hit my PB for the 30 minutes, which is 7,736m. Yesterday, inspired by you, I tried a 2K test for the first time in at least a year and came in at 7:36 which is hardly better than my first 2K in a 30 minute workout. I was definitely scared to “give it my all” with visions of collapsed competitors in my brain!

    My goals are to get over 8,000 meters in 30 minutes and to get under 7:00 for a 2K. First off, which seems more realistic? The 2K is a brand new goal(!); can the two goals be advanced toward simultaneously? How do I control my psychology to be able to pace differently for the two types of workout?

    • Update: Today, on my second recent attempt, I achieved a 7:20 2K test; pushed much harder–and it hurt–but did not collapse at end.

      • Hi Brandy, I met my 30 minute goal today and am so delighted! 8028 meters! Your articles were very helpful and inspiring. In addition, at the beginning of the year I undertook a strength training regimen consisting largely of lat pull downs (for both endurance and strength building), front and lateral raises for shoulder strength, and VKR’s to build abdominals. Over the months, consistently doing 30-minute sets 3 to 5 times each week, I broke 7900 several times but had not gotten near 8000. And today I coasted through! My PB for the 2k is 7:13, I’d still like to see that under 7:00 and am hopeful that I will get there.

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