3 Race Winning Rowing Workouts

Have you ever wondered about the rowingworkouts you are doing day in day out? Ever wonder if they are designed to help you actually win a race. Late in rowing races is often the time when the outcome is decided and it’s often down to the looser actually breaking, more than the winner actually winning.

But you can learn to win close races by preparing physically (and by implication, mentally) with specific workouts designed to get you familiar with severe pain tolerance – simulating the late stages of a race.

But you should treat the following workouts with caution. Because of the heavy demand physically and mentally they will place on you, they should only be attempted when you are feeling relatively fresh and rested. Use them once a week at most and treat them with the degree of seriousness that race winning knowledge deserves.

Here you go:

#1 Under Over Intervals

12 minutes total
(2 minutes at Threshold Power + 1 Minute Above Threshold Power) x 4

This is really tough training. Perfect for a controlled rowing environment like the erging. Your Threshold Power(TP)  is the power you could hold for 20 – 30 minutes all out.

So for example, if your TP is 1:45 average /500 meters, then you would pull (1:45 for 2 minutes +  1:44 – 1:43 for 1 minute) x 4 (which is 12 minutes total)

I first came across this type of training in the Lance Armstrong Performance Program. And the first time I tried it I was only able to do one 12 minute set. It was extremely difficult but after 3 – 4 weeks I was pulling 2 x 12 minutes with a 5 – 7 minute break between sets.

#2 Five minute boosters

(5 minutes at TP then 5 minutes easy rowing) x 5

Take it a little easier for the first couple (maybe 1:46 in the under over example). The accumulative interval will start to really hit home for the final 2 sets. This is race winning territory. You are burning, you’re tired and the 5 minute rest is not enough to recover. Dig deep and always finish hard to the line.

#3 Vo2 Max Intervals

I have mentioned elsewhere about vo2 max boosting rowing intervals. But here is a different erg workout which again tests you in race winning territory.

(1000 meters all out) x 3

Each set should be done with a proper racing start and a short sprint to the line. This is severe training and is as much mental as it is physical. This workout should only be attempted once per week for a few weeks before an important race or test. When done properly your lactate tolerance will go through the roof – and your ability to win close races  will rocket with it.

P.S. Thanks to Steve for pointing out the error in the Under-Over Workout – The correction is 4 times 3 minutes (12 minute workout).

Related Article:

1. Crash Your 2k Erg Score Test Strategy


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  1. Loving your blog! Question about the 1K*3, what is the rest time?

    • Brandy Mulligan

      January 2, 2011 at 12:18 pm


      The best ratio for Vo2 Max intervals is around 1:1. So let’s say your pulling 3:10 for the 1k, take somewhere between 3:00 and 3:20 rest.

      Tough, but worth it!

      Keep it going,


  2. Also loving all of this, do have anything that recommends what type of splits/500 for these type of training workouts in order to hold a desired 2km erg time?

  3. Question:

    I’ve a recent sculler– took lessons on the water and go a few days in but my goal was always to erg. It’s just much more efficient time-wise and I don’t have to sked a boat.
    I have ergged longer than most folks I see. I usu go 30 minutes for around 7000 meters. My ‘splits’ ,tho, (not ever sure what that means) is only around 2:06-2:10, and I hear that you need splits of a minute and a half to a minute forty seconds– but is that for a short race, like a 2K, or should I be rowing a 1:30 for 30 minutes?
    What SHOULD I shoot for in a 30 min/7000meter workout?

  4. Great workouts. But I was wondering, when you say you should only do these once a week max are you saying ‘do only one of the three once a week’, or ‘you can do all three each week’?

    • Brandy Mulligan

      January 9, 2012 at 10:24 pm


      Just one of the above workouts once per week. They are very intense.

      Mentally and Physically.

      And to keep them special and fresh, you should keep them for special training days.

      Commit emotionally to each workout and think of them as part of your race winning repertoire.

      Good Luck!

  5. For the first workout, should I do 12 minute set in one go? Meaning I would row 2 minutes at threshold, 1 min below threshold pace, 2 minutes, 1 minute, etc., until the 12 minutes are up.

  6. First thing first : Fantastic web site and very useful info.
    I am pasting the following from your site :

    “This Model Is Used by Olympic Rowing Champions
    Jensen recorded the results of the following erg tests for each rower:

    10 second blaster
    60 second blaster
    2k erg test
    6k erg test
    60 minute erg test
    All the tests were completed within a week, and were performed a number of times during the rowing season, over a number of years. Most of the rowers were world or Olympic medalists and some held the world record on the erg.

    When he compiled the data, he discovered a numerical relationship between the 5 test scores.

    And the relationship was the same for heavyweights, lightweights, women and men.”

    And now the question. Is there a specific protocol to follow for the different pièces. On the Canadian Rowing Federation website, I found out they require that the 10 and 60 seconds be rowed with full slide. Wich will bring down significantly your average. And the 60 minute piece cannot be rowed at more than 22 SPM. wich also affect your final result. I could not find anything more specific on the web about the Jensen protocol. Would you happen to have more info on this?

    Once again thanks a lot for the info on your site

    • Brandy Mulligan

      November 2, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      Hey Lou,
      Thanks for your kind words and reading the articles.

      As far as I know the Danes do everything at maximum – but I am open to correction on this.

      For example, one of their top athletes has pulled sub 1:40 splits for 60 minutes – and I would say this is impossible for a lightweight at a capped rate…

      Anyone else out there know?

      • Hello Brandy,
        You were right. All the test are no caps, “no holds barred” pieces. What I had read were suggested or observed rates.

        By the way there is an error in the erg calculator the time for the 6 K test. It seems to be the result of the 500m split (of the 2000m)*12 instead of the split of the 500m split ( of the 6000m)*12. I think you might have reference the wrong cell coordinate. Feel free to delete this entry if you wish.

        Once again thank you for your site.

  7. Hi
    I am a masters rower tey to get my erg down to 3.10 or below. We race 1000 metres and I am considering your erg workouts. How would you modify for 1K?

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