How to Row Harder

The Concept2 Indoor Rower does not force you to row at a certain speed or intensity. At any damper setting—and at any time during a workout—you can increase or relax your effort, rowing as hard or as easy as you want. The key to increasing intensity is knowing how to monitor it, and knowing how and when to apply power.

Monitoring Intensity

Monitoring intensity is a key job of the Performance Monitor (PM). The PM displays intensity in pace, calories and watts. Pace is expressed as time per 500 meters. When monitoring pace, the numbers will decrease the faster you go: a pace of 2:00 means that it takes you two minutes to complete 500 meters, slower than someone completing 500 meters in one minute 48 seconds (a 1:48 pace), and faster than someone rowing a 2:08 pace. If you watch watts or calories, the opposite is true: the numbers will increase—you’ll produce more watts, burn more calories—as you increase your intensity.

Stroke Rate

Stroke rate is the number of strokes you take per minute, or spm. The PM displays this number in the upper right corner. Rowing harder does not necessarily mean your stroke rate is faster. As you increase your intensity, try to keep your spm between 24 and 30 for most workouts, and 36 or below when racing. Read on to learn how.

Applying Power and Relaxing the Recovery

The key to keeping your stroke rate reasonable while increasing intensity is applying good power at the beginning of the stroke (the drive) and keeping your recovery under control. During the drive, be efficient with your power by engaging your legs at the start, then swinging the back, and then following through with your arms. On the recovery, don’t rush as you slide toward the handle for your next stroke. It’s called “recovery” for a reason! Overall, your drive-recovery ratio should be 1:2. In other words, your recovery should take twice as long as your drive. Review our Technique video if needed, and be sure to check out our video on Rowing with Greater Intensity.

How to Start

Before trying these examples, please read our liability disclaimer.

A good way to start rowing harder is to incorporate short bursts of power into an easier workout. Here are some examples:

  • Power 10s: 10 strokes at a higher intensity, spread out during a longer row.
  • Accelerations: 10–15 strokes where you gradually build your intensity from easy to hard.
  • Pickups: During a long piece, row the first 20 strokes (or 45 seconds) of each 500m at a higher intensity.
  • Alternative: Row 20 seconds hard, 1:40 (one minute, 40 seconds) easy. When rowing hard, try a pace that is five seconds faster per 500m.