How To Train To Smash A 2km Rowing Erg

The 2km erg test is the pinnacle of rowing tests for many. It pushes your body to the limit to see how quickly you can row 2000m. In this article today I am going to write about the type of training and specific exercises you can do to improve your rowing time.

Aerobic Capacity for a 2km Rowing erg

Aerobic capacity is the maximum ability of the lungs and heart to get oxygen to your working muscles. If we increase aerobic capacity, we will make this process more efficient, and it can lead to increased mitochondrial density.

Mitochondria are the tiny parts of muscles cells that use oxygen to help in creating adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the energy we use to move. If we can improve our mitochondrial density, we can improve our muscle’s efficiency in using oxygen.

To increase your aerobic capacity, there is a very simple formula to follow: Long, consistent, and well-paced. Unfortunately, increasing stamina and endurance is not a quick fix. It takes time and commitment. To improve, you need to build up your total capacity over time.


Improving stamina for your 2km erg

A decent level of stamina can be different for people. A professional football player will need enough stamina to get through a full 90 minutes of football plus extra time without any dip in performance. A 75-year-old grandmother/grandfather will just need enough stamina to help with her grandchildren for 10 minutes at a time.

Endurance refers to your body’s physical capacity for exercise. There are two essential parts to endurance, muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance.

Muscular endurance is the ability of your muscles to keep working for some time without getting tired. Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of your lungs and heart to drive oxygen rich blood around your body.

Both of these aspects of endurance can be objectively measured. This is very important. You could easily measure cardiovascular endurance by putting your athletes through a 1.5-mile time trial and you could measure muscular endurance by setting them maximum pull-up test (this would test upper body endurance).

The SAID principle

SAID stands for ‘specific adaption to imposed demands’. It fundamentally means that your body will get used to whatever level of activity that you put it through. If you spend 90% of your day sat in a chair at a computer then that is what your body will be physically prepared for.

Similarly, if you are a Olympic weightlifter at the end of an endurance-focused training cycle, then your body will be priming itself for a high number of lifts.

I think this principle is important because if you are an athlete who wants to improve their overall stamina and endurance, then you need to be pushing your body into workouts that put you beyond what you are currently capable of.

However, we are not just focusing on cardiovascular endurance, we also want to increase the muscular endurance too. Yes, we can row for greater distances and for longer times to increase our cardio capacity, but how do we impact on our muscles specifically?

Training plan for 2km erg

This just cycle takes 11 days to complete once over. However, you will need to repeat the process until you manage to get the time you are aiming for. Initially I would look to reach a time of 7min 30sec. After that, you should be looking to take chunks out of that time during every 11-day cycle.

Day 1: Row for 30 seconds with 90 seconds recovery time. Begin with the aim of rowing for 150m per 30-second phase and add to 1m every round. Increase this as much as you can, remember we want to aim for 170m per 30-second phase.

Day 2: Rest. This could be active rest if you cannot stop working out. A slow 2km over 10 minutes can help to get blood rushing to the muscles and aid in your recovery and help to build to an elite time for your 2km erg.

Day 3: Row 10 x 500m with 1min rest between each set. Set your pace at the start and keep it. If you are aiming to row a 7 minute 2km erg. Then you need to hit 1 minute 45 seconds per 500m.

On the last set try and give everything that you have, this will help to increase your aerobic capacity even further and push your body into a place it has not been before. Remember that with the SAID principle, we have to ensure that our body is experience new and harder stimulus to see growth.

Day 4: Rest/ Active rest

Day 5: Rest/Active rest

Day 6: Today you will go through a quick time trial. This will help give you data to track your progress. Begin by warming up for 10 minutes, and then hit the gas and row 1km as quickly as possible.

This will give you lots of needed data. Firstly it will tell you how long it takes you to row half the distance.

Secondly, it tells you how much energy you are using over the shorter distance. As you see the shorter distance time get quicker, the 2km time should also fall.

Day 7: Rest / Active rest

Day 8: Warm up for ten minutes, and then row 1,500m as fast as possible. Similarly to our 1km row, this row will give us data over a slightly longer distance. It lets us know how our body reacts over this distance as we get closer to the 2km. Remember that a 2km erg is basically a sprint. So our body needs to be used to this feeling.

Day 9: Rest

Day 10: Rest

Day 11: Today is the day. Start by warming up for 10 minutes at a slower pace. Add in a few power 10s, which are10 strong strokes at your 2km erg pace. Then allow your heart rate to level off. When ready, go for your 2km. See your required pace and stick to it. Count your breaths per minute if that helps as well to keep yourself from hitting the wall.


In the quest to smash a 2km rowing erg, it is clear that success lies in a combination of consistency, strategy, and patience. As we’ve learned from various sources, training regularly and progressively working towards your target split in different intervals is crucial.

Remember, rowing is not just about strength – it’s also about technique. Focusing on the right form, such as exhaling at the finish and moving quickly out of the finish, can significantly improve your performance.

Moreover, preparing for a 2km row is not just a physical challenge but a mental one as well. It requires a solid race plan, careful pacing, and the mental fortitude to push through when the going gets tough.

And let’s not forget about the importance of patience. Especially for those new to rowing, initial progress may be quick, but it’s important to stay patient and consistent as progress naturally becomes slower over time.

In summary, smashing a 2km rowing erg is a journey that demands hard work, dedication, and a strategic approach. But with the right training regimen, a strong mindset, and a never-give-up attitude, it’s a journey that can lead to rewarding results. So, are you ready to embark on this challenging yet fulfilling adventure? Here’s to your success in smashing that 2km rowing erg!

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