Tips for competition newbie? Stroke rate, drag?

From the CRASH-B's to an online challenge, discuss the competitive side of erging here.

Tips for competition newbie? Stroke rate, drag?

Postby AaronM » December 20th, 2016, 5:50 am

tl;dr - I need help determining the best A) drag force settings and B) stroke rate for my first 1k erg competition (considering 130 DF and ~35-40 spm but seeking advice).

I'm 5'9, 190 lbs, arm and leg lengths are pretty average for my size. I'll be doing a 1k erg as a part of a strongman competition in May. I'm a competitive athlete, but not a rower. I've been messing around a little bit with the erg machines in my gym and can do about 3:35 or so right now (hoping to get down close to 3:00), but probably with horrible technique.

I've been putting the damper up at 10, but some reading today has made me aware that this is far from optimal and that it should be more like 4-5. I'm not sure what my stroke rate is but am going to start paying attention to it next time I row for time.

I've seen a lot of people suggest setting the drag force to ~130; is that about right? I'm also having trouble finding a reasonable answer concerning what my stroke rate should be. I'm sure for hardcore rowers this answer gets complicated when it comes down to precise rates, but as a beginner who isn't a hardcore rower, I'm looking for a general idea -- should I be like 20-23 spm, 35-37 spm, etc.?

Thanks!
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Re: Tips for competition newbie? Stroke rate, drag?

Postby lindsayh » December 20th, 2016, 7:13 am

AaronM wrote:tl;dr - I need help determining the best A) drag force settings and B) stroke rate for my first 1k erg competition (considering 130 DF and ~35-40 spm but seeking advice). I've been putting the damper up at 10, but some reading today has made me aware that this is far from optimal and that it should be more like 4-5. I'm not sure what my stroke rate is but am going to start paying attention to it next time I row for time.
I've seen a lot of people suggest setting the drag force to ~130; is that about right? I'm also having trouble finding a reasonable answer concerning what my stroke rate should be. I'm sure for hardcore rowers this answer gets complicated when it comes down to precise rates, but as a beginner who isn't a hardcore rower, I'm looking for a general idea -- should I be like 20-23 spm, 35-37 spm, etc.? Thanks!


Hi there Aaron. You are right there is not one answer and the variables are greater when you are starting out. you also have very specific goals and enough time to make some progress. there are some good and very useful newbie threads on the training forum above that will address some of your questions and there is a sprint training thread as well with some specific stuff re shorter pieces - if you look at Steve 'cannondalerugby' comments you will see someone just turned 60 who has recently set a 500m WR and Shawn Baker who is focussing on the 1km.
The first thing is to get to drag factor rather than damper - as you may have read the damper setting varies from machine to machine so just get into the habit of checking DF rather DS. I would think your sweet spot for df will be between 135 and 150 - you will need to do some testing then just stick with it
The 1km though is a real test of fitness so to do well you will have to be fit enough as well - you can overpower a 500 but the strategy for the 1000 is different - find a pace you can hold and flat pace it - fly and die doesn't work at all. You will probably have to do a fair bit of longer rowing and have a technique check to make sure you have it right or you will be found out. An alternative approach is to look at what Shawn Baker is doing by just doing 1ks - starting with slow stroke rates and gradually working towards a free rate one. he is working on huge power per stroke and DF of well over 200 but is an outlier (but an amazing one)
you can train at SR22-28 to improve power per stroke but will need to be fit enough to hold well over sr30 - many will get close to 35 and above.

Best of luck
Lindsay
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Re: Tips for competition newbie? Stroke rate, drag?

Postby AaronM » December 20th, 2016, 11:50 pm

lindsayh,

I experimented with the DF some today and it felt best around 140 -- thanks for the advice, because I was just going to stick with 130, but I felt like I wasn't getting enough pull there.

Same for the stroke rates -- I tried to lower it a bit because during my trials before I'd been around sr42. Lowering it to about 38 let me keep the same pace with less effort. I tried keeping it down toward 33-35 but it's hard to stay that slow without deliberately taking more time between pulls; any advice there? 40-42 stroke rate just feels natural -- is that okay or should I be trying to slow it down to 35 or so?

On the plus side, just experimenting with the DF and SR seemed to help quite a bit. I was previously able to keep a pace of about 1:45/500m at about 80% effort (solid effort but not all-out), and that pace dropped to about 1:35 with the same effort due to the changes. Thanks for the tips!
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Re: Tips for competition newbie? Stroke rate, drag?

Postby hjs » December 21st, 2016, 4:13 am

AaronM wrote:lindsayh,

I experimented with the DF some today and it felt best around 140 -- thanks for the advice, because I was just going to stick with 130, but I felt like I wasn't getting enough pull there.

Same for the stroke rates -- I tried to lower it a bit because during my trials before I'd been around sr42. Lowering it to about 38 let me keep the same pace with less effort. I tried keeping it down toward 33-35 but it's hard to stay that slow without deliberately taking more time between pulls; any advice there? 40-42 stroke rate just feels natural -- is that okay or should I be trying to slow it down to 35 or so?

On the plus side, just experimenting with the DF and SR seemed to help quite a bit. I was previously able to keep a pace of about 1:45/500m at about 80% effort (solid effort but not all-out), and that pace dropped to about 1:35 with the same effort due to the changes. Thanks for the tips!


Training is not racing, using a lower rate builds your stroke. And not 35 but even as low as 20. This ofcourse depending on what session you do. All out 100m will be above 60 spm.

For your height and speed 35/40 sounds ok, but working on a stronger stroke wil help you lowering the rate a bit and making your stroke more effective, so faster.
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Re: Tips for competition newbie? Stroke rate, drag?

Postby comictimes » December 29th, 2016, 7:31 pm

I'm a bit late to this thread, so I don't know if you're still checking it, but oh well. I'll still contribute my two cents.

I teach an intro to erging class, so I see a lot of beginners, with all sorts of backgrounds and potential. The thing I see people struggle the most with wrapping their minds around, which jives pretty well with your descriptions of naturally wanting to keep the rate high, is being quick and controlled around the finish. It's surprising how much the length of your stroke at the front end depends on getting your arms away from your body and hinging forward from the hips at the finish. If either of those things haven't happened by the time the seat starts sliding forward you won't be able to get the full length at the start of the stroke, and the shorter stroke will give you less power and encourage a higher rate.

So next time you row, spend a few minutes purposely keeping your legs straight for a beat longer than usual while you (quickly) move your arms away from your body and hinge forward, so that you can see your hands pass over your knees. As long as you keep that motion quick you can still keep the slide forward relatively slow and relaxed so that there isn't a ton of momentum to turn around when you begin the next stroke.

Edit: As to the original question, assuming you get the form down stroke rate in the mid-30's and a drag factor of anywhere between 120 and 140 depending on what feels good to you should get you where you want to be.

double edit: I agree with everything Lindsay said though, especially regrading training at a lower stroke rating. Bringing the rate down highlights issues with your form that may be masked by the speed of high rate work. Even though these issues may seem minor they'll cost you considerable time over the course of a race piece.
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