How to get your 2k row time under 7 minutes
Back in the early 2000’s I spent some time training with the rowing team at Newcastle University. With the inspiration of Redgrave and Pinsent at the Sydney 2000 Olympics the motivation at the time was to see how those guys trained and learn from the best.
What I found was that it was an endless number of ergo sessions, runs and weights to get in shape and an eye opening challenge that was deemed the ultimate test called the 2k row. I remember as an 18 year old doing this test under the watch of the coaches and hitting a 7:37. It felt awful and there were people hitting as low as 6:45 and as high at 8 minutes in that group.
Since then I’ve always utilised the rowing machine in my own training and that of my athletes, teams and clients that I work with. Most of the time the focus is on general conditioning and fitness, but occasionally a drive to get an improved 2k time is on the cards.
As I’ve matured in my training I need targets to drive for and the 7 minute 2k ergo is one of those milestones that is always in there somewhere.
My PB at the time of writing this is 6:51 which is good but not great.
Why 7 minutes?
Talk to any male and they will tell you that the 7 minute barrier is the one to aim for. A badge of honour if you like.
For females this is always going to be very tough purely from a strength perspective. So for me I would say that a sub 7:30 would be the goal for female trainees.
THIS article in mens heath tells the story of the 2k better than I can.
So how do you get a sub 7 minute (or 7:30 for females)?
Firstly you need to want it/ It will not happen by chance and it has to mean something.
Secondly depending on your level of fitness it will take you a few months minimum to achieve it so get ready for some serious work on the rowing machine.
Lastly, your body shape plays a part here. Longer limbs mean you’ll get more from the rowing machine. Short, squat people will always struggle.
Phase 1: Get in shape.
If you don’t currently do much exercise or you are carrying significant excess weight spend the next 8 weeks doing the following before you start on the rowing training:
Day 1: Jog or run for 45 minutes. Steady state is the best option here, you can slow down when you need to but just make sure you accumulate 45 minutes of movement.
Day 2: Bike and row 45 minutes. You can do 20-25 minutes on each piece of kit if you like but again accumulate 45 minutes of movement.
Day 3: Run intervals on the treadmill. Do 3 minutes work and 90s rest x 5 followed by 90s work 60s rest x 8.
By the end of the 8 week phase you’re goal is to do a 5k treadmill run in less than 27 minutes (or 30 if you are female) and a 5k row in less than 26 minutes (or 29 if you are female).
Quick word of caution. Before you begin running get the right footwear to avoid injuries. Go to a running shop and get them to take you through a gait (running) analysis and buy the trainers that make your running pattern most efficient. Spend some cash on the correct trainers that are recommended as a result of your analysis. If you don’t you will pick up injuries that will hold you back.
Read THIS article and the videos on how to improve your rowing technique and work on this during your first month. Also read THIS which tells you how to set up the rower for your body type.
Once you’ve done that first block of general training you’re ready for the 2K programme below. If you’re coming into this in decent shape then skip the first block and jump into cycle 1 below.
2K Row cycle 1 (4 weeks)
Firstly do a 2k row and time yourself then work out your split time per 500m. Let’s assume you hit 8 minutes first time round (an average time). That equates to 4 minutes per kilometre (km) or 2 minutes per 500m. Concept 2 Rowing machines (the best and most common) give a split time per 500 metres. We will use this to determine your speeds in this programme so get used to getting that calculator app out on your phone (who uses a real calculator these days btw?)
So you will base your training around the following:
Day 1: 5 x 500m with 3 minutes rest at 10% below your 2k 500m split. In the example above that would be 1:48 per 500m. (This is 120s total so take 12 seconds off that to get your 20% reduction).
Day 2: 5 x 300m with 2 minutes rest at 20% above your 2k 500m split followed by 3 x 1k rows with 3 minutes rest at 10% above your 2k split.
Day 3: Row for 15 minutes- steady and work technique. Followed by run for 20 minutes and go as far as you can in that time (record both distances).
On your fourth week test your 2k time again instead of doing day 1 and see what improvements you make. You should knock off some considerable time.
2k Row cycle 2: (4 weeks)
Assuming you have now re tested your 2k time we will use this improved time as the measure for the second phase.
Let’s assume you have knocked 30s off and achieved a 7:30 at the start of this block.
Do the following training:
Day 1: 5 x 500m rows with 2 minutes rest at 10% below your 2k 500 split. Based on 7:30 this would be 1:53 per 500 metres so in this example your goal would be to hit 1:42 per 500m.
Day 2: Row 3km in 5% above your 2k 500 split time. In the example above this would be 1:58 per 500m so a total of 11:45 for your 3km row time. Focus on technique here.
Follow this by 2 x 1km with row 3 minutes rest at 5% under your 2km 500m split time. SO based on 7:30 this would be 1:48 per 500 or 3:36 per 1km.
Day 3: 8 x 300m with 90s rest at 20% below your 2k 500m split followed by 20 minute run as far as you can. Based on the 1:53 split the goal here would be to row your 300s at a 1:32 pace.
Do this for 4 weeks and then re test your 2km time. It should have improved again.
2km cycle 3:
This cycle is about working on your strategy for the 2k along with improving your fitness for the test. Let’s assume you achieved a 7:15 in your re test at the end of cycle 2.
Day 1: 2km prep session.
Do a 2km test using different strategies each week.
Go hard for 30s.
Ease off slightly for the first 500m.
Ease of again for the middle 1000m.
Step up again at 1500m.
Big kick at 1750m.
Hard first 500m.
Easy second 500m.
Medium third 500m.
Hard final 500m.
Steady time throughout.
Practise your own of rehearse one of the above a second time.
For each one of these follow with a 20 minute run as far as you can.
Day 2: 5 x 500m rows with 2 minutes rest at 10% below your current 2k 500 split. Based on 7:15 this would be 1:49 per 500 metres so in this example your goal would be to hit 1:38 per 500m.
Day 3: Steady row of 5km at 10% above your current 2k 500m split time. That would be 2minutes per 500 or 20minutes for the 5km effort.
Final 2k test: Make sure you have had a good two days rest before you take this on. Maybe even 3-4 days.
Decide on your strategy.
Come in and do 5 minutes steady row ramping up to a 30s hard pull which will be similar to your 2km starting pace.
Rest a few minutes and drink some water.
Then go out there and smash it.
Be prepared to be hanging on for the final 3 minutes!
This poster is what the 2k is all about. Just make sure you keep pulling even when the pain is there!
Don’t forget to let me know how you get on by leaving me a comment or tagging me in a post on social media @brewndanchaplin.
Best of luck to you,