Good ergo rowing technique – or not?


A recent promotion by GB Rowing sponsors, Siemens uses a photo of a girl on an erg which is just plain bad technique.

Why on earth can’t the leading rowing nation show good technique in its publicity photography?

What is wrong with this image?

  1. Elbows lower than wrists
  2. Leaning back so far her bum is bulging over the back of the seat
  3. No weight on the feet (toes strapped in too tight)
  4. Handle coming up to her high chest / chin (why finish the stroke there?)
  5. anything else….?

Bad ergo posture at the finish.


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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. rocky

    It worked well enough for Andy Ripley.but he didn`t do the lay back in the boat.
    Competitive erging and erging for rowing technique are two different disciplines.
    Some coaches won`t allow layback in club tests but if you`re at BIRC, then anything
    goes to keep that wheel spinning.
    So this is an erging photo not a rowing photo and possibly you`re disappointed because it`s a Concept 11.

  2. EDC

    Well that’s just plain rude. What a nasty article. Absolute linkbait.

    Almost all high performance squads I’ve trained with have drawn high like this on ergo training sessions as it is well known the extra few inches of draw improve performance compared to “rowing-alike” technique.

    This photo is for an erg competition, but I bet my life the girl in this photo would beat you in any boat class, on any rowing machine or indeed probably at any physical, mental or technical test you could concieve.

    I hope she turns up to your office and slaps you.

  3. Graham Middleton

    I think that I saw that back some 10 years ago when a newcomer to sculling broke the world junior ergo record in a simple time trial at TSS ! Performance and publicity pose are separate items. Perhaps Siemens couldn’t afford a camera with variable time exposure ! Previous comment is so true. Ergo performance for ergo results is completely different to ergo for sculling / rowing. A simple initial observation is that sculling is performed in a horizontal plane; a chain coming off an ergo gear is automatically at its max efficiency angle – the height at which it is pulled is only relevant to the athlete’s comfort and efficiency. All this demands further comment. See forum for Feb; Common sense and devil’s advocacy will prevail ! Good debate, innit !!

    1. Rebecca Caroe

      Thanks Graham – you make great points…. We’ll check out your website forum too thanks for telling us about it.

  4. jy

    I wouldn’t normally feel compelled to support Rebecca, as she is extremely good as speaking up for herself, and maybe she has now spent a little too long in NZL, but in this case I shall make an exception. EDC obviously doesn’t know her otherwise he wouldn’t make the assertions he does. She is right about the poor technique on display and as this is clearly a posed photo, you would have thought they’d get it right. Poor artificial techniques like this on the ergo may indeed get you better scores in the short term but it puts massive stress on the lower lumbar region and increases the risk of injury, something that is worryingly prevalent amongst top squad rowers even with the amazing level of medical care they get these days. It also won’t work on the Rowperfect or the Concept2 Dynamic. Above all, it certainly won’t help your technique in the boat.

    Rocky says competitive erging is a different sport and he is right, but this is a is a photo of a GBR rower at Caversham on a poster promoting ROWING. If it were a picture of some Sub7 meathead promoting the CRASH-B’s or BIRC then he might just have had a point. Andy Ripley had a massive erg score and could beat most of the guys half his age but couldn’t hack it in the boat. I wonder why? Could it have had anything to do with TECHNIQUE?

  5. Marc M.

    You are right on – poor technique, however necessary to max out scores on the C2. I agree with the comments on what is necessary to max out an erg test vs. what one would do in the boat. Don’t fault her – she is probably doing what she needs to do for the erg test. I think on a dynamic erg this technique is probably less productive, even on a C2 on slides.

  6. Tom

    I’ve never in my life left a comment on an internet forum. However this article has interested me so much I am compelled to do so.

    Firstly, this is a promotional photo aimed at non-rowers, so whether aspects of the technique are not correct is frankly irelevant. If it was part of a series of photos promoting the GB model of effective rowing technique then you might have a point.

    Secondly, if i’m not mistaken the photo is of Helen Glover, GB W2-. Helen first sat in a boat in 2008, and within two years had overtaken everyone in the GB Women’s sweep squad to be in the top pair, which went on to win a sliver in the W2- at the 2010 world champs (a feat they repeated in 2011). Not bad for a novice.

    Thirdly, that pair is coached by Robin Williams, widely acknowledged to be one of the best technical coaches this coutry has ever produced. If you’ve ever seen this pair racing they have one of the smoothest and most efficient styles you’re likely to see, and stand a great chance of winning gold in 2012. So clearly she is capable of doing what she needs to do to get a good score on the erg (and therefore develop her fitness and power – the main componet of fast rowing), and to move a boat effectively as well.

    You could take a photo in the boat or on the erg of any of the GB squad (possibly with the exception of Mark Hunter) and probably pick it to pieces if you chose to. In fact you could probably do that for the majority of international rowers.

    Anyone with basic knowledge of rowing technique can pick out faults. Making that person a go faster is a much more difficult skill.

    I’m sure your article was well intentioned, and you may have a point that the governing body ought to be promoting perfect technique. But GB manage to be the top rowing nation in the world despite the dodgy erg technique (and without widespread use of the row perfect – great a machine as it is) so presumably they’re doing something right.

  7. Stephen Walker

    The ergo was invented to offer a closer approximation to rowing in a boat than lifting weights. They’ve improved over the years. I’ve had my Rowperfect for well over 12 years and it still is a closer approximation to sculling than a concept that is not on slides. A concept on slides comes close and is adequate. But here’s the thing. If selection is made on the basis of ergo scores then candidates are going to adapt their technique to get a good score even if it is not what they would do in the boat. Surely it is better to train the body in the positions that you would use in the boat. I mean you cannot improve your length strength by training you arms. You cannot become a better swimmer by going running. The ergo gives you the opportunity to row in positions very close to those you would use in the boat. So take that opportunity on land to practise good technique and do your selection in the boat. Here’s a question for you all to think about. Does Jonny Wilkinson practise converting tries with a soccer ball or with a rugby ball?

  8. Rebecca Caroe

    Thanks to everyone for the comments – I’ve really enjoyed reading every one. You all make great points and I agree with most of them.
    EDC, sorry to disappoint but nobody’s visited to slap me yet. And just for the record, if she came round to challenge me to a contest, I hope it’s sudoko!

  9. graham cawood

    The erg is NOT a boat, but certain similarities and advantages make the erg a valuable rowing training tool.
    1. It gives a complete score for your effort.
    2. It can be done anywhere, anytime.
    3. It is safe – no collisions or capsizing.
    4. It is kind to our joints, especially my old ones.
    5. A good place to practice some techniques without the distraction of being on the water. Use mirrors – immediate view better than later viewed video.
    What valuable similarities are there between erg and boat?
    1.Leg, upper body, and part of arm work ( Arms pull straight not in an arc, and no feathering)
    2. Rhythm. A similar 1:1 work :recovery ratio can be used.
    3. Breathing. 2 breaths per stroke – out at catch and release.

    If your erging is not for boat training who cares what your technique is. Choose whatever is comfortable for YOU, or is fastest. If you think some uncoached technique is interesting try it!
    I use an erg daily for 30 minutes at 2.05 with 1:1 in:out, to control bodyweight, and keep my 5x bypassed heart going. I’m 70. I use a curved relaxed back, bent(10′) arms during recovery- only straightening for the catch, layback 10′ AT the catch – not after legs down. Legs and arms finish together – legs not held down and arms away quickly to clear the knees.
    Have fun.

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