How to Use the Rowing Ergometer to Measure Fitness

How to Use the Rowing Ergometer to Measure Fitness

Most gyms or fitness centers have a rowing ergometer in their facility, however unfortunately (from my experience) it is vastly underused to its full potential. The rowing ergometer is a great tool that uses the whole body to execute the “power stroke”, and can be a useful machine to measure your aerobic or anaerobic fitness. In this article, I want to explain how to properly use the rowing ergometer and how to set it up properly to assess your fitness.
For a video explanation of how to use the rowing machine – check out the video below.

Set the Drag Factor
The “drag factor” of the rowing machine is simply the amount of resistance that the machine applies to your stroke. On the side of the machine, you will see a tab with numbers from 1 (lowest resistance) to 10 (greatest resistance). But in order to get a proper read on your fitness levels, you need to set this resistance to a standardized number in order to get meaningful results. So, to set the proper drag factor, follow these steps…
1. Hit the “menu” button until the machine turns on
2. Select “More options” at the bottom of the screen
3. Select “display drag factor”
You will now see a screen that shows what the current drag factor is depending on the resistance (number on the side) you have set the rowing machine at.
Start to row as normal (explained below) for approximately 10 strokes, and a number will appear on the screen. From here, you will have to adjust the resistance on the side of the machine until you reach the appropriate drag factor for your assessment.

For males, the drag factor should be set to 100
For females, the drag factor should be set to 90

Once the screen reads the appropriate drag factor, you’re ready to start the fitness assessment! Simply follow these steps:

Select a Workout
Once the drag factor has been set – you’re ready to select your workout.
1. Go back to the main menu
2. Select New Workout
3. Use the buttons and arrows to adjust the workout to the preferred distance (see below for distance of aerobic and anaerobic assessments)
4. Select Confirm (the bottom right button)

For aerobic assessment, use the 1500-, or 2000-metre row test
For anaerobic assessment, use the 300-metre row ("sprint") test

Now that you've set the approrpiate drag factor, and set the distance - you can row, row, row your little boat (pro tip: don't be gentle).

How to Row
There are a few cues to consider when using the rowing ergometer to optimize your score on the test:
The Power Stroke
1. push hard from the LEGS first
2. transition the energy through your torso as you slightly extend the back
3. Continue to transfer the power into the arms as you pull hard to the sternum
tip: keep the chain as straight and long as possible while maintaining good form

The Recovery
1. Using your feet and legs, pull yourself back to the starting position fast and hard
2. bring arms back to starting position maintaining a straight chain
3. Repeat HARD

Tips to Consider:
For best performance on the 300-, 1500-, or 2000-metre rowing tests, remember to drive first from the LEGS and then pull HARD with the arms. Recover quickly, and repeat. Keep the chain long and straight.
For the aerobic tests (1500m and 2000m), don't BURST out of the gate, only to hit the wall shortly after with no power left in your legs. Instead, gradually increase your pull strength until you have obtained an intensity you can maintain for the majority of the test. I like to sprint for the last 300m - just to ensure I've given it 100%!

The time it takes to complete the distance is the score on the fitness test

For a short video explanation of how to use the rowing ergometer, check out this video below by clicking the KFit logo: