2K Erg Test Strategy & Preparation

2K Erg TestThinking of performing a 2k erg test?

Want to know the best tips for strategy and preparation?

I’ve scoured the internet to find the best strategy and preparation tips before completing a 2k row.

If you are reading this article, I assume you know the 2k is the gold standard of rowing races.

It is used to compare yourself to other rowers around the world and gauge how fit you are overall.

The 2k row is a blend of endurance and sprinting, which equates to about 7 minutes of hell!

What can help ease some of this pain is having a 2k erg test plan. Each rower should know exactly what they are going to do on the day of their 2k test!

Their plan should start the moment they wake up to 5 minutes after the finish.


The preparation section of this article is not about how to train for a 2k erg test, but is instead a guide about the preparation for the “day of” the test.

Training for a 2k row takes months to prepare for and many long hours on the rowing machine. If you are looking for a 2k training program, there are many great resources on the web which can provide a good outline.

Below I will quickly cover a few things you should incorporate into your 2k training and then dive into how to prepare on the day of your 2k test.

Aggregation of Marginal Gains

The first thing I want to introduce is the “aggregation of marginal gains”. This is the belief that improving many areas by just 1% can add up to remarkable improvements overall.

This belief was adopted by the British Cycling Team who had never won a Tour de France.

After adopting this belief they began making very small improvements to every single area of cycling.

Examples included, better nutrition, more aerodynamic seats, lighter tires, and better training practices.

They then took it a step further and started making small improvements in other areas that effected cycling.

For example, they invested in better pillows to help them sleep better. They researched the best hand sanitizer to make sure they wouldn’t get sick. Even their massage gel was improved to help increase recovery time!

Aggregation of Marginal Gains Rowing Machine 2K

(Source: http://jamesclear.com/marginal-gains )

At first, the improvements had very little effect on performance. Then, after making many small improvements over time, the team began to see huge gains.

After just 3 years of making very small improvements to every area of cycling, the British Cycling team had a winner of the Tour De France!

My reason for including this story is to prove how making marginal improvements to every area of rowing can add up to an excellent 2k test time.

Making sure you are eating properly, getting enough rest, stretching, warming up, and having a race strategy, could potentially shave a lot of time off your final score!

So don’t think any one thing is not worth including in your preparation for a 2k row!

Training for 2K Erg Test

Your preparation for a 2k row should begin months before the actual test.

There are many training philosophies on how to train for a 2k. If you are still a few months away, you can do some research on 2k training programs.

When training for a 2k there are a few philosophies I tend to agree with.

First, you must train to increase your lactic acid threshold. Basically, you must be able to row hard and long while being able to clear your muscles of rising lactate.

One great way to do this while training for a 2k row is to perform 1000m intervals. Try performing 3 x 1000m at faster than 2k test pace.

This will help increase your pain tolerance (because it will burn!) and also increase lactic acid threshold.

While interval training is excellent for lactic threshold training, steady-state training is equally as important. A few times a week should be dedicated to longer, slower sessions performed right below your lactate threshold.

You should also be performing a 2k piece on the same day of the week and time of your scheduled 2k erg test.

This will help your body become accustom to rowing 2k’s and ensure there are no surprises on test day.

2K Erg Test Plan

Another philosophy I agree with is to row 2k’s every week and row them often. Many people will train for 2k’s and barely include them in their training program.

You should be so familiar with rowing a 2k that you can do it with your eyes closed. You should know exactly how to make your transitions and exactly when the pain is going to kick in.

Knowing exactly every meter of the race will help you be best prepared for when the actual test is performed!


Sleep is an important part in any athletic activity and begins more than just 1 day before your event.

Start going to sleep at the time you plan to go to bed before your test at least 3 days before.

This will ensure a few things:

  1. You will be getting good rest 3 days prior to testing
  2. Your body will be used to falling asleep at this hour
  3. If you are waking up earlier, your body will also be more accustom to this time
  4. If you cannot sleep the night before the test , you will have already had 2 good nights of sleep

You don’t want to be tired on race day, so make sure getting enough sleep is a high priority!


Nutrition is another obvious preparation category that cannot be ignored.

First, make sure you are eating a healthy diet while training. Healthy diets help your perform better and recover faster.

You should also be staying well hydrated at least 2 days before the 2k test. Staying well hydrated ensures your muscles are fully recovered, you won’t cramp, and your body will be able to properly cool itself.

Now, what to eat before a 2k erg test?

First, you should have a good meal 3-4 hours before your set 2k row. Your meal should be high in carbohydrates and ideally something you eat often so your stomach has no surprises.

Fruit and oatmeal is a good choice and even a Cliff Bar can help. I would avoid meats and dairy because they take a long time to digest.

2K Erg Test Diet

If you choose, you can take any gels or electrolytes anytime up to 1 hour before the test.

There have also been studies and beliefs that drinking beet juice or caffeine can improve athletic performance. If you are really into the 1% marginal gains philosophy, this could be an area you want to research more!

Ideally, you want to be testing on an empty stomach, while still having the proper fuel and hydration. Following these guidelines should help you achieve this.


Stretching before any rowing session is important and is a must before a 2k test.

Everyone has their own routine they like and probably a few favorite stretches.

You should focus on some static and dynamic stretches before moving into your warm-up.

Below is a video of some great rowing stretches. This is by no means a “must-follow” routine but it does give some great ideas about different areas to focus on.


Your warm-up is another essential component to a 2k erg test preparation.

Each person will eventually have their own personalized warm-up that works best for them.

This is why doing a lot of 2k tests and races is important because through trial and error you find out what works best.

There are a few 2k warm ups that have become popular over the years but they are by no means necessary.

Some people begin warming up an hour before a test, while others start 20 minutes before. The choice is entirely up to you.

Once on the rowing machine, you can begin by doing 20-30 seconds of arm only rowing, then 20-30 seconds of arm & back rowing, followed by 1 minute of half-slide rowing, and into 3-4 minutes of regular rowing.

After working up a light sweat, a very popular warmup is the “Eddie Fletcher 2K Warm Up Routine”.

It is about 20 minutes of light rowing with a few higher intensity intervals.

Below is a guide of how to do the warmups. It includes the interval time, stroke rate, and split based off your desired 2k time.

Eddie Fletcher’s 2K Warmup

You should finishing warming up about 10-15 minutes before the start of your 2K row. Double check your drag factor, footrest setting, and foot straps are all in order.

Now is the time where you need to get mentally prepared.

Pre-Test Mental

Mentally preparing for a 2K test should begin as soon as you start training.

You should work on visualizing your 2k and even doing your pre-test warm up. Sit and think about what it will feel like to start the test, feel tired, sweat, work through the pain, etc..

Studies are beginning to show that mental reps can lead to huge improvements in performance.

If you have a cox, you should go over what you want them to say, when you want them to say it, and how you want them to motivate you.

Do you want them yelling with excitement or keeping you calm and remembering your technique?

If you don’t have a cox, you should have a few pre-selected songs ready to be played. Music can be a big motivating factor and help push you through the hardest part of the test.

Rowing 2K

2K Erg Test Strategy

Having a good race warmup and preparation is the first key to a good 2k erg test time.

The second is having a good 2k test strategy. Not having a plan is the best way to ensure you will have a poor time.


Pacing is the most obvious way to begin forming your 2k row strategy.

You will begin by thinking of a difficult but realistic 2k time you want to achieve. You can then work backwards into different split times and sections.

For example, if you want to row a 7:00 min 2k, you will need to have an average 1:45/500m split.

There are two popular ways to achieve this 1:45/500m average split.

The first is to keep this pace the entire time (even-split). You can even let your average creep up to 1:46 if you know the last 500m you can bring down your split to ~1:43/500m or lower and finish strong.

The second method is to work in a negative split system. This could mean doing the first 500m at 1:48/500m, the second 500m at 1:46/500m, the third 500m at 1:44/500m, and the final 500m at 1:42/500m.

This would average out to a 1:45/500m split overall.

Both techniques have been used with success and it is up to you to experiment with both methods.

You will also need a desired SPM to have during your test. A good SPM for a 1:45/500m is around 28-30, which will creep up towards the finish.

Only practice will tell you the best SPM for your desired split.

Breaking the 2k into Sections

As I briefly mentioned in the last section, breaking the 2k row into sections can help you formulate a better strategy and have a more successful outcome.

The easiest breakdown to start with is 4 x 500m sections.

This can help you begin to think about the start, middle, and end of a rowing race.

However, as you get more experience with a 2k row, you will want to break your race into a few more sections.

The video below does a detailed breakdown of a 2k test race plan. This is the same breakdown I like to use.

Mental Toughness

Having a strong mind is huge when doing your 2k erg test. If you fall apart mentally, your time will seriously blow up.

First, you need to have a good cox or good music. Nothing will help more than these two things.

Second, you need to have a positive mental attitude. You need to keep reminding yourself that everything is going to be fine and it will be over soon.

Don’t let your mind tell you the pain is too much! You tell your mind and body to keep going and fight through the pain! Don’t let negative thoughts creep into your mind!

My favorite thing to think about during a 2K row is called the “40% Rule”. The video below describes the rule.

If fighting through the pain is still difficult, another thing many rowers do to keep their mind off the pain is count strokes.

Try counting 2 sets of 10 without starring at the monitor. Only glanced at the monitor to make sure your split and spm are staying on track.

Next thing you know your are down 250m!

Best 2K Erg Test Video Breakdown

Below is the best video on the internet about the entire process of the 2k erg test strategy. It covers a lot of the same information that I went over above.

However, at the end of this video there is an actual 2k row performed by Cam Nichol. He talks you through the process of the 2k and how he thinks about each section of the row.

Final Thoughts

With the 2K being the “Gold Standard” of rowing races, it is a wise decision to get good at performing them.

It is also a good measure of how fit you are and how you compare to other rowers from around the world.

After completing your 2K, try entering your time in the Concept2 Log Book to see how you compare to other athletes.

Maybe this will motivate you to keep pushing in your next 2k test! It also helps to compare your time to other rowers in your weight class.

If you are serious about rowing and want to start performing more 2k races, you should 100% be rowing on a Concept2.

These are the only rowing machines used during indoor rowing competitions and the only models where scores can be entered for world records.

The Concept2 Model D Rower is the best 2k racing rowing machine on the market. The PM5 monitor is extremely accurate and gives you all the data you need to perform your 2k row.

If you have any questions about creating a 2K erg test strategy, please leave them in the comment section below!

Real Athletes Row