I recently took the ramp test on the C2 row machine and failed out at 280 watts.


By: Gym Jones

First off, I have found your site a wonderful resource and repository of knowledge. The thought-provoking articles, commentary, and work-outs have influenced my own programming and attitude I take in my personal development. Thanks.

I recently took the ramp test on the C2 row machine and failed out at 280 watts. From what I read in February, the next step would be to test myself at how long I can sustain this power output.

You mention that the result will allow the player to program specific intervals to develop particular fitness characteristics. What are some examples of these intervals and their corresponding fitness characteristics?

If a specific, desired outcome will help focus an answer, I would like to better my 2000m row time. I can row about 7:15 for the distance before I fall off the machine. I would like to go sub 7.


A Ramp Test is a wonderful if painful diagnostic tool. Of course the outcome depends on a variety of issues, i.e. were you well-recovered going into it, etc? But also, to some degree, the protocol used. What format did you use? It won't affect the answer but will be useful to know and record for future reference and retesting.

A time of 7:15 for 2000m means and average power output of 272w, which is quite close to the ramp test value. To go under 7 minutes you need to average slightly better than 300w. The ramp test value is a starting point but how you rowed the 7:15 will provide more relevant data about how to ace that particular test. If you still have the memory log of the 2000m PR it's worth reviewing.

Did you start out too hard and fade? If so, what was the difference between starting pace and ending pace, i.e. was there a huge difference? For example, if you started out at 1:44/500m pace but fell off to 1:55/500m or slower the next question to ask is whether it was a muscular endurance issue or a cardio-respiratory issue ... or both (sometimes this is tough to determine). If the muscles faded perhaps the fan setting was too high. If there wasn't enough O2 in the room perhaps the fan setting was too low so the "boat" did not go very far for each stroke and the strokes-per-minute were high enough to overrun the O2 supply chain. That's a bit in the weeds but it will indicate what sort of training emphasis is needed.

Perhaps you will recall that Arthur Lydiard initially had his runners increase their mileage based on the notion that they lacked stamina. After all one mile is 4x 400m and he reasoned that if one could not run the 4th 400 at the same speed as the 1st one lacked stamina. In any case, much of the groundwork for these efforts (in the 3-10 minute range) depends on good aerobic conditioning and stamina. The majority of the energy needed to row the 2000m is supplied by the aerobic energy system (85%), while the remaining 15% is anaerobic even though we can easily be convinced that the anaerobic system contributes more to an effort of such "short" duration. Because of recent/current over-emphasis on the anaerobic energy system (a bunch of this BS comes from Crossfit), and due to the fact that, once it is over with, sprint training is so satisfying many have been tricked into doing too much speed/intensity work to improve 2000m times and not enough aerobic system training. But rowers with fast 500m times don't necessarily lay down fast 2000m results. However, those who can row 5000m fast can also do the 2000m distance at a good clip, which suggests that a well-developed aerobic energy system is required by both distances/durations.

I believe, generally, that to improve performance in the 3-10 minute range one must first develop good aerobic capacity - a solid base - then improve the top end (VO2 Max) and finally increase tolerance to high levels of muscular and systemic acidity. If you have been rowing a fair amount perhaps the aerobic base is established. If so, you can use ramp test results to guide intensity and target specific areas of fitness.

Depending on which test protocol is used, we infer some things and know others:
280w is your VO2 Max power
85% (+/-) of this is your "threshold", let's call it 30-minute power and 240w
VO2 Max power cannot be sustained for 7 minutes straight.
Your threshold power produces a 2000m time of 7:30.

Progress can be made several ways:
Increase power output at VO2 Max
Increase movement economy at VO2 Max and/or race pace
Increase threshold power output to (for example) 90% of VO2 Max power

To develop top end VO2 Max and economy we like to use 30/30 intervals because, done properly, they elicit VO2 Max response, develop race pace efficiency, don't cause too much acidity so one can recover quickly and do them with some frequency. Start with: 2x 6-10 min of:
30 sec @ 270-280w, or 1:47-1:48/500m pace (the Concept 2 is difficult to keep exactly in the range but you can get close enough) +
30 sec @ 50% of 280w (this need not be precise and it's better to be slightly below so HR drops a bit and lactate has the chance to be reabsorbed)
Rest/recover 3-4 min between blocks
Depending on how well you tolerate 2x 6-8 min, progress to 2x10 min after a couple of workouts. A simple progression (over 4-6 weeks) might look like:
2x6-8 min
2x10 min
2x15 min
1x20 min
2x20 min
1x30 min
The 30/30 workouts can be done in a few ways. We find that three-day blocks are very effective but it is difficult to tolerate such a workload in the beginning so I think you can start with 2x 30/30 sessions per week with each workout followed by a rest day or two. The schedule is not (ever) firm and all high-intensity training must be modified according to recovery status. If you don't feel recovered, rest more. Work up to 3x/week if feasible.

30/30s will cease to be effective after a while. At that point some work on sustained threshold will be helpful. If you are already quite fit and can tolerate the workload, 1x sustained threshold effort per week could be included during the period when the main emphasis is on 30/30s.
2x15 min @ 250w (basically 85-90% of 280w) with 3-4 min rest between Increase duration to 20 min once the 15 min blocks are easy.

Another way to work on this would be to do distance intervals (1000-1500m) at 250-260w, which is 3-4 seconds slower per 500m than current PR pace.
4-6x 1000m @ 250-260w (1:50-1:52/500m) with 3-5 minutes of rest between

For the 2000m you probably don't need to do any workouts longer than 60 minutes, which can seem an eternity on the rowing machine anyway. However, even with the interval training happening it will be useful to do some longer, easier efforts as well. So 30-45 minutes at a "conversational" pace though not too easy or casual. Try doing these efforts without your feet in the foot straps. Keep you stroke rate to the slowest possible while maintaining the target pace. This should be overarching guidance in any case: a stroke rate in the low to mid-30s for a 2000m effort seems common. Over 40 s/m cannot be maintained. Under 30 s/m doesn't produce enough speed no matter the level of resistance. That said, a stroke rate in the mid-20s during the conversational training efforts will teach you a lot about efficiency. Look at some of the "stroke rate" workouts Maximus has been doing in the last couple of months (July-August 2009).

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