What To Test & When

Water vs Ergo

If you are lucky enough to have a quiet and calm stretch of water to train and race on, then you can enjoy comparing your results over distances over time. However to be accurate, consistent and have the ability to measure how many Watts you are generating, the Gold Standard is to test on a Concept2 Ergometer over regular intervals throughout the season.

What To Test

You want to identify through a series of deferent tests, how many Watts, on average, you are generating when using anaerobic power and how many watts you are generating when using your aerobic capacity for the longer sustained effort. Both these dimensions are key for you to understand how to evolve the focus of your training.

When To Test

You need to get these tests done at the start of the training schedule so that you can establish a baseline for where you are at this point in time. For the most comparable results, I recommend that you do the tests over the course of a number of days with the same tests in the same order each time. Then do the tests every 6 to 8-weeks to see how the training prescriptions are impacting your performance and adapt accordingly.

What the different tests tell you

Peak Power (100m test)

The Peak Power Test is determined over 100m on the ergo, and will help you to understand your peak power, that is how much power you can deliver and represents your upper end.

If you are weak here in comparison to the 6-minute power/pace bench mark, you will need to do more sprint and short over-speed work plus strength and conditioning to improve this aspect.

Anaerobic Capacity (1-minute test)

The Anaerobic Capacity Test, is a 1-minute all out maximum test on the ergometer, and is a pretty good measure of your anaerobic capacity. It should be a maximum effort with high rate and the highest power you can sustain over 1-minute.

If you score lower watts in the 1-minute test in comparison to the 6-minute power/pace bench mark, you will need to do more anaerobic threshold and above threshold work as well as including strength and conditioning to improve this aspect.

VO2 Max (6-minute test)

The VO2Max Test is a all out maximum test of your capacity over 6-minutes on the ergometer. Research has shown that on average when we get the athlete to put out a maximum effort, that when they are fresh and rested, should be able to put out and hold 100% of power (watts) for about 6-minutes.

Using the 6-minute test is a good way to determine your VO2 max power and heart rate peak without going into a lab. Already I’ve saved you about $300 and half a day by not having to go into a lab 😁 

The test needs to be done at the maximum effort you can sustain over 6-minutes. This means, high rate and the highest power you can sustain.

Anaerobic Threshold (60-minute test)

One of the most fundamental tests for an aerobic sport is the 60-minute test to understand your absolute aerobic power and capacity. Again this is connected to research that shows that well trained endurance athletes can hold their maximal lactate (zone 4) steady state for about 60-minutes.

As rowing is predominately an aerobic sport, you need to work on getting your maximal sustainable power at Anaerobic Threshold up over time. Aside from technique, the rower that can deliver the highest sustainable power over 1,000m or what ever the race distance is, will go the fastest.

This test is done every couple of months along with the other tests to give you a useful calibration. You dont need to end up on the floor puking, yet just need to do your highest power and maximum effort over the hour. This effort will give you a clear watt value and heart rate. Your heart rate will most likely end up between 87 - 93% of your heart rate peak. It may start to drift upwards over the hour due to fatigue and heat.

If you are weak here in comparison to the 6-minute power/pace bench mark, you will need to do more aerobic development (zone 2) to improve the mitochondria density (the bodies power plants) and anaerobic threshold (zone 4) work to improve your ability to process and clear lactate.

Tips & Suggestions

  • These tests are hard and often people find it motivational to do with others, even over Zoom or Skype.
  • Be well rested and mentally ready to race these tests
  • Warm up well and activate all your energy systems to be ready for the demands of the test.
  • Plan your pacing for the 6k and 60-minute test.
  • Have a fan on for the longer tests for evaporative cooling.
  • Make sure your heart rate watch is fully charged and working.
  • Heart rate belts are more accurate in capturing your heart rate than wrist based light sensors devices.
  • Be sure to set the tests as intervals on the Concept2 to make it easier to record the data.
  • Maintain the same fan setting and drag resistance for each test and subsequent tests. Note this on your test file to make it easier to remember😁 

Next steps

Now that you have all this information, you can use the download tool and do the tests to see where your strengths and weaknesses are in order to understand where to focus.

Take a moment to download the template and get familiar with the framework. Look at your diary and plan the dates to do the tests with your mates or crew members.