My rowing obsession started innocently enough. I bought a concept 2 from one of the guys I worked with and used it for some interval work and cardio. Then because I had to back off the kettlebells I got a bit more serious about using the erg. I did a few indoor rowing competitions nearby and I was hooked. At that point I realized that because indoor rowing is a substitute for real rowing, I was essentially living in Plato's cave. I can't seem to be able to do anything half-way when it comes to anything so early in the spring of 2011 I was off to the florida rowing center to try the real thing. I enjoyed that and decided that it was something I wanted to do so I picked up a sculling shell and have been doing quite a bit on the water when the weather permits. The on the water experience for me has been full of stories, adventures, and misadventures which I may go into at another time but long story short, I'm hooked on rowing.
Because I love rowing on the water I am always looking for ways to improve. The rowing stroke is a bit like golf, there is always room for improvement. In looking to improve there are two general areas in which improvement can occur. These are fitness and technique. Fitness to me is comprised of injury prevention and work capacity. The erg adresses some of these things well and others not so much. Ergs are great for fitness as far as work capacity goes. You can get an excellent workout in a controlled setting and generate lots of useful data on the erg. Injury prevention may be a different story. Static ergs for some people are a recipe for injury, particularly involving the low back. On a static erg the body slams into the catch position repeatedly, this involves a lot of directional changes, the force of which must be absorbed by the body. Thus, injury risk is a concern and it is also part of the reason why more and more people are changing to dynamic ergs. As far as technique goes, rowers like to say "ergs don't float". This is true. Just because you can pull a great score on the Concept 2 doesn't mean you are any good on the water. The reason for this is because you can get away with a lot on the static erg. The dynamic machines are designed to more closely simulate what happens on the water with the boat moving beneath the rower. What it does not do is simulate bladework. Bladework is a huge component to being able to move a boat. Hence, ergs don't exactly float. What they can do, in my opinion is develop excellent conditioning in a way that minimizes injury risk. The dynamic ergs also to a fair extent allow the user to work on technical issues like body movement sequence and timing of the catch and drive ratios.
I talked a lot about dynamic vs static ergs in this article where I reviewed the Oartec Slider. You may want to take a look at that and then read part II of this series because I am going to compare the Oartec Slider, the Rowperfect Indoor Sculler, the Concept 2 Dynamic and the Concept 2 static on slides. Yeah I ended up owning all of them. I distinctly remember saying that no way would I drop all that money on a Rowperfect. Well I did... Was it worth it?