What Is A Good Target Split On The Indoor Rower?

Written by Concept2 NZ on April 24th, 2018.

Whether you use the Concept2 Indoor Rower for exercise, training for sport, or in preparation for a CrossFit or Indoor Rowing competition, you will no doubt have tried to work out what a good 500m split to target would be for you. More importantly, you might have questioned which split will make you competitive with others at your level of ability, or at a level that you aspire to. Unfortunately, we don’t have a formula to share that would help determine the best target split for you- there are just too many variables to reliably recommend a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Instead, in this article we will give you an idea of where that target split may lie, by looking at the current world record standards, the results and categories of this years’ World Rowing Indoor Championships, and other factors to take into account, so you can narrow down your target split range.

Times at The Top

In this article we will focus on the 2000m event on the Indoor Rower as the benchmark for split analysis. On-water rowing races are competed over 2000m, and since the Indoor Rower was first developed as an alternate training machine for on-water competitors, the 2000m event on the Indoor Rower has the most history and significance attached to it. It also means that the 2000m world records on the Indoor Rower are the most coveted performance benchmarks, and we have some pretty impressive scores on record indicating the best of the best’s abilities on the Indoor Rower. So, without further ado, the World Records for the 2000m in the Open categories are… 

Category Men Women
Open 5.35.8 (1.23.9) 6.22.8 (1.35.7)
Lightweight 5.56.7 (1.29.2) 6.54.1 (1.43.5)

For most of us, rowing this fast on the indoor rower is unimaginable- they are world records after all! But what they do show is an indication of what humans are capable of on this machine. To be clear, most champion on-water rowers will never achieve an Indoor World Record, but they do represent a helpful target to get as close to as possible, for competitive rowers attempting to make it to the top. For on-water rowers, plenty of other factors mean the difference between winning and losing on the water- technique, teamwork, and efficiency to name a few, but the Indoor World Records serve as a reminder of what is possible. Fortunately, Concept2 keeps a record of all verified Indoor Rowing World Records, so you can look up your target distance and age group for comparison too.
Click Here to check it out!

It is also important to remember that the World Records on this list were set by athletes training between 25-30hrs per week. Unless you have that amount of time to spend training for a goal like this, these are probably not the target splits that you are looking for, but they are helpful to keep in mind to give you an idea of where the top of the scale is.

What Does Weight Have to Do With It?

As you will have noticed in the above table, rowing events both indoor and on-water, have two categories- Lightweight and Open, and that the Open records are faster than the Lightweight records. In Indoor Rowing competitions, the Lightweight category requires competing athletes to weigh no more than 75kg (men) or 62kg (women). The lightweight category was introduced to rowing, so that the sport would be accessible to wider range of talented athletes- including those who do not possess the height and stature that is commonly required (with exceptions of course!) to be competitive in the Open category. What is interesting for the purpose of this discussion, is to take a look at the relative power outputs of lightweight rowers, which is helpful to get an impression of what power on the indoor rower really means relative to bodyweight, and how this might apply to individualised split goals.

No matter what your body-type, the power to weight calculator is a good equalizing measure of relative speed on the Indoor Rower.

For example, if we take the Men’s Lightweight World Record, we know that Henrik Stephansen would have needed to weigh 75kg to be eligible for his world record of 5.56.7. To produce that time, Stephansen held an average split per 500m of 1.29.2. If we place that split into the Concept2 watts calculator, we can see that this split is the equivalent of 493.1 watts. Now, when we divide that sum by Stephansen’s weight of 75kg, we can see that he achieved this world record by exerting an average of 6.57 watts per kilogram of bodyweight. This same formula can be applied to any range of bodyweight’s and splits, to produce a measurement of power per kilogram that is relevant to weight, meaning you can compare your score to someone much larger, or smaller than you without any unfair advantages. Using the watts per kg conversion can help to give you some perspective on your split on the indoor rower, and indicate a realistic goal split to aim for relative to your size and stature. If you are using the Indoor Rower to lose weight, looking at your power to weight output can be very motivating, and you should aim to see your power to bodyweight score increase as your bodyweight reduces.

For more on power to weight on the Indoor Rower, and a discussion on lightweight rowing in general, check out our video from the Project Alexandria, World Rowing Indoor Champs series. 

Age-Group Indicators

The Indoor Rower is an ideal training machine for all ages, and a great option for all ages who enjoy competing against the best. The World Rowing Indoor Championships offers the ultimate platform to test your abilities against the best in your age group, and the results from this year’s inaugural competition also provide a helpful insight into the sort of splits you can expect relative to age. Event categories range from Junior, U23 and Open, with age group brackets going all the way up to 95+, proving you are never too old to have a go at competing on the Indoor Rower!

At a glance, the top three fastest times in the male age groups 30-39, 40-49, 50-54 are all within a range of 25 seconds, and the winner’s times within a range of 14 seconds. This is only a very small selection of data, but at a high-level this does suggest that age in this range does not necessarily limit performance on the indoor rower, and that a 2000m time of 6.30 or faster will have you well in the competitive mix in these age groups.

Indoor Rowing is an accessible sport for all ages and abilities.

On the women’s side, the results between the age groups fluctuate a bit more, but with fast times in the low 7’s present up through to the 55-59 age group, again indicating that age does not necessarily limit ability on the Indoor Rower before age 60. The World Rowing Indoor Championships also features lightweight events throughout the age group categories, and features 1000m Para-Rowing events for open PR1, PR2 and PR3 classes. If you want to compare your spit to others in your age group and category, check out the full results list from this year’s inaugural World Rowing Indoor Champs here. For those who wonder what type of training goes into a top performance at this level of competition, check out our coverage of the two Kiwi athletes we sent to the world champs this year, and the training methods and preparation they went through ahead of the competition here.

By looking at the records and splits of rowers of various ages on the world stage, you can get an impression of what split might be right for you based on your goals, age, and stature. Of course, there are many factors that will make a goal split achievable- technique, a good training program, and fitness level to name a few, but you can use the information here to get inspired and start off on the right track!

Tip: Once you have narrowed down your target race split, try training for 30mins at 20 splits slower than race pace in a rating range of 18-22SPM. This should be an achievable split to maintain for an aerobic workout, if not take it slightly slower again and work you way up over time.