The move I love to hate: Olympic rower Grace Luczak's killer erg sprints
While deciding whether or not to pursue a berth on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team, 2016 Olympic rower and world record-holder Grace Luczak is living and training in New York City. While Luczak gets out on the water as often as possible, she also logs countless meters on an indoor rowing machine, colloquially referred to as an erg.
They're in nearly every gym, and they are probably the one piece of cardio equipment that confounds gym-goers the most. But, when used correctly, there is no better machine to train the legs and core. Luczak gives us an indoor erg tutorial before telling us the workout she loves to hate.
The catch: Sit up at the front, with your shins perpendicular to the floor. Your heels are maybe coming off the foot stretchers a little but they're close to being all the way flush. Your shoulders should be in front of your hips, your arms are fully extended and you're in a crouched, squat-type position but with your chest up tall so you can breathe.
Engage the stroke and begin the movement with your legs. It's like doing a deadlift or a clean, so it's all about momentum and getting it going with your legs, connected through your core.
Leg drive: Phase two is squeezing your glutes so your shoulders go from being in front of your hips to behind, and your legs are pressing down, so it's like doing a Romanian deadlift. A lot of people say the rowing stroke is legs, back, arms, but I would say it's legs, hips/glutes, and then arms.
The finish: During the last little bit of the stroke you want to make sure your toes are pushed all the way through against the footboards. Your legs are "athletic" and engaged without locking your knees. Your wrists are flat, with the handle level with the bottom of your sports bra, and your core engaged. You really only want to go 15 degrees past perpendicular.
Recovery is the opposite sequence. The drive is legs, hips, arms, so the recovery is arms, hips and then legs. The key to setting up another successful stroke is getting your hips back over before your knees come up. You'll know you're doing it right when you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings before the knees pop up.
The workout: Indoor erg sprints -- three sets of 4 X 350 meters
How to do it: You row 350 meters, you get one minute rest and you do that four times. Then you rest a little and do two more sets. There is a scientific way to set the damper, which provides resistance, but the easiest thing to do is put it between a three and a five.
When I do it: When we are training, we often warm up on the ergs before we get out on the water. It can be cold on the water in the morning, so you warm your body up before you go outside. And we often jump on them after we're finished to get extra miles, or if the weather is bad and we just can't get outside.
Why I do it: I'm a rower who loves to be outside, which is why I love to hate the erg. It's as much of a mental workout as it is physical. You have numbers, and there are no weather or water conditions at play. With all the other variables removed, it makes it easier to work on your stroke and get in a very efficient workout.
Why it's so killer: It's the most efficient total body workout you'll ever do. The erg gives you constant feedback on every stroke and the numbers don't lie.