Indoor Rowing Glossary - key terms, phrases and acronyms

Indoor Rowing Glossary - key terms, phrases and acronyms

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Indoor rowing is a pretty simple sport, but sometimes you'll come across some specific indoor rowing terminology, abbreviations or nicknames that can be a bit confusing or are are just new to you.  So whether you are starting out and a bit overwhelmed, or just need to lookup something you haven't come across before this indoor rowing glossary from asensei is for you.  We wanted to make this more than just a dry list though, which is why we've add interesting insights, fun facts and further reading links to our indoor rowing definitions and we will continue to update and add to them over time and your suggestions are welcome!


Table of contents and navigation

  • A-E - Adaptive Rowing to Ergometer
  • F-O - Feet Out Rowing to Open Rate
  • P-S - Pace to Split Time
  • T-Z - Tabata to Yanking Chain

Shorthand for a 2000m row which is the classic benchmark distance for indoor rowing competitions.  The 2km distance is also the Olympic and World Championship standard on-water rowing distance.

Did You Know...  Concept 2 maintain 2000m world records for a range of different categories. The current indoor rowing world record for Women is held by Brooke Mooney of the USA in 6:21.1 and the men's indoor rowing world record is held by Josh Dunkley Smith of Australia which is 5:35.8.  


Adaptive rowing is rowing for people with disabilities and is a growing area of indoor rowing. The indoor rowing machine is modified to meet the needs of adaptive athletes in a range of different ways and there are various competitive categories .

Did You Know... British Rowing coach Claire Holman was the lead adaptive rowing coach for the GB Team at the Invictus Games in the Hague in April 2022. Claire is also the coach for the asensei Master The Basics and Embark programs.


AMRAP stands for As Many Repetitions As Possible. A style of workout where you push yourself for a fixed period of time to do as many of one exercise as you can manage.

Did You Know... A number of workouts complementary to indoor rowing use the AMRAP methodology, including some of those in the asensei Be A Dark Horse program which features on and off-erg exercises from Dark Horse Rowing's Shane Farmer.


There are a number of rowing apps that can connect to indoor rowing machines, designed to make your workouts more enjoyable, educational, social and keep track of your results.

Did You Know... The asensei app is one of the top rated rowing apps in the iOS appstore and features an extensive no-obligation free trial.


In a rowing context a baseline can be considered to be an assessment of your fitness at a particular point in time.  For example you might row 1000m as hard as you can and that will give you a baseline indication of your fitness on that day.  Baselines are often used in conjunction with BENCHMARKS in order to put your baseline performances into context.

Did you know... a number of asensei training programs utilize baseline tests during the program to help predict your performance at the culmination of the program, whether it's a 2km test in the (RE)COMMIT program or a 6km in the (RE)FOCUS program. 


A benchmark is a way to compare your performance to others. In rowing you may compare yourself to the performances of others who have rowed the same distance (or time) and that will benchmark your ability and fitness with a wider population of rowers.  

Did you know... We discuss benchmarks and where you might find relevant rowing performance data in more detail in our article Baselines & Benchmarks.


The British Indoor Rowing Championships is organised by British Rowing and it is held in December each year. While 2021 and 2020 events were held virtually due to the covid-19 pandemic, prior to that the BRICs were held at the Olympic Velodrome in Lee Valley London.

Did You Know... the event was first held in 1991 with only 200 competitors in Henley-on-Thames. The most recent in-person events have had over 2000 participants and it is among the largest indoor rowing events in the world.


The bungee cord (also known as the Shock Cord) is part of the internal workings of many rowing machines and recoils the chain during the RECOVERY phase to bring the rower back towards the front of the machine. This helps to mimic the way that a boat will be moving through water towards a rower, making the indoor rowing stroke feel more like the on-water experience.

Did You Know... If your rowing machine does not automatically pull you towards the front of the machine you may need to replace the bungee .


In rowing Calories are a measure of energy burned (expended) during your workout. Your rowing machine will normally display a calorie count on the monitor during a workout, giving an indication of how much energy you have used during that workout. Some people like to structure their workouts around calorie burning in order to help with weight loss.

Although commonly referred to as Calories, the unit of measurement generally displayed on rowing machines is actually kiloCalories (1000 calories).

Did You Know... To estimate how many calories you might burn in any workout you can use a calorie calculator .


The Catch in rowing is also known as the start or the ready position in the rowing stroke. The name comes from the point, on a boat, where the blade of the oar would first enter, or Catch the water.

The rowing stroke is often summarized as CATCH - DRIVE - FINISH - RECOVERY.

Did You Know... Perfecting the catch can improve your speed. For more information, tips and drills to help improve your Catch read Coaching gold: the essence of the indoor rowing catch


Manufacturer of the RowErg rowing machine used for the vast majority of competitive indoor rowing, as well as producing various other ergometers such as the SkiErg and BikeErg.

Find out more or buy online at

Did You Know... The Concept 2 Model A rowing ergometer was the original rowing machine, produced in 1981, based on a bicycle wheel, a wooden handle and footplates and a speedometer! It has evolved through various iterations since then to be the most robust and well-known rowing machine.

The Concept 2 Model A rowing machine - featuring a bike wheel!


Connected Coaching is a term used to describe sports coaching that is delivered and enhanced by a smart device such as a mobile phone. For example asensei offer a connected coaching platform that can be used to track posture and form and deliver feedback in real-time, giving a personalized training experience for all.

Did You Know... enables anyone to add technique coaching and correction to sport and fitness products. weaves motion capture into sports apparel, AI into camera systems and knowledge into software so that fitness equipment, training apps and Connected Fitness products can coach and correct movement in real-time.


Famous indoor rowing competition held annually in Boston, MA. In recent years this has also been recognized as The World Indoor Rowing Championships held in partnership with US Rowing. The regatta is held in late February every year.

Did You Know... Back in 1980, CRASH-B was first coined as an indoor rowing acronym for the Charles River All-Star Has-Beens!


The lever on the side of the FLYWHEEL of a Concept 2 RowErg, used to adjust the amount of air let into the flywheel, which changes the way that each rowing stroke feels for the rower. On a Concept 2 this can be set from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most air let in and the heaviest feel. Most rowers will operate around 4.

As Concept 2 say: damper setting is similar to bicycle gearing: it affects how rowing feels but does not directly affect the resistance. A lower damper setting on the indoor rower is comparable to easier gears on a bike.

Did You Know... that the same damper setting will not provide exactly the same feel from machine to machine. For an accurate measure of true effort DRAG FACTOR is used on Concept 2 machines.


Drag factor is Concept 2's way of calibrating your true effort from machine to machine, normalising for factors such as damper setting, air temperature, elevation, even the amount of lint caught up in the flywheel.

Take a deep dive into the relationship between Concept 2 Drag Factor, damper, flywheel and how they can impact your rowing.


The Drive is the phase immediately after the CATCH , where the rower uses their legs to drive themselves back from the footplate. The correct sequence during the drive is to drive with the legs, then introduce the body, then use the arms until you reach the FINISH position.

Did You Know... although a full technique breakdown is beyond the scope of an indoor rowing glossary, training programs such as those from asensei will help you improve your technique


Indoor rowing machines can be separated into two categories, dynamic and static. Dynamic rowing machines involve both the athlete and the machine moving during the rowing stroke. This is sometimes considered to be more similar to on-water rowing. See also Static rowing machines .


Common nickname for a rowing machine, but an Ergometer is a generic term for a machine that measures effort or work. Concept 2 even call their rowing machine a RowErg and wrote a whole article about Ergs .

Did You Know... Although to some people Ergometer means pain(!), the name actually comes from the Greek words ergon, meaning work, and metron, meaning measure. "Ergometer", therefore, literally means "work measurer".


A technique or rowing drill that involves rowing with your feet above the footstraps, meaning that they are not anchored to the footplate.

Did You Know... Feet out rowing can be beneficial to help engage your core and improve your technique around the finish position. For more detail Olympic Champion Eric Murray explains the Benefits and Pitfalls of Feet Out Rowing .


The Finish is the point at the end of a rowing stroke where your legs are fully extended, your body is tilted slightly back and you have pulled the handle of the machine/oar to your body.

Did You Know... you can find more information, tips and drills to help improve your Finish in the article: Coaching gold: the essence of the indoor rowing finish


Manufacturer of a wide range of dual-tank water resistance rowing machines.

Did You Know... Formed in Australia, FluidRower now export all around the world and have one of the widest ranges of indoor rowing machines for home and commercial use.


An easy mistake to make when rowing in the harder workouts. If you go out too fast, you’ll find yourself slowing down as the pace gets too difficult.

Did you know... asensei's structured indoor training plans set you up perfectly and prepare you for races so there's no need to fly and die when you have a rowing plan and personalised targets set by asensei.


A flywheel is a wheel with fan blades attached used to generate air resistance on certain rowing machines such as those from Concept 2. The harder you pull the greater the resistance. Resistance can also be adjusted via the DAMPER


The part of the indoor rowing machine, or boat, where you place your feet. A good contact with the footplate is essential so it's important your feet are positioned correctly and strapped in appropriately.


The footstrap goes over your feet to hold them in place on the footplate of the rowing machine. This allows you to arrest your momentum at the far end of the rowing stroke ( the finish ).


The force curve is a graphical representation of how you apply force during the rowing stroke and is often used to help improve technique.

Did You Know... We are looking for a smooth, symmetrical curve by using the legs first, followed by the body and the arms. Learn what's better a smooth force curve or higher peak power .

PM5 monitor showing a force curve


The rowing machine handle is normally a single formed piece of plastic (or wood) which is ergonomically designed to allow the indoor rower to grip it easily and comfortably to allow them to pull the chain or cord over a prolonged period of time.


A Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) is a piece of equipment used to track an athlete's heart rate while they workout. Different types are available, typically either wrist worn such as smart watches or chest straps worn under your clothing. Usually these will connect to the rowing machine monitor or to your smartphone via Bluetooth or ANT+ wireless technology.

Did You Know... the asensei app will display your heart rate on-screen automatically, whether your HRM is connected to your monitor or your smartphone .


A form of training based around the athlete's heart rate. Typically Heart Rate training is based around zones that are defined as a percentage of the user's max heart rate such as the UT2 training zone , for base-level exercise intensity.


Indoor rowing has two weight categories lightweight and heavyweight.  The heavyweight category for women is for those who weigh more than 61.5kg and the heavyweight category for men is for those who weigh more than 75kg.  

Did You Know... the asensei app allows you to specify your rowing weight category so that you can automatically submit that information to the Concept 2 logbook.


HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and is a form of workout with short intervals of high effort (intensity) and short recovery. You'll typically go at max effort for a short period of time and have a very limited time to recover meaning that your body can experience both aerobic and anaerobic training in a very short space of time.


It is a type of training which involves bursts of high-intensity rowing and periods of rest or light rowing.

Did You Know... Intervals help you row with a higher intensity, improve your speed of recovery and are very time-efficient workout to fit into your day!


A well-known rowing drill where you will change stroke rates periodically. For example spending 1 minute at each of 20spm, 22spm, 24spm and 26spm would be an example ladder drill. Great for building the intensity in workouts and for getting your body used to rowing at different stroke rates.

Did You Know... No indoor rowing glossary is complete without mentioning the ubiquitous ladder drill!


The intensity of exercise at which lactate begins to build up in the blood faster than it can be removed.

Did You Know... Increasing the lactate threshold allows rowers to row faster for longer before they fatigue.


Legs, Body, Arms is a common way to describe the indoor rowing stroke. Starting from the catch position you first drive with your legs, then you start to introduce your core (body) as you hinge at the hips, and finally you pull with the arms. This takes you to the finish position . The return from finish position to catch is done in the opposite order -arms, body, legs.

Did You Know... LEGS, BODY, ARMS is also the name of an indoor rowing training program from coach Johan Quie .


Indoor rowing has two weight categories lightweight and heavyweight.  The lightweight category for women is for those who weigh 61.5kg or less and the lightweight category for men is for those who weigh 75kg or less.  

Did You Know... For indoor rowing championships and official records, lightweights must be weighed in no earlier than two hours before their race.


The Concept 2 logbook is an online database where your workout stats are stored and can be compared to those of other concept 2 athletes.

Did You Know... Some apps such as ErgData or asensei can automatically send your workout data to the Concept 2 Logbook.


A rowing workout where you try and row as far as you can in a fixed period of time. E.g. a 10 minute max distance test. Concept 2 keeps rankings and world records for certain fixed duration rows like this, including 1 minute, 4 minutes, 30 minutes and 1 hour.

Did You Know... The (RE)FOCUS program from asensei and Eric Murray uses 10 minute max distance tests to help determine your fitness and predict your race times during the 6km training program.


The computer mounted on a rowing machine that displays your rowing stats in real time. Typical stats that are displayed include the elapsed time, distance rowed, stroke rate , split time , power and calories burned. Monitor is a generic term but it can also be known as a PM5 for a concept 2, an S4 for a WaterRower or a Console for a FluidRower.


Open Rate means that you choose what stroke rate you are rowing at, not the coach. In a real race nobody is pacing you, and you'll row at the rate you feel most comfortable with to achieve the goals you have set. For short distances up to say 2000m this will tend to be a fairly high rate compared to 'normal' training rates which are usually in the 20-30spm range

PACE In indoor rowing the pace is how fast you are going; your speed, often measured by SPLIT TIME . A fast pace on the water means your boat is really motoring. Sometimes a coach, or asensei, will ask you to increase your pace, this doesn't mean you have to row at a higher STROKE RATE , but it does mean you should try and increase your speed which means decreasing your split time.
PICK DRILL This is a well-known rowing drill that isolates (or picks) different parts of the stroke - legs, body, arms. Starting from the catch position, the pieces in a typical pick drill are arms only, arms and body, half slide and then full slide. See also reverse Pick Drill.
PIECE A segment of a workout measured in either time or distance.
PM5 Performance Monitor (version 5) used on the Concept 2 RowErg. A Bluetooth capable monitor that enables connection to apps such as asensei. Previous incarnations of the PM5 were the PM4, PM3, and PM2 - none of which feature Bluetooth connectivity.

A measure of how much energy you are expending at that moment. Measured in Watts and can often be displayed on your rowing machine monitor.

See also Calories in this indoor rowing glossary - a measure of energy expended (burned) over a period of time.


A workout that qualifies for ranking in the Concept 2 Online Logbook. This allows athletes to compare themselves to other rowers for that season and vs all time bests. Only set distances and times qualify, such as 2000m or 1 minute.

Find out more about ranking rowing workouts .

RATE Shorthand for STROKE RATE . Usually measured in strokes per minute (SPM)

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a way of measuring our physical activity intensity level. It allows us to communicate how hard we feel our bodies are working using a scale from 0 (lying on a couch) to 10 (maximum sprint). Also known as the Borg Scale or Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion after Borg Gunnar who first defined RPE .

Did You Know... RPE is subjective but often considered to be a good alternative to absolute measures such as heart rate when a HRM is not available.

RATIO A shorthand term used by coaches to talk about the relative duration spent in the drive and recovery phases. Increasing the speed of the DRIVE can lead to more pace (or boat speed if on the water). e.g. a fast drive and a slow recovery.
RECOVERY The phase of the rowing stroke after the FINISH, as you return to the CATCH position. Called the recovery because you don't use much energy as you return, the flywheel or the boat motion will help you, and it's a chance to recover a little before the power is laid down in the DRIVE phase.
REVERSE PICK DRILL The reverse pick drill is a common drill in rowing, used to help isolate the different component parts of the stroke. Starting from the catch position, row several strokes legs only, then legs and body, then full rowing strokes. As the name suggests this is the converse of the PICK DRILL
RHYTHM Rhythm in rowing is the ratio between the drive phase and the recovery phase.

A common technique error in rowing when you push your legs back without the handle or your body moving with it.

SLIDE The part of the rowing machine that the seat is mounted upon and slides back and forth on. See also shooting the slide .
STATIC Static rowing machines involve the rower moving back and forth while the machine, including the flywheel, stays still. See also dynamic rowing machines.

Continuous rowing at a consistent intensity and stroke rate for a set time or distance. See also UT2 rowing .

Did You Know... Low stroke rates help you focus on your technique by breaking the stroke into parts. As you master these areas, you can practice these improvements at higher rates.


Stroke rate in rowing is how many strokes per minute you are taking. Ability to hold a consistent stroke rate is a valuable skill in rowing.

target stroke rate in the asensei app

Did You Know... While this indoor rowing glossary can't cover all details of the stroke rate there are more details in the Ultimate Guide to Indoor Rowing

SPLIT Can be short for SPLIT TIME but also used as shorthand e.g. sometimes a coach will suggest that you "go 2 splits faster", which means to reduce your split time by 2 seconds.

In rowing this is how long it takes you to row 500m. The lower the split time, the faster you will be going. Split time is often used to set a rower a target pace for a workout or race.

Split time will be displayed upon most rowing machine monitors and helps you know how fast you are going at any given time. Getting familiar with the split times that you can maintain over different distances is useful for rowers.

Did You Know... Apps like asensei can help by setting you personalized target split times during a workout based upon your rowing history, this helps set sensible but challenging targets and avoids things like fly and die .

asensei setting a target split time

SPM An abbreviation for Strokes Per Minute, or how many rowing strokes you take in each minute. Higher strokes per minute mean you are moving your body faster through each stroke. You'll normally see your split time reduce at higher stroke rates, but it does also depend how much power you are laying down in each stroke - it's possible to row at a high SPM but start to lose pace/speed as your stroke length may shorten or lose power.

Tabata training is a specific type of HIIT workout that is typically very short and high intensity. Typically a Tabata workout includes 20s of absolute max effort exercise with 10s rest repeated eight times, forming one set of four minutes in total.

Did You Know... Tabata training originated in the research of Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports at Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan, on high-intensity exercise during the early 1990s. Their objective was to find out if short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by shorter rests might condition the body better than a continuous moderate-intensity exercise.


UT2 is a HEART RATE TRAINING zone that is usually defined as 65-75% of max heart rate. Used as a base level training zone to build aerobic capacity and avoid athletes making the mistake of working too hard. When rowing in a UT2 zone you should be relaxed and able to carry out a conversation.


The maximal volume of oxygen that the body can deliver to the muscles per minute.

Did You Know... We can think of VO2 as a measure of how efficient our body (machine) is at pumping oxygen (fuel), similar to a car the larger the engine capacity, the faster the car tends to be!


WaterRower is a well-loved rowing machine brand where the resistance is provided by a tank containing water, commonly manufactured with an attractive wooden frame.

Did You Know... The WaterRower gained fame in popular culture by its appearance in the Netflix drama House of Cards.

waterrower side view

YANKING CHAIN An informal nickname for rowing on the indoor rowing machine - typically a Concept 2 RowErg, which features a handle attached to the flywheel by a chain.

We hope you have enjoyed this glossary of indoor rowing terms and that we managed to share some facts that you haven't heard before.

If you feel we have missed off any key terms out from the indoor rowing glossary please let us know via and we'll update it here!


asensei is free to download and with no commitment you can trial the first 3 workouts in the (RE)COMMIT program and also workouts from MASTER THE BASICS, (RE)FOCUS, SWEAT FACTORY and BE A DARK HORSE.

All you need is an iPhone or iPad and access to an asensei Compatible rowing machine from Concept 2, WaterRower or FluidRower with a bluetooth capable monitor.

download asensei from the appstore

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