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“We Don’t Just Talk About Rowing – We Actually Row!”

What Is Erging? A Complete Guide for Beginners

what is erging

By now, you’ve probably heard or read someone talking about their ergometer, or erg for short. What the heck is erging? Sounds like a new coffee drink, right? Don’t feel bad, remember that even Olympic athletes were once new to this term.

So what does erg stand for?

The word ergometer comes from the Greek word ‘ergon’ and ‘metron’. While these might sound more like gladiator names than a way to measure your progress, the word ergon means ‘to work’ and metron means ‘to measure’. So the term ‘ergometer’ means that it measures work.

In this case, we are measuring the work you put into your indoor rowing workout.

While you can technically call a bicycle speedometer an ergometer, most people actually refer to rowing when they talk about the erg.

Let’s talk about erging, what it really means today, and how you can get the best workout of your life by using an ergometer!

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Who Invented the Erg?

You can trace the roots of the ergometer all the way back to the 1800s when a man named William B. Curtis invented the indoor rowing machine.

While the Greeks had been using some sort of indoor rowing device for thousands of years before this, it was Curtis who applied for a patent in 1872 for a flywheel with a ratcheting system that he put on a small boat or canoe (click here to learn What is the boat called in rowing?)

lady erging rowing back in 1800s

The original machines did not have much resistance, and while many people played around with the design, adding weights or other devices, the indoor rower didn’t change much until the 1970s.

In the early ’80s, the first Concept2 model came out with a flywheel made out of a bicycle wheel. Modern indoor rowers followed suit, but while they are very different from what Curtis had designed decades ago, many still use the flywheel system today!

What Is the Difference Between a Rowing Machine and an Erg?

The rowing machine itself is not the erg in the same way that an exercise bike is not the speedometer.

Rowers are the devices that you use to exercise. The ergometer is what measures your training and performance so that you can monitor your progress and compare that progress with previous workouts over time.

Ergatta rower

Imagine that you are riding a bicycle. If you can only go 9MPH this week but can do 12MPH the next week, the speed is an accurate measurement of your improvement.

The erg has inspired many to exercise longer and harder than before in order to beat their own record or for the team to beat another team in a race.

Why Are Rowers Called Ergs?

Erg or ergs, sometimes even ergo, is short for ergometer. This phrase came into use in the 1980s when Dick and Peter Dreissigacker were creating their rowing machine.

The very first model they produced was called the Concept2 Rowing Ergometer.

Brothers Dick and Peter Dreissigacker wanted to track their progress as much as they wanted to train. They also wanted to compete against each other and their friends.

man showing what is an ergometer rowing looks like

The very first rowing machine they made used a bicycle wheel and a bicycle speedometer.

Since then, the ergometer has undergone dozens of changes. The electronic and digital Performance Monitor (PM5 as of this writing) continued to undergo changes until it could read a user’s stroke rate, time, distance, and measure each fitness session.

Is Erging a Good Workout?

Using an indoor rower, also called erging, is one of the best workouts on the planet!

When you realize just how effective rowing is, you might wonder why more people aren’t taking up erging!

A rowing workout uses 86 percent of the muscles in the body at one time. This means that with every rowing stroke, you are exercising 86 percent of your muscles! No other workout can give you that!

Depending on your current weight and age, as well as the intensity of your workout, you can burn hundreds of calories an hour. In fact, you can burn 900 calories or more per hour doing an intense rowing workout.

On top of all that, using an indoor rower is a low-impact exercise, which means that your joints don’t take all the abuse that other exercise machines can, such as treadmills.

The performance monitor, or ergometer, will measure your calorie burn, distance completed, strokes per minute, meters per second, and more.

Many of the newer smart rowers, such as Hydrow and Ergatta, measures work done on your rowing machine including heart rate, split time, power (measured in watts), how many intervals you’ve completed, and how many remain (if you are doing HIIT workouts), and many others.

Ergatta rower

If you’re really into statistics and numbers, the erg on the Ergatta is the most sophisticated and detailed erg I’ve ever seen! (And I’ve probably seen hundreds of ergs!)

Rowing will take you to a new level of fitness and open up the world of benefits that exercise gives you!

Does a Rowing Ergometer Build Muscle?

You bet it does! Well, OK, the erg itself doesn’t, but your work on the rowing machine does!

Take one look at those Olympic rowers ( find out how to become an Olympic Rower ) or National USA rowers, and you will see what I mean.

Yes, they probably do other types of workouts, including weight lifting, but the truth is that rowing is a complete workout all by itself.

An indoor rower engages all of the major muscle groups with each rowing stroke. This means major muscle-building potential if you put in the effort.

Indoor rowing is also a fantastic cardiovascular workout and strength training workout in one!

While it’s true that the performance monitor, no matter how sophisticated, can’t measure the size of your muscles, it can measure your power and speed, which, as you gain more muscle, will increase over time.

Another thing that the performance monitor, or erg, can’t measure is the afterburn effect. Afterburn, also called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), is what happens after you stop exercising.

The longer it takes your body to repair damaged tissue and restore oxygen levels to pre-workout levels, the more calories you will burn.

Rowing is one of the best ways to get a long afterburn effect and burn more calories, as well as add new muscle after you have stopped exercising.

Burn more calories and build more muscle for hours after you’ve finished your workout? Who the heck wouldn’t want more of that?!

Must Read Article Click Here to See:  Best Rowing Machines for CrossFit

Learn about the Hydrow Rowing Machine

The Bottom Line

Rowing machines are the best exercise machines when it comes to burning calories and getting a full-body workout.

The erg is what makes the workout more fun. If you like the idea of being able to measure your progress with more than just the bathroom scale, you will love erging.

Rowing is the perfect exercise machine for the entire family. I’ve even seen 4-year-olds using them! The low-impact nature of a rowing workout means that you can use it even if you’ve been injured or have a health-related issue like bad knees or arthritis.


Since rowing spreads the effort you put into it across your entire body, you won’t be as sore or have muscle stiffness as you can get with other types of exercise.

Whether you want to beat your own time and see how much farther and faster you can go, or you’re the competitive type and you want racing and comparing your performance against other rowers, then erging is right up your alley.

Athletes around the world use the erg device to help them improve at their chosen sport, so why shouldn’t you?

If you’re interested in some of the new smart rowers, you might find this interesting.

Row healthy and be happy, friends!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is an erg machine?

Today, when we say erg, ergometer, or erg machine, we refer to the indoor rowing machine, the same way that we mean rowing when we say the word “erging”. Back in the day, ergometer strictly referred to the instrument that measured the work you put into your workouts. It still means that, but the word has evolved and now includes a more popular meaning synonymous with rowing or rowing machines.

2. Why is Concept 2 called erg?

The Concept 2 was the first commercially produced rowing machine, created by siblings Dick and Peter Dreissigacker in the early 1980s. They used an ergometer and integrated this in their invention to measure their workout performance, track their progress, and compare results with their rowing friends. They called the very first model they produced the Concept2 Rowing Ergometer. Today, the Concept2 rowing machine has a new name – the RowErg (also better known as the Model D).

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