Question of the Day

Every time we do an erg test, our coach writes both our splits and our watts down. I was wondering why he’d write the watts down too? I know they’re units to measure power but I don’t understand what kind of extra information it would give, more than just the splits show. 

This is a great question. My coaches (college and high school) barely focused on watts (maybe because we were a women’s team but who knows) so I didn’t really do much with them until I started coaching. I’m coaching guys too which is why I thought maybe that’s why our coaches never paid that much attention to them but that’s all speculation though.

You’re correct in that watts are units that measure power but they’re also a great indication of each rower’s individual fitness and how efficient their stroke is. To make an easier-to-understand comparison, think of it as quality vs. quantity where watts are quality and splits are quantity. You can pull a low split but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re generating a lot of power. If you look at someone who does CrossFit vs. an Olympian, they might both be able to pull the same low split but the Olympian will 99% of the time pull a higher wattage because they’ve got technique and finesse on their side.

The coaches and sports scientists who really study this stuff will tell you that splits and times are a great indication of one’s endurance but the watts are the true indication of how well you can move a boat. To generate a high wattage you’ve obviously gotta have the raw strength and power but you’ve also gotta have the technical proficiency so that the power you’re generating is being used efficiently.

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