Splits vs. Watts: What’s the difference?

A few questions have come up recently about splits, watts, and the difference between the two so that’s what I’m gonna go over today.


Typically the standard unit of measurement on the erg. Splits tell you your speed by displaying the amount of time (in minutes and seconds) it will take for you to row 500m at the pace you’re currently going.


Measures the amount of pure power you are producing.

Watts, as mentioned above, measures the amount of power you produce on each stroke and can also be an indicator of fitness and efficiency. High watts are often correlated to low splits but the relationship between the two isn’t always one being the product of the other. An example of this is comparing someone who does CrossFit to an elite rower. Both have a lot of strength so theoretically they’d both be able to produce the same low splits. What this doesn’t take into consideration though is their technique, which obviously plays a big part in how efficiently the power you’re generating is applied to moving the boat.

Related: 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. 

If you want to get an idea of the watts you’re producing, check out Concept 2’s watts calculator. It lets you put in your average split and in turn it calculates how many watts you produce. You can also use it the other way around and determine your pace from your watts. You can also use this watts/pace chart (the second tab under “indoor rowing”) to calculate and see the relationship between the two.

Another thing to think about is weight-adjusted scores. This helps coaches see who is the most efficient at moving their weight. If they put in everyone’s weights and splits into that calculator, they can get weight adjusted splits that they can then put into the watts calculator. This will give them a good idea of how well lighter rowers stack up in terms of power output compared to heavier guys.


2 thoughts on “Splits vs. Watts: What’s the difference?

  1. Teresa says:

    I just started to use a rowing machine. I am a body builder by heart. I have been wanting to add cardio to my program and wanted to try something different. To my surprise I really enjoy rowing. So i researched how to row and took to it nicely. My problem is understanding the lingo that is used and how to track my results. After reading your artical if I track my Watts is that all I need to trak my progress? Im reading every thing I can get my hands on but its still not computing .
    I have been working on my technique for a week now. Doing drills 18,20,22,24,26,30 s/m. Its not easy to do but i love the challange. Is there any thing you can recommend for me to read to clear up my confusion reading the monitor.
    Thanks Teresa

    • beantownkmd says:

      I actually don’t know that much about how recreational rowers use the ergs because, strange as it seems, it just tends to be so much different than how we use them. We don’t really use watts that much because splits are far more important/useful for what we’re doing. Your best bet might be to check out CrossFit boards or something like that and see how they track their progress since they’ll probably align more with what you’re doing than we would. If you’re just starting out you’ll probably want to focus more on just learning to use the machine correctly rather than the numbers (mainly because if you don’t do it right, similar to lifting, you can seriously injure yourself) but once you get to the point where your technique is sound I’d probably pay more attention to the splits than anything else. I don’t know if there’s anything out there that explains how to read the monitors (then again I’ve always thought they were pretty self-explanatory so I’ve never really Googled to see what’s out there) but like I said, if you get on the CrossFit subreddit or other weightlifting/bodybuilding threads you’ll definitely find recreational erg users who can help you out and give you some insight on how they use the machines during their workouts.


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