Rowing Machine Benchmark Testing Workouts: Power, Pace, and Performance

Tracking your progress with benchmark testing is a great way to make sure you are on the right path to reaching your fitness goals.

Rowing is a full-body workout that combines cardiovascular exercise with strength training, making it an ideal choice for individuals who want to maximise their fitness regimen.

But how can you gauge your progress, challenge yourself, and measure your capabilities?

This is where benchmark tests come in. They are standardised tests that serve as critical tools in tracking your fitness level and improvements over time.

In the realm of rowing, the 500m, 2000m, and 5000m benchmark tests are widely recognised and utilised. These tests will not only show you where you stand but will also guide you on how to progress and improve.


500m Sprint Test

The 500m rowing test is, in essence, a sprint that measures an athlete's anaerobic capacity, or the ability to exert a high intensity of effort over a short period. This test is all about explosive power and speed. The key to a successful 500m test is pacing — you want to start strong, but not so hard that you're unable to maintain a fast, steady pace.

To prepare for this test, include shorter, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions in your workout routine. Focus on maintaining a solid form even when you’re pushing your hardest, as technique can easily fall apart under fatigue.

Related: Avoid These Common Rowing Machine Mistakes


2000m Row Benchmark Test

Considered the standard for indoor rowing, the 2000m benchmark test is a grueling challenge that requires both physical strength and mental toughness.

It measures both aerobic power and anaerobic endurance, providing a well-rounded snapshot of an athlete's overall fitness.

The 2000m test requires strategic pacing — you don't want to burst out of the gate only to lose steam halfway through. Consistent stroke rate and intensity are key. To train for this, include long interval workouts in your routine, varying between high-intensity bursts and moderate-intensity recovery periods.




5000m Endurance Test

The 5000m test is the ultimate test of your aerobic capacity, stamina, and endurance. This test is less about raw power and more about the ability to maintain a steady pace over a longer period.

For the 5000m test, it's important to have a pacing strategy. Instead of starting at your maximum pace, it's often better to begin at a moderate pace and gradually increase it. To prepare, incorporate long, steady-state workouts into your routine, which will help build your aerobic base and improve your overall endurance.


What is a Good Test Time?

Once you have started trying out these benchmark tests, a question that naturally arises is, "What is a good test time?"

While the answer can be subjective, depending largely on individual fitness levels, goals, and experience, it's possible to provide some general benchmarks to aim for.

For beginners, completing the 500m row in under 2 minutes, the 2000m row in under 8 minutes, and the 5000m row in under 25 minutes can be seen as good starting points.

Intermediate rowers might aim for 500m in under 1:45, 2000m in under 7 minutes, and 5000m in under 20 minutes.

For advanced rowers, these times can drop even further, showcasing the impressive power and endurance these athletes have developed.

However, it's essential to remember that these are just guidelines. Individual progression and personal bests are the most important.

Fitness is a journey, not a destination, and every incremental improvement is a victory worth celebrating.

For a more in-depth comparison and to truly gauge where your times stand, we recommend visiting RowingLevel. This site allows you to compare your results with other users and see how you stack up against the wider rowing community. It's an excellent resource to track your progression, set new goals, and continually push your limits.



Alternative Tests - Wingate Aerobic Test

While the 500m, 2000m, and 5000m tests are fundamental benchmarks in the world of rowing, it's worth mentioning an alternative method for assessing your fitness level: the Wingate Aerobic Test.

Originally developed by researchers at the Wingate Institute in Israel, this test provides a unique measure of both anaerobic power and capacity.

However, unlike our rowing machine tests, the Wingate test is traditionally conducted on an ergometer bike, not a rowing machine.

This is primarily due to the test's design, which involves cycling at maximum effort for 30 seconds against a specific resistance, something more readily achieved on a bike than a rowing machine.

While the Wingate test offers valuable insights into your fitness, especially your anaerobic power, it may not directly translate to your performance on a rowing machine due to the different muscle groups emphasised and the nature of the exertion.

Nonetheless, it's an interesting alternative to consider and can complement your fitness assessment toolkit.

To get the most comprehensive understanding of your fitness level, combining rowing machine tests with other fitness assessments like the Wingate test could be a useful strategy.

But for the most accurate reflection of your rowing abilities, sticking to the rowing machine benchmarks is your best bet.

 Related: What are the Benefits of Rowing Machines?

Rounding Up

Rowing machine benchmark tests are excellent ways to measure your current fitness level and see how much you've improved over time.

However, remember that these are just tools. Listen to your body and ensure you’re getting adequate rest and recovery. These tests are challenging and require proper preparation.

If you would help in finding a rowing machine that you would like to test you ability on our see our rowing machine top picks.

Author's Photo

William Parrett

Will, co-founder of Home Gym Supply, launched the company in 2019 after 15-years in the fitness industry. His expertise stems not only from his professional background but also from his athletic pursuits. A former competitor in the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion (WBFF) and a competitive rugby player, Will has always been dedicated to health and fitness.