The Importance of Accurate Stroke Rate

I have had several questions recently about how to control stroke rate and the importance of accuracy. In my training, and the plans I write, many of my (longer) sessions are controlled by stroke rate and pace targets in an attempt to make every metre rowed a productive one. I’m aiming for a consistent stroke profile and power delivery that can be transferred through the rates. In simple terms the lower the stroke rate, the slower the pace/500m should be. This sounds obvious to me as I write it, but more and more often I see people overloading their stroke which in my opinion doesn’t result in faster times.



There are of course many different and effective ways to train. This system however allows everyone regardless of ability, to follow the same core principle without the need for individual physiological assessment, planning or heart rate monitoring, which is very costly and not readily available. I have for a while now referred to this system as ‘gearing’ as it encourages people to hold a higher and more powerful stroke for a longer period. The analogy being that you wouldn’t want to drive your car for long periods at high speed in  a low gear just because you could, in recognition that this wouldn’t be efficient, wouldn’t transfer to any greater speed in top gear and could potentially cause damage.


A good example of this can be seen in my session below which was the FM Rowing Workout of the Week. As the stroke rate increases so does my pace/500m. Of course there is a calculation to get the right numbers for all the varying sessions, but you will get the idea. All the stroke rates are correct for each 5 minute period.



So how important is this as a consideration in training? I think it is incredibly important for a few reasons. It shows discipline and ensures we focus on quality during any given session. It allows for direct comparisons with future or past sessions at the same rate in the knowledge that they are accurate. It encourages consistency by ensuring that the correct pressure is applied at each rate as often as possible. The more consistent we are the better quality we produce, the greater the training effect, the more controlled we are at pacing sessions and so on. Obviously there’s some room for movement, but as a rule our ‘gears’ should be within certain parameters.  Gearing is the foundation on which all of our FM Training Plan sessions are built.


How do we hit the correct stroke rate each minute? Everyone has a preference on this. There are numerous ways of achieving the same goal in this instance. It’s important to add that it won’t make or break your training if this isn’t bang on every time, but it will also help to pass the time in longer drawn out sessions! The simplest way is to watch the ‘spm’ in the top right of the monitor and keep to a rhythm at the desired rate. Personally I count strokes each and every minute following the format below.

  • R18 – 3 strokes every 10 seconds. So the first of each 3 is on 0/10/20/30 seconds and so on.
  • R20 – 1 stroke every 3 seconds. So stroke on 0/3/6/9/12 seconds and so on.
  • R22 – 11 strokes every 30 seconds. So the first of each 11 is on 0 and 30 seconds and so on.
  • R24 – 6 strokes every 15 seconds. So the first of each 6 is on 0/15/30/45 seconds and so on.
  • R26 – 13 strokes every 30 seconds. So the first of each 13 is on 0 and 30 seconds and so on.
  • R28 – 7 strokes every 15 seconds. So the first of each 7 is on 0/15/30/45 seconds and so on.
  • R30 – 1 stroke every 2 seconds. So stroke on 0/2/4/6/8/10 seconds and so on.
  • 30 plus – close your eyes and go for it!!

Happy rowing.

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