What is the Erg?
Concept2 (and the rowing community) has referred to our rowing machine as an “erg” ever since the 80s. If you're not sure why, here's a potted history.
An “ergometer” (“erg” for short) is a device that measures work. Concept2’s Indoor Rowers, SkiErg and BikeErg are all ergometers and this is a feature that sets them apart from many other exercise machines on the market.
When Dick and Peter Dreissigacker were designing the first Concept2 Indoor Rower in 1981, they wanted it to do two things 1) provide a good simulation of the rowing stroke and 2) provide a useful, comparable measure of the work being done. The latter point is what drove them to create an ergometer. Indeed, the first Concept2 Indoor Rower was called the “Concept2 Rowing Ergometer.” It was dubbed the “Model A” as improved versions were developed.
Why Was This Important?
Dick and Peter wanted to be able to measure and track their fitness. They wanted to know if their training was working—if they were getting more fit (or not). They also wanted to be able to compare their performances with each other and with friends in other places, so the data needed to be repeatable and consistent. The first flywheel was a repurposed bicycle wheel and the first "performance monitor" was a bicycle speedometer. Since then, with improving flywheel designs and the development of the electronic Performance Monitor (PM), the power calculations have become more accurate and more repeatable. The PM actually calculates the power that is being put into the flywheel. It also recalibrates itself on every "run-down" of the flywheel (in rowing and skiing), to be sure that the information is correct.
It didn’t take long for athletes to start thinking about what they could do with "the Erg”.
A group of rowers in Boston started an indoor race called the CRASH-B Sprints Indoor Rowing Championship. Indoor racing is thriving today--find a race near you! Indoor rowing is also now an official event of World Rowing (FISA), the international rowing federation.
Those who didn't want to race found motivation to row often and add up their meters (either as an individual or as part of a team). We created incentive challenges, complete with prizes, and now offer an annual calendar of over a dozen Challenges to keep you motivated.
The annual World Ranking, an ordered list of best times on the erg, came into existence shortly thereafter. This has grown and moved online and now contains over 850 thousand entries from the around the world and on all of our indoor equipment. This number grows every year! All of these applications are possible because our machines are ergometers.
Rowers, coaches, and the US National Rowing Team rapidly adopted the erg as a tool for measuring an athlete’s potential for moving a boat. “Erg scores” became the currency for college recruitment and team selection. There is certainly more to moving a boat on the water than just pulling hard, but the erg can show who can pull the hardest if you can teach them to row well.
Why Does This Matter?
If you want to be able to track your fitness in a meaningful quantitative way, and compare your performances from one day to another, you need an ergometer. If you want to compare notes with friends and participate in challenges, you need an ergometer. And if you want to race or see if you’re fast enough to make the National team, you need an ergometer. Concept2 makes ergs, and we now make a family of ergs, as our flywheel and PM technology are incorporated in both our SkiErg and BikeErg, so that Nordic skiers, cyclists and anyone using those ergs can also reap all the benefits of having measurable, comparable results.