500m Row Challenge

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Physical challenges are a great way to measure progress in and out of the gym. However, they’re not meant to be done every week, or maybe not even month, but they are there to check progress throughout your training. We usually do our challenges every 8 weeks at Just Fitness, after we finish a lifting or strength cycle. Our challenges include testing 1 rep maxes in benchpress, back squat, strict press and deadlift, plus we have nine workouts that we call our “performance workouts” that challenge your physical strength, conditioning, and mental strength, all at once. And now, about to be added to the list of challenges that we do, is the 500m row challenge.

This new challenge for our gym is pretty self-explanatory; row 500m as fast as you can.

This distance will take you about 2 minutes, which is long enough to not be able to just go balls to the wall for the whole thing. It’s similar to the 400m (which I walked off the track half way through in high school because I thought it was a dumb distance to sprint) and it because a battle of will at the end.


Here are a few tips:

  1. Do a full warmup. Don’t just jump on the rower and go for it. Make sure your legs, lats, shoulders, core and hamstrings are good and warm. Do a light jog or skipping, a dynamic warmup, followed by some mobility work. Then get on the rower, sprint 100m at about 3/4 speed and then rest 2-5 min.
  2. Technique is key! I see a lot of people with rounded backs and either just pulling with their legs or just their arms. Keep your core tight, push first with your legs, and when your’e at about 3/4 extension, finish with your back, squeezing your lats back, elbows pointing behind you. Practice your technique before going out and trying to sprint this to prevent injury.
  3. Keep a steady pace. Unless you can sprint the entire thing, you need to keep a steady pace the whole time. If you go out too hard, you’re toast in the last 250m. If you go too slow, your time will suffer. The first 250m of this row isn’t that bad, the next 50m sucks, the last 200m are terrible. It becomes about being able to push through some serious lactic acid and not listening to your brain telling you to stop.

The Standards

Here are some standards for active people under the age of 50:

Male Female
Needs Work > 2:00 > 2:45
Good < 1:35 < 2:05
Very Good < 1:30 < 1:55
World Record (Heavyweight) 1:14.5 1:26.5
World Record (Lightweight) 1:20.1 1:34.0

Give the 500 meter row test a try and see where you fall.

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