row2k Features
Erg Hack: The Handle Height Helper
February 18, 2021
John FX Flynn

Here is another hack that we've looked at before--originally as the Handle Height Tape Hack--but we'd like to suggest a bit of an upgrade: Same trick, same effect, but instead of gumming up your ergs with tape residue, just pop the whole roll into place to keep your rowers "up at the catch" with this refresh of the Handle Height Helper.

We've said it before in this space: when doing lots of erging with folks that you are hoping to turn into boat-movers as soon as things thaw out, open up, or it otherwise becomes rowing season at your place, it is good to have some tricks and drills that keep your ergers thinking about--and reinforcing--the kinds of good habits that will serve them on the water.

This hack addresses the oft-seen handle-drop. Be it the design of the C2--with that arm which slopes temptingly up towards the fan--or just human nature to let gravity take over on the recovery, you see a lot of rowers drop the handle much further down on the erg than they would be able to get away with on the water. Putting a roll of tape behind the "fence" to keep the chain...and thus the handle...more level can help reinforce the importance of keeping the body "up" in a far more optimal catch position.

As we noted in the original hack a few years back:

The bad habit of letting the hands drop comes from an innocuous enough place, of course: folks want to make the erg feel like a boat, so they drop their hands around the finish end--just like they would, and properly so, on the water. The problem, though, is your typical gunwale-free, not-down-to-port erg has no way to remind the rower not to keep dropping their hands, so down they go, right along the shins and, in some cases, as close as they can get to the body of the erg itself.

The result can be some pretty inefficient posturing up at the catch and, in the worst cases, a catch that is all shoulder-swing and very little connection or power, all because the poorly prepared rower is trying to get the handle back to a good drive height.

The roll of tape keeps the athletes thinking about staying level and up with the body, by providing them with some quick and easy visual feedback using the chain. As a bonus, starting with a roll of clean white athletic tape lets you challenge the athlete to keep the chain, and its grease, off the tape for the whole workout. Just like with the tape version of this trick, the athlete with the cleanest tape can be the "technique winner" on the day.

Of course, anything round will work. Some pretty accomplished coaches have been known to collect old tennis balls to keep in the erg room, and those hip new stretching aids--lacrosse balls--are now ubiquitous enough at most places to serve this double duty in between roll-out sessions.

We've even heard of one coach who keeps finding fly balls from the adjacent baseball stadium in the boathouse parking lot and then puts a bit of the American pastime into this hack. A clean white baseball will scuff up pretty quickly if the rower stays too low on the recovery and, of course, we are all about free when it comes to materials to hack with.

In short, don't waste all that erg time when you could be teaching good rowing habits along with the meters you are racking up. From tennis balls to broomsticks, and from 2x4s to to the old "feet out" stand by, there are load of teaching aids you can throw together even without going full build, like this hack, to make sure your rowers come out of erg season ready to actually row well.

If you have a clever way to hack up a teaching aide for the erg share your tips--and hacks--in the comments below.

Have a great rowing hack to suggest for future inclusion here? Send it to us!

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