I Tried A Rowing Crossfit Workout From The Experts At Training Think Tank And It Taught Me A Valuable Lesson

Woman and man row on indoor rowing machine
(Image credit: Rich Legg / Getty Images)

The expert coaches at Training Think Tank—a monthly training program designed to improve your competitive skills in CrossFit—work with some of the world’s best CrossFit athletes. People like Alexis Raptis, Noah Ohlsen and Travis Mayer, to name a few. 

While I’m not an elite athlete I have been using the online training platform for the last couple of months.

I’ve made good progress in a short space of time, particularly on gymnastic skills like muscle-ups and handstand walking, but my favorite Training Think Tank workout is one of the most straightforward: a two-move CrossFit workout that alternates between the rowing machine and burpees.

That makes it accessible to anyone with a gym membership (or a rowing machine at home). The ideal rower is a Concept2 RowErg (Coach’s pick of the best rowing machine), which is often found in commercial gyms and is almost always used in CrossFit boxes, but any rower will do. Just brush up on good rowing form before strapping in. 

Being a generous sort of person, I decided to share it with Coach readers (with the coaches’ blessing, of course). Read on to find out the finer details, what represents a good time, and the lessons I learned while tackling it. 

How To Do Training Think Tank’s Rowing And Burpee Workout

10 rounds for time (time cap 33min):

  1. Row x 500m
  2. Burpees x 15

Rounds for time is a common workout format in CrossFit. It just means completing the workout as quickly as possible, but with a total of 5km of rowing and 150 burpees to complete in under 33 minutes, you have to pace the workout smartly.

The Training Think Tank team advises that you find a pace you can sustain comfortably and stick with it, leaving a little bit left in the tank for a “big kick at the end. Do not go at a max effort then blow up early.” 

The coaches say an elite score would be to finish the workout in less than 27 minutes. RX athletes (people who can tackle competitive CrossFit workouts without modifications) will be able to finish in under 30 minutes, while others should aim to finish within the time cap.

What I Learned Trying This Workout

My relatively long limbs are an advantage when rowing and I found I was initially able to hit my target pace of 2min/500m without too much difficulty.

Buoyed by this strong start, I added more power to my stroke and my pace quickened. My 500m splits fell to 1min 50sec, and the burpees didn’t seem too draining either. I was finishing each of the first few rounds in under three minutes, putting me on track for an RX time.

However, before long I was breathing hard and running out of steam. With a significant chunk of the workout still to go, I eased off and returned to my target pace, which I clung to for the last few rounds until the end. 

With one final push in the last interval, I finished the workout in 31min 44sec. I was happy with that time, but a steadier approach with more consistent pacing would have been more effective. The coaches were right. Stick with a sustainable pace—even if it feels easy in the early stages—until the final sprint.

Harry Bullmore
Staff writer

Harry covers news, reviews and features for Coach, Fit&Well and Live Science. With over a decade of training experience, he has tried everything from powerlifting to gymnastics, cardio to CrossFit, all in a bid to find fun ways of building a healthy, functional body.