Understanding the Concept2 Force Curve Graph

I want to share some education about rowing technique and power output on the rowers. You know that screen on your rower that has the curvy graph? That is a force curve! For those of us who like nerding out over science, this is the force you are putting on the rower and the power you are generating. CrossFit is all about the POWAH. CrossFit benchmark workouts are designed to measure force and power.

Force = Mass X Acceleration

Power = Work / Time or Power = (Force x Distance) / Time

Power = Force x Distance/Time. 

Force x Distance is equal to work, so power is also equal to work/time

Okay, enough of the nerdy stuff. More or less, the force curve graph is a helpful tool for improving your rowing technique.

The Concept2 Erg Force Curve

The force curve graphically represents how you apply force during the rowing stroke, indicating how your force varies as you use your legs, back and arms during the drive. The smoother the curve, the smoother the application of force. The larger the area under the curve, the greater the amount of force applied. Some of you might notice that your force curve is a little chunky. That’s okay! This is telling you where to look and what to work on. Rowing with the force curve is a great way to work on smoothing out your technique and stroke.

Chunky front end means this:

A huge peak on the front end of the curve that tapers off means you are likely applying too much force too early and should distribute it more through the rest of the stroke.

Chunky middle means this:

A dip in the middle, depending on where it is can mean two things. A peak that dips peaks again and drops off is usually an issue in connection between legs, hips and arms. We would be looking at a disconnection somewhere in the transitionary period in the middle.

Chunky back end means this:

A dip or deviation at the back end of the curve can either be a problem connecting the hips to the arms or a problem with the arms.

Long flatline means this:

There isn’t much power or area under the curve. You are not creating much force or are not able to apply much force to the machine. We should be working on how you connect, on better bracing at the catch, better application of force into the machine, and better positioning.

Going forward, use this screen to check on the efficiency of your row technique and use it to help you improve the timing of the drive, transition and catch of your row. Ideally we want our rowing to be smooth as a knife in butter from the catch, through drive and pull to the catch.

Force Curve + 500m Split Screen

Using the force curve display is one setting that can improve your technique, another is the 500m split time. This is helpful because you can visually and graphically see how efficient your row technique is as well as you can see that through having an efficient technique and application of force throughout the different phases of the row your 500m split time will be faster. Fast is not fast. Smooth is fast.

You can view these at the same time. To navigate to see both the force curve and the 500m split time:

1. Start Rowing On The Machine To Turn On

2. Press Change Units Button On Your Monitor To Display Power Curve Option

3. Press Change Units Button On Your Monitor To 500 Split Time Average

At the end of the day we want consistent, smooth, large areas under the curve. To get that we want to properly sequence the use of the legs, hips, then arms, and return them in sequined fashion in reverse order.

The most ideal and common force curve would have a high peak in the middle with lots of area under the curve. The sequenced style of rowing with a high peak and large amount of area under the curve is the most common style of rowing among rowers.

How to Smooth Out Your Force Curve

Try this exercise:

Set your damper on a 1, row between a 25-30 stroke rate, use the force curve display and try to create consistent smooth curves that all look the same for 10 minutes. Training with the rower on 1 is like training with a PVC pipe to practice the Olympic weightlifting movements with good technique. You will find that you have to be really intentional and use your legs and time your transitions effectively with the damper at 1. Practice makes a habit!

Posture > Positions > Sequencing > then Power!

Rowing Posture

Think tight, strong, midline, pillar, cylinder, or torso. There is a difference between just going through the motions and actively engaging your body, musculature and posture for rowing

Rowing Positions

The Catch

  • Arms are straight; head is neutral; shoulders are level and not hunched.
  • Upper body is leaning forward from the hips with the shoulders
    in front of the hips.
  • Shins are vertical, or as close to vertical as is comfortable for you. Shins should not move beyond perpendicular.
  • Heels may lift as needed.

The Drive

  • Start the drive by pressing with your legs, and then swing the back through the vertical position before finally adding the arm pull.
  • Hands move in a straight line to and from the flywheel.
  • Shoulders remain low and relaxed.

The Finish

  • Upper body is leaning back slightly, using good support from
    the core muscles.
  • Legs are extended and the handle is held lightly below your ribs.
  • Shoulders should be low with wrists and grip relaxed. Wrists should be flat.

The Recovery

  • Extend your arms until they straighten before leaning from the hips towards the flywheel.
  • Once your hands have cleared your knees, allow your knees to bend and gradually slide the seat forward on the monorail.

Rowing Sequencing

Drive OUT with the legs, swing the hips/open the hips/torso leans back slightly, then arms. The row is a PUSH not a pull. If you have deadlifted before, it’s like a deadlift, with a high pull. We drive or push the machine away, drive out with our legs, then transition force into hips (hip extension) then through the torso, and into the arms. Then we reverse it, arms go away, hips close, knees bend and we get the handles back toward the flywheel in a nice compressed catch.

The rower is an awesome machine! Improving your row is a combination of proper posture, good positions, efficient application and transfer of force throughout the row. We might look at a Concept2 row erg and think oh, easy however there are little things we can work on to improve our rowing.

The 2023 Open After Action Report…..A staggering amount of fun

The chalk has settled over the 2023 Open and it is time to take a look at what we accomplished in just three short week.

Here are the numbers.

  • We judged 225 Open WODs (23.1- 72; 23.2 – 78, 23.3- 75) plus who knows how many more WODs completed by folks to just get it done and earn some intramural team points. That’s a lot of sweat, reps and weight moved over three weekends.
  • We had 20 judges, both coaches and members, all volunteering their time to take the judges course and judge those 225+ WODs. Without them we could not have survived.  Thank you to Coaches Ben, Ashley, Dimitri, Griffin, Kamil, Dimitri and to members Pat, Lisa, Jenny, Marylanda, Laura, Moses, John, Mark, Max, and Hans, and hubbies Matt and Rich!!!
  • We had 51 members registered for the 2023 Open. That is a staggering percentage of our members, especially compared to the surrounding boxes several of which have double the size of the community (Heretic = 10, Germantown = 4, MoCo=32, TFL=11, Tough Temple=43, Odin=40)
  • We opened our doors to 7 other athletes in the extended CrossFit community to enable them to participate in the Open, paying us with thank yous and complements about our warm and welcoming community.
  • We had many members hit some PRs and multiple firsts such as Sofia’s first pull-up, Rafael’s first T2B (and his 50th) and Mimi’s first wall walk to name a few.
  • We had some serious fun holding our 1st CFE Intramural Open. Our Team Captains, Ashely, Griffin and Dimitri took up the gauntlet and ran with the challenge. The competition was dog-eat-dog at times with some classy looking shirts and headbands, lots of neon and the use of dogs to score extra points. But Team Swolemates was victorious in the end – winning the coveted bragging rights for the next year and Jenny took home the surprise “Spirit of the Games” award.
  • We have multiple athletes from CFE placing in the top 10% of their division earning them and invitation to compete in the CrossFit Quarterfinals. Here are their final worldwide placings and percentages.

Flavia (women, 50-54) 76th; 98%

Maria (women, 55-59) 101st, 97%

Dimitri (men, 18-30) 7281st, 95%

Matt (men, 50-54) 619th, 93%

Amanda M (women, 18-30) 12,020th, 90%

We hope you enjoyed every minute as much as we did!!!  Congratulations to all on an outstanding Open!!


The Three Energy Systems of Exercise

by Richard Lempicki

CrossFit methodology employs cardio and strength exercises that vary in intensity and duration to maximize overall fitness by constantly stimulating the various metabolic energy systems. Understanding how this works requires knowledge of the three major energy systems of exercise. Muscles are motors that use chemical energy to generate force through contractile movement. The primary fuel to power muscle is adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Unfortunately, our bodies cannot store appreciable amounts of ATP and must generate it on demand as needed. Three very different, yet interconnected energies systems have evolved to produce ATP: the phosphagen, glycolysis (anaerobic) and oxidative (aerobic) pathways. Each of these pathways use different fuel precursors to make ATP and are always active during exercise, with our bodies deciding what percentage of each pathway to draw energy from based on the intensity and duration of the exercise. Training targeting each energy system increases the efficiency, duration, and replenishment of each system.

Weekly WODs are designed to train across the various energy pathways for best overall fitness. The given stimulus for each WOD and rest time, when programmed, play a critical role in maximizing conditioning of a given energy pathway. Blowing the stimulus in either direction misses the goal of the workout and may cause under- or over-training of pathways – thereby not meeting the big-picture programming goal.

Phosphagen Pathway
The phosphagen pathway is used most used for max-effort instantaneous, high intensity and explosive exercises. This pathway uses stored creatine, a non-protein amino acid, as the precursor fuel source which is stored in muscle and mostly derived from red meat, poultry, fish, and supplements but also produced by our bodies from other amino acid. Creatine can be rapidly converted to ATP to fuel high intensity excises such as a 100-meter sprint or working up to a 1-3-rep max lift. This energy source only lasts for 10-15 seconds before becoming depleted and partial creatine replenishment occurs within 2-3 minutes with rest or light exercise, and can be used for subsequent burst activity, but for reduced time.

Anaerobic Glycolysis Pathway
The anaerobic glycolysis pathway is predominantly active during moderate-heavy exercise such as a 400-800 meter runs and is significantly activated in exercises lasting in the 30 sec to 4-minute range. This pathway uses glucose (directly or broken down from glycogen) in the absence of oxygen to produce ATP. Production of ATP is of an intermediate rate, but of lower efficiency in that less ATP is generated per glucose molecule. An unfortunate by-product of this pathway is lactic acid and other inhibitory by-products which causes pain and fatigue and inhibits ATP production from the other two pathways.

Aerobic Oxidative Pathway
The oxidative pathway refers to the specific use of oxygen to aid in the use of fat or glucose to produce ATP. This pathway is highly efficient in that a high amount of ATP is produced from each molecule of fat or glucose but proceeds quite slowly. This characteristic makes the pathway most suitable for moderate to long endurance exercises from a mile run to hero WOD Murph. Depletion of usable precursor sources can occur in endurance events if “refueling” is not maintained at an adequate level which leads to a person “hitting the wall” or “bonking”.

Tying the Three Energy Pathways Together and How it Applies CrossFit
Our performance in each WOD is determined by a multitude of factors that include genetics, training, mental fortitude, coaching, injuries, and even our emotional well-being. One additional factor we can regulate is how to approach a given WOD. Each of these pathways work in an overlapping and interactive manner based on intensity and duration. Regular training in one or more of these zones condition the specific pathway to work more efficiently and recover more quickly. An athlete needs gauge the workout requirements and know when to press hard when in a certain zone and back off in others. For example, going out too hard on a 10-minute AMRAP will deplete creatine within 15-30 seconds and greatly stimulate anaerobic glycolysis resulting high levels of lactic acids within 5 minutes thus inhibiting the already slower ATP generating oxidative pathway –> “crash and burn!”. Learning how to appropriately pace and scale a WOD based on your capabilities and strengths, without overtly taxing any one energy pathway, will help achieve your highest level of performance.

Pastino, Jessica. Understanding the Three Energy Systems Used During Exercise, March 23, 2022. Army.mil article.

Biostrap. How The Phosphagen System Supports Your Strength Training, February 25, 2022. Biostrap.com whitepaper.

Webster, Drake. Energy Systems: How They Work and When They are in Use, March 4, 2012. Athleticlab.com blog.

CFE Intramural Open: Just for the FUN

Some people like to compete. Other people like to play. This year CrossFit Enforce will be combining the two in an Intramural Open: It looks like competition but remains fun and approachable.

The Intramural Open is a way to have a great time in the community during the Open (read our Blog post about the Open). We will divide the gym into 3 teams. Each team has a designated fearless team captain, with the focus and objective of having fun. You do NOT need to be registered for the Open with CrossFit HQ to participate. Athletes of all levels will have a chance to earn points. The team with the most points at the end wins!

The winning team will be announced Friday, March 3rd at the CFE Friday Night Lights Potluck. We will provide the meat; feel free to bring a side dish to share and beverages of your choice! Friends and family are welcome.  

The Open workouts will be done during regular class times on Fridays and Saturdays, and they’re a great chance to see how you stack up against your peers, measure your progress, and identify skills to work on for the rest of the year. Workouts are announced on Thursday afternoons, and scores are due by 8 p.m. the following Monday.

Team Assignments 

Captains are responsible for participating in the team formation, coordinating team name/spirit, and leading their team towards greatness. Your captains are:

Coach Dimitri – Coach Griffin – Coach Ashley

Teams will be made on Feb 15th.  Athletes who are signed up for the CrossFit Open (Link to register) and have chosen CFE as their gym will be assigned a team.  Other members who wish to be part of a team can sign-up at the gym by Feb 14th.  If on Feb 17th you have bad FOMO just let a coach or captain know and we will assign you a team. 

How to Score Points for Your Team

Scoring points for your team is E- A – S – Y!!!!  You can only give your team more points by participating, you can’t lose points for your team.

Completing the WOD = 1 point/athlete/week who completes the Open WOD (even if you repeat it – you still get 1 point)…regardless of if you are registered, and yu don’t have to be judged.  Your team gets a point when you do the WOD on Friday.

CFE Social = 1 point/athlete/week for posting an Open relevant picture/video and tagging @crossfitenforce (must be different pictures/videos per post)

Judge = 1 point for each athlete you judge

CFE Pride = 1 point/athlete for wearing CFE apparel on Friday Feb 17th

Team Spirit = 1 point/athlete. Show your team spirit on Friday February 24th with a uniform, team theme, or any other way you can think of to show your team unity and awesomeness. 

(We reserve the right to create possible other point categories or weights once the Open WODS are released.)  

The winning team will be the one with the highest overall score at the conclusion of the Friday March 3rd heats.  They will win pride, bragging rights and their team’s name forever immortalized at CFE on the Intramural Open Plaque.

The Intramural Open is meant to be FUN and ENCOURAGING and you are ALL invited to participate. 

The Open is the most exciting time of year at CrossFit gyms around the World and at CFE! We are so excited for another year of COMMUNITY and FITNESS!

CrossFit Open is for Everyone

Open season is almost here!!!

The CrossFit Open is our favorite time of year, and it is right around the corner.  Here is the why and the how of the Open.

The Open is the first part of the overall CrossFit competition called The Games where the ultimate purpose is to find and crown the Fittest on Earth. To do that, the Open casts a wide net and attracts many people from around the world to participate on a level playing field at the start of the competition (games.crossfit.com/).

The Open (open.crossfit.com/) is a series of workouts spaced across three weeks starting February 16th and closing March 6th. Individuals can do the workouts from anywhere and there are several divisions for each workout, making it easy to find a place where you can be challenged yet not discouraged over the course of the three weeks. You don’t have to be at a particular fitness level to participate. All you need is a willingness to try, and the excitement and camaraderie of the Open will take care of the rest. Link to register

The options are:

  • Rx’d – Do the workouts as written.
  • Scaled – Not quite ready to tackle the workouts as written? No problem. The scaled division offers classic scaling options for many of CrossFit’s common gymnastics movements and includes lighter loading.
  • Foundations – Just started CrossFit or maybe this is your first Open? The foundations workouts are a great place to start.
  • Age Groups – There are nine age group divisions offering Rx’d and scaled versions of the workouts for teenage athletes aged 14-17 as well as masters athletes ages 35+.
  • Adaptive – The adaptive divisions offer equally challenging workouts modified for athletes with a significant, permanent impairment. These divisions include Upper Extremity, Lower Extremity, Seated with Hip Function, Neuromuscular, and more.

Why register for the Open

The Open is a way to check in on your fitness, hold you accountable to moving forward and staying motivated for the upcoming year, accomplish personal goals, and celebrate with the community.  Officially signing up for the competition gives you a goal and paying to play creates an additional layer of commitment. It is akin to running in an organized 5K race.  You pay the fee to participate, run your best to challenge yourself, get your results recorded and have fun doing it.

The adrenaline rush is much different than just a typical class. It is healthy for us to be a little uncomfortable once in a while.  That’s where most of our greatest growth as individuals happens. You should compete because it’s a commitment, during which time you will train harder, you will eat better, and you will connect with your coaches and community in ways you may not even realize exist.  You should compete because you can, and it is also JUST PLAIN FUN!

The Open schedule at CFE

Wednesday before the WOD is released sign-up for your heat time which follows the typical class schedule.  This helps you from having to wait around and helps us plan to have sufficient judges.

Thursday the Open WOD is released by CrossFit HQ.  Most Thursday evenings a coach and a few daring members will give the WOD a go during Open Gym.

Friday we start running heats that follow the typical class schedule.  A coach will guide your through a warm-up and help you strategize for the WOD. If you are undecided, your coach will help you decide between Rx’d, Scaled or Foundations. Note: you don’t have to do all three weeks as Rx’d, Scaled or Foundations – you can mix it up each week!

Friday evening (aka Friday Night Lights) many members who went earlier in the day come back to cheer those who have yet to go.  It’s loud, very high energy, incredibly supportive and lots of laughs!

Saturday BBC is cancelled, and we run 1-3 heats.

Monday there are no official heats but you are welcome to (re)do the WOD during Open Gym but you must arrange for a judge.  By 8pm est you MUST enter your score into the CrossFit.com games site.

You are at the gym doing the workout anyway so why not submit your score online and see how you stack up to others in your age group/division around the globe.

Get out of your comfort zone and register NOW (link).

Want to help Judge?  Please take the judge’s course. Link

Want an official CrossFit Open shirt?  Buy a t-shirt or tank here.  CFE gets $5 for each shirt sold.

Want to look at the competition rules? CF Games 2023 Rule Book

Want to do more reading about why you should do the Open? Article: CrossFit: A Sport for Life