500 Meter RowErg Record Broken | Concept2

500 Meter RowErg Record Broken

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Apr 17, 2024

phil clapp with PM5
Phil after his record breaking 500 metre piece.

Great Britain’s Phil Clapp has become the first person to go under 1 minute 10 seconds over 500 metres on the Concept2 RowErg. His time of 1 minute 9.8 seconds set the new world record and saw him peaking at around 1350 watts. With an average stroke rate of 49, Clapp broke his own record, set four years ago at 1:10.5.

Despite holding other indoor rowing records, Clap says the 500m distance has always been his focus.

“I have basically been targeting the 500m for ten years in some form or shape. Quite a frightening thought! Selfishly, because that’s what I’m good at. I enjoy the short, powerful training which combines strength work in the gym and hard lactate sessions on the erg,” says Clapp.

Being good at it is one thing, but Clapp still admits the mental preparation for 500m is his challenge.

“In all honesty I try not to think about it too much. I have the knowledge that if I’ve performed the training correctly then I will do my best performance in whatever shape that takes.”

Clapp, 34, comes from an on water rowing background. He took up the sport as a 13-year-old and made the British junior team racing in the quadruple sculls at the World Rowing Junior Championships in 2007 and making the final. Unfortunately for Clapp, he suffered a string of bad back injuries after leaving high school and he was never able to regain his prior form.

Clapp then retired from rowing and took a break from all sports. He returned, however, ten years ago taking up yacht racing and indoor rowing to increase his fitness. A friend introduced him to sailing and Clapp started as a grinder on racing yachts.

“I have been lucky enough to race with some fantastic sailors and boats over that time. It probably helps that I am quite big and fit for a physical role onboard,” says Clapp. This year he’s a grinder on the Hong Kong boat, Alpha+, in the 52 Super Series. He’s also sailing with the maxi72 Jolt for 2024.

atlas plus boat
Racing on the Alpha+ in the 52 Super Series.

On the indoor rowing side, when Clapp returned to the sport, he jumped fully into it, going after records and competing at numerous indoor rowing competitions, both British and international. At the World Rowing Indoor Championships, he claimed the 500m world championship title four years straight, from 2020 to 2023.

His motivation for competing and training, he says, comes from two main reasons: “I don’t like losing and I enjoy the journey of pushing to see what my body is capable of.”

This is evident when Clapp recalls his most memorable race.

“My favorite experience was racing in 2023 virtually for the 500m title and overtaking the leader on the last stroke.”

Clapp sees both yachting and indoor rowing as a good mix, with the two sports complementing each other. He sees the RowErg and the SkiErg as fantastic ways to keep fit for sailing from the strength and endurance perspective.

“I also find both machines are great for conditioning to keep the body prepared for the lifting and movements involved in yacht racing.”

phil clapp at wrich
Photo: Benedict Tufnell / Row360

Clapp’s motivation is also evident in his approach to training. He has introduced blood flow restriction (BFR) and heat training. BFR training is a method that reduces the flow of blood during resistance training or exercise.

“I see it as a way of turbocharging the body’s adaptations primarily by getting more out of each training session. It took a year of playing around with these methods to find out how best to implement them both within a sprint rowing program and for my personal physiology.”

The 500m is not all that Clapp has on his scorecard. He held the 1 minute world record until recently and still holds it for the 20–29-year-old age group. Next up, he’d like to train for the 1000m record.

“I want to see if I can get close, having previously equalled the world record.”

As well as the RowErg record, Clapp keeps the SkiErg in his sights, and adds that to his future to-do list.

Watch out!

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