Getting Real with the Rower

 In Daily WODs, News & Events


Do you cringe when you see rowing in the workout of the day? Do you get frustrated when you’re rowing your heart out and every time you look back at the screen you haven’t even gone another 100 more meters. Do you feel like you get exhausted quickly and cannot maintain a decent pace? If you said yes to any of these questions, keep reading. Even if you didn’t, KEEP READING!  Understanding the rower coupled with better technique will help you become for efficient on the rower TODAY!

Sitting on a Concept2 rower is not the same as rowing a boat on the water. While trying out for the varsity crew team at WAZZU I discovered how challenging both can be. Rowing on the water with a group is much harder. Back to the point; if you approach the rower as if it is a boat you will understand better why to change your technique. Have you ever seen Olympic rowers jerking the oars unevenly, pulling the oars to their neck or taking quick furious strokes? The answer is NO.

Intensity Related to Damper Setting

Think of the indoor rower as your boat. If you row at low intensity you can row for a long time. To make the boat go faster you pull harder; and if you try to make the boat go very fast you will be exhausted in a short time. Air resistance on the flywheel fan works just like the water resistance on a boat.

Now that you are thinking is related to that of a boat on the water, let’s examine the effect of the damper settings 1-10. In the lower numbers 1-4 the feel of the Indoor Rower is like a sleek racing shell. In the higher numbers 6-10 the feel is like a big, slow rowing boat. Both boat can be rowed hard; and as you try to make either boat go fast, you will need to apply more force. Making the sleek boat go fast requires you to apply your force more quickly; and when trying to make the big boat go fast you will feel a high force but at a slower cadence.

 What, then, determines how much work you are doing?

As you move forward for your next stroke the monitor measures how much your flywheel is slowing down. It can determine precisely how sleek or slow your “boat” is by how much it slows down between strokes. It then uses this information to determine from the speed of the flywheel how much work you are doing. In this way your real effort is calculated regardless of damper setting.

A damper setting of 10 will NOT give you the best workout.

A damper setting of 3–5 is likely to give you the best workout. Too often I see indoor rowers set at 10, because athletes think that a higher number must be more challenging (or will reward them with a better time or move you forward faster). The real challenge is to accelerate the flywheel at a lower damper setting, where power must be applied such as in a sleek, fast, rowing shell. A damper setting of 10 is more like a slow heavy rowboat—still a workout, but more about strength than cardiovascular fitness. Keep in mind: the best rowers in the world who compete at the Olympics, do not row competitively at a 10! Emulate them; aim for 3 to 5.

Concept2 Recommendation:

 “Row 100 meters at different damper settings: 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. Keep your stroke rating at a 24. What feels differently? Which damper setting gave you the best time? Keep in mind; you still may want to change the damper setting for longer workouts.”

The only time I increase my damper setting is if I’m rowing at a very slow cadence for a longer piece, or for higher volume calorie workouts.

Regardless of damper setting, you have to apply greater force if you want your “boat” to go faster or accumulate more calories.

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