The indoor rower is unlike any other resistance training equipment because there is no fixed load. Most newbie indoor rowers think that the adjustable handle on the side of the flywheel cage is a resistance setting. It is more accurately called a damper setting. The damper setting affects the amount of airflow that passes through the flywheel as you row, resulting in varying levels of what is known as drag factor. The drag factor affects the feel of your rowing stroke in much the same way that changing gears on a bike affects the feel of your pedal stroke.
A damper setting of 10 fully opens the air vent and will result in a higher drag factor for that machine than a damper setting of 1 which will close the vent and give you the least amount of drag. It is important to note that a damper setting of say 5 (or any number) on one Concept2 machine will not necessarily feel the same as on another machine. This is because the drag is affected by such factors as rowing outdoors or rowing in close proximity to another indoor rower. Or if your rowing machine is in a high-use or dusty location lint and dust gets caught inside, building up over time and restricting airflow.
Why you should know your drag factor? Suppose you are at your first indoor rowing race. You get on your designated rower and set the damper at the number you have been using at your gym. You notice after a few pulls that the race machine feels very different to your gym machine. You can very easily check the drag factor for a particular damper setting on any Concept2 machine by going to the monitors Main Menu and > Select More Options > Select Display Drag Factor > Take a few strokes. After a couple of strokes, the monitor will display the drag factor. (See below)
High vs Low: What drag factor works best? Drag factor is a personal choice. It is a question of trial and error. You should experiment with different damper settings (and resulting drag factors) to find the setting that works best for you. As a general rule, bigger heavier and stronger rowers would tend towards level 10 while smaller lighter rowers would benefit from a lower setting. My personal recommendation for novice rowers is to use a drag factor in the range of 110-140.
Damper setting workout. You can experiment with different damper settings with the following short interval workout. Do 9 x 1 minute max effort intervals with 1 minute rest in between at (level 10, level 1, level 5) x 3. Whichever damper setting enables you to cover the most distance in 1 min should be your general range. Once you have found the ideal setting note the drag factor by following the instructions given above. To setup the 9 x 1 min interval workout on the monitor go to the Main Menu > Select Workout > New Workout > Intervals:Time
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