Workout: 4 rounds for time of:

25 Push Press (95, 65)

50-cal. Row

100 Double-Unders

Damper Setting 101: An Introduction to Rowing

The hardest part of your workout should not be deciding where to put your drag factor or damper lever on your rower. Everyone is doing the same amount of work regardless of the drag/damper setting. The athlete that does the work in the least amount of time generates the most power and wins. “But coach – I row with the damper setting on ’10’ because it’s the hardest and therefore I’m doing the most work.” No, not exactly.

To clarify how the damper setting works, imagine you are in an actual boat. A damper setting of ’10’ is the same as rowing in a tug boat – 60feet long, 10feet wide, and impossible to flip. It’s heavy, it’s slow, but if you can get it moving… it has quite a bit of inertia. A 4-5 on the damper setting is the equivalent of an actual racing shell – 24feet long, 18inches wide, and the slightest tilt will flip you upside down… a set of five strokes will get you moving quite quickly. A damper setting of 1-3… there really is no boat.

So, what is the best damper setting for you? This depends on many factors – primarily weight. Working being second. The following is a layman’s chart of where you damper should be set, based on bodyweight.

250lbs – 6-7

200lbs – 5-6

175lbs – 4-6

150lbs – 3-4

125lbs – 2-3

“So what about damper settings above a ‘7’… Surely, there’s a place for it?”. Yes, but only for distances under 250 meters. This is not a rule – but a suggestion. The reason we say this is that unless you have been trained with the proper stroke for years, you will likely cause more damage to yourself at these settings. The demands that each stroke put on the body can easily lead to injury if there are any deficiencies whatsoever in your rowing mechanics; the rowing machine is the one place on earth you do not want to leak efficiency… lending credence to the phrase “Dead in the water.” Or just think of it this way — the damper setting is not what makes you go faster. YOU are what makes YOU go faster.


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