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CrossFit Rowing Trainer Course: Damper Setting by Angela Hart - CrossFit Journal

In Equipment, Rowing, Videos

September 03, 2011

Video Article

In this video, Concept2 master trainer Angela Hart discusses damper setting and cautions against calling it “the resistance.”

“Please don’t ever let it pass your lips that this is ‘the resistance’ because it is not,” she says.

According to Hart, resistance is completely different than drag, which is what the damper setting controls. The drag mimics the weight of the boat.

“You create the resistance by how hard you work,” she says. “So if I ask you to rower harder, you’re going to feel more resistance.”

The damper setting is a personal preference, she says.

“You need to play with your damper. You need to make adjustments. Find out what works best for your body,” Hart says.

The greater concern is the drag factor—it increases as you set the damper higher and decreases as you set the damper lower, independent of the intensity of your rowing.

A lower damper setting and lower drag factor allow you to “open your joints a lot faster,” she says. “So if you naturally perform best at a higher stroke rate, a higher number of strokes per minute, then you’re going to probably perform best at a slightly lower damper.”

9min 1sec

Additional reading: Indoor Rowing: Damper Settings & Intensity by Peter Dreissigacker, published April 1, 2007.

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9 Comments on “CrossFit Rowing Trainer Course: Damper Setting”


wrote …

I've been waiting for a video talking about the damper. I will be honest. I have called that the resistance. I feel so dumb now :/ Makes perfect sense that would be the drag factor. I like my setting on 7. Seems to work really well for me. I've noticed pr's on different rows now that I have found my setting.


wrote …

So if it is like the gears on a bike, if you can maintain the same stroke rate at a 10 as a 7 you will go faster with the ten? That is not really how I understood the damper before, thanks for any clarification!


wrote …

VERY interesting. I am a small person and I have played with the damper setting a bunch of times.. as well as with different types of workouts. For me I usually like to keep the damper at about 4-5. I don't like the super low because I tend to have the chain start bobbing up and down and I"m all over the place because I'm going super duper fast reps/ stroke rate. Conversely when I go to 8-9 I feel like to generate power I am like lifting heavy over and over again.. it's too much drag for me.
Great analogies.


wrote …

So if I do things slow in most of my movements I should use a higher number setting for the damper?


wrote …

I'm not sure I see how there is that much of a difference between calling it resistance and drag. I think most people call it resistance because they're familiar with the little resistance knob on old stationary bikes. Should that knob be called the "drag knob", or is the function of the damper that much different than the resistance knob? (For the sake of this discussion please assume that the stationary bike has a watt meter with some software that convert watts to 'meters traveled'.)


wrote …

This is confusing. I think of this relative to the force-velocity curve. Higher drag requires greater force application but at a lower velocity (opening of the joints) as it was described in the video. For an individual, there are a number of variables to consider the two key variables seem to be maximizing power output and mechanical efficiency relative to the individual. As was described above, the bouncing chain likely represents reduced mechanical efficiency or transfer of work done to the rower, thus SPM is too high and drag too low.

In the 2007 CF article by Dreissigacker it was stated that during a 500 m test, damper setting doesn't matter as it equals the same amount of work done. I would think power would be the same, but work done would be greater with a higher drag. Power = (F x D)/time. A heavier boat would require more work to go a given distance, it would also take more time, thus power is the same but work done is greater in the heavier boat. One stroke with X force would move a heavy boat less distance than a light boat. Thus force (resistance) didn't change, but the distance component did. We also have to include SPM into the equation as one would RPM on a cycle erg to determine work and power.

Have to think about this more.

In the end, "feel" is what matters, optimizing mechanical efficiency relative to you while being able to maximize power output is what counts in competition. Lastly, don't forget about specificity of training. Train slow, be slow. Leave no watt behind.


Frank DiMeo wrote …

Very informative, thanks!


wrote …

love it... good info


wrote …

Angela, left some good nuggets of information, but the overall discussion was long-winded. I think it could have been more concise, thus leaving less people confused. I saw some discussions above which indicate there are some out there that are still trying to figure this out.

There was no discussion on the meaning on the number valued placed on drag factor, ie, units associated with the number. I think a short discussion on this may help others zero in on there value more quickly.

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