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Damper Setting and Drag Factor by Shane Farmer - CrossFit Journal

In Rowing, Videos

May 22, 2012

Video Article

What’s the difference between the damper setting and the drag factor on a rower?

Shane Farmer of CrossFit Invictus has the answer.

“As I use the term ‘damper setting,’ what I’m talking about is moving this wheel right here,” the rowing specialist explains. “When I’m talking drag factor, I’m calibrating what’s on the monitor using a function that we have on this computer here.”

Specifically, the damper setting lets more or less air into the flywheel.

“If I’m going to use a 5, I want to make sure that I’m calibrating to understand what drag factor I’m actually rowing at and what the feel is going to be,” Farmer says, “because a 5 on this machine and a 5 on another machine won’t feel the same. But the same drag factor on those machines will feel the same.”

In the end, it’s about the individual athlete’s preference.

“If you’re somebody that can let your heart rate run through the roof … then you’re gonna want to live at a lower damper setting,” he says. “It’s not that a 10 is better than a 1; it just matters how your engine works.”

Video by Again Faster.

6min 8sec

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

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7 Comments on “Damper Setting and Drag Factor”


wrote …

Shane, you are to Erging what Burgener was to Oly Lifting. These are great, keep 'em coming.


wrote …

Thanks for the great information and congratulations to Team Invictus for killing the regionals. Good luck at The Games!


wrote …

Great article! It takes some of the mystery out of the C2.


wrote …

Does having a rower that has a lower or higher drag factor going to effect how the rower calculates the distance?

For example, if I try one rower at a damper setting of 5 and the drag factor is 118 and another rower at damper setting at 5 has a drag factor at 135 obviously the second rower will take more force to pull.

Does the rower know that the drag factor is higher and compensate on the distance that it calculates?

Additionally, is it more inefficient in general to have dirt in the grate because it will be harder to pull/push air into and out of the rower?


wrote …

Anybody care to offer insight on how altitude affects drag factor?
I would think that higher altitude would equate to a lower drag factor at the same damper setting - just not sure by how much.


wrote …

Wow, seeing things like this would be simular to watching different ways to hold a bar. I guess I'm one of those, jump on it, and let it ride kind of guys and now have a different perspective on this simple yet daunting task.


wrote …

Hopefully someone else is having a slow day at work and gets something out of this.

Chris B's answer is no. The rower does much more than measure fan speed like an airdyne. It measures work output by including both fan speed, acceleration and deceleration in its calculation of speed. That is, when the monitor notices that the fan is slowing quickly, it calculates that your "drag" is higher and adjusts your speed accordingly. The drag feature is designed to simulate oar size. A good analogy to explain "drag" is that a setting of 1 is like rowing with a broomstick, while a 10 is like using a pizza paddle. It adjusts how much work you can put in, and get out of, the machine.

Altitude (pressure changes) and dust have the same impact on the rower, they will both reduce the drag by reducing the amount of air that gets into the fan. That being said, a 100 drag factor calculated by the monitor will be the same in any condition. Much more important is that your slide be clean and the chain oiled.

Something to add is that ideal drag is not just athlete dependent, it will change depending on the distance you are rowing. I use a 6 for most pieces, but a 10 for anything 500m and below. Occasionally I will try an 8 on pieces between 2000 and 500m, but I don't think it helps. My rule of thumb is that a 10 will yield your maximum speed, but a 5.5 is the most efficient and useful for longer pieces and metcons. Adjust one or two notches up or down depending on your own strength and conditioning, but know that it is a very robust rule. I pull a 6:23 at a 6 and 230 lbs. Technique also changes from a half stroke to a full stroke, but I'll leave that article to shane.

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