So, you've hopped onto a flywheel rowing machine like the Concept2, and you can't help but notice that lever on the side of the fan. What's the deal? Well, that little lever is known as the damper, and it holds the key to your rowing experience. If you're using a non-air based rower like a magnetic or water rower, you can sit back and relax because the damper setting won't affect you. But if you're curious about how those flywheel rowers work, stick around!
If you use a flywheel rowing machine (such as the Concept2), you’ll be familiar with a lever on the side of the fan. These can be moved lower and higher (usually from 1-10) to control how much air is drawn into the fan.
(If you use a non-air based rower such as magnetic or water rowers, the damper setting will not be relevant to you. Though, feel free to carry on reading if you’re intrigued how flywheel rowers work.)
In a way, the damper setting works similarly to the gears on a bike. A lower setting could be compared to lower gears and a higher setting with higher gears. In other words, the higher your damper setting, the harder you will need to pull to make the flywheel move.
It all comes down to air generating resistance against the flywheel.
The more air allowed in, the more effort is required to spin the flywheel. More air will also cause the flywheel to slow down faster on recovery, so more effort is required to bring it back to speed on your next drive.
Most rowing beginners will set the damper to level 10 believing that this will increase the intensity of their workout. I’m afraid it’s not that simple.
Power and intensity is actually controlled entirely by you. How hard you pull the handle using your legs, core, back and arms will build the intensity. It does not matter whether your damper is set at the lowest setting or the highest setting. This will always be the case.
Flywheel rowing machines rely on wind resistance. The faster you spin the wheel, the more resistance is built, and so a higher intensity is required to maintain that.
Instead, the damper setting is all about how it feels pulling the flywheel.
Both will require effort to generate intensity. Lower settings will require less force but needs to be applied quicker. Higher settings will require more force but will be applied slower.
I generally recommend starting on a damper setting of 4. Focus on perfecting your rowing technique and keeping your strokes consistent. Once your stroke feels consistent, it can be worth trying out different settings and seeing what feels best or gives you the best results.
It can also depend on what you’re trying to achieve. A higher setting can be suited more towards building strength. A lower setting more towards improving your fitness.
Quick advice. Try to restrain from setting the damper level too high. It can cause muscle fatigue, resulting in poor form and inconsistent workouts. If you’ve ran much before, it’s just like running too fast when you’re just getting started. Gradual improvement will always beat burnout and injury.
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