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Finding your optimal drag factor and damper setting

Your ideal drag factor and associated damper setting is subjective; dependent on how you connect with your machine and the type of workout you are looking to achieve. Similar to gearing on a bike; the damper setting affects the feel, but not the actual resistance. The lower the number; the lower the gearing, the higher the number the higher the gearing.

The damper setting and drag factor, while linked, are different. The damper setting is the number on the side of your Concept 2 machine, which goes from 1 – 10, and regulates the air intake and resistance you feel. As the damper setting regulates the air intake, it is not an accurate unit of measure.

The drag factor calibrates the damper setting and is an actual unit of measurement. Found within the setting of the monitor on your Concept 2 machine, the drag factor is measuring the speed the flywheel slows down, giving that rate a number.

It is important to note that every machine will give you a different damper setting to drag factor. This variability can be due to how clean or dirty the flywheel of the machine is, and its location; as both altitude and temperature can affect the drag factor.  Some further information on damper setting and drag factors can be found by clicking here.

An example of a good work out to feel the different damper settings, and give you a full body workout can be found at this video here.

Another factor can be your body type; to connect to a low drag factor you need to be able to transition from the recovery into the drive phase of the rowing stroke without hesitation of the legs. As this required speed and acceleration, so power based fast twitch fibre people can be more efficient at lower drag factors. Endurance people and those with slower twitch fibres can see their efficiency gains at higher drag factors

To start to personalise this information; your ideal drag factor is the number where you are most comfortable, and you can maintain good technique. It will allow you to apply the most force possible for a defined period of time, without losing form or technique.

Start with a drag factor around 100 – 130; damper setting between 3 and 5; be open; try not to go into this with too many preconceived ideas. Start lower, and as your technique improves try increasing the drag factor and see if you get a better result. On water rowers use a prescribed drag factor in testing and benchmarking to eliminate a variable rather than it being their optimal number. As a guide Rowing Australia recommend a drag factor of 125 for Lightweight Men; 130 for Heavyweight Men; 100 for Lightweight Women; 110 for Heavyweight Women.

Spend a good amount of time finding your optimal number by repeating the same time/ distance and changing the drag factor.

If you like the numbers, try one of the drag factor workouts such as the Dark Horse Drag Factor workout here

Spend time working on your technique, connection with the machine then revisit your drag factor to see if your ideal number has changed.