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“We Don’t Just Talk About Rowing – We Actually Row!”

What Is the Hardest Setting on a Rowing Machine

what is the hardest setting on a rowing machine

Hi friends! It’s Petra, and today, I want to talk about damper settings and drag factor. What they mean, how they work, and how you can use this knowledge to your advantage.

Different rowing machines will have different damper settings and drag factor ranges. For instance, a Concept2 has damper settings from 1 to 10. Number 10 allows the most airflow, which slows down the flywheel the fastest and makes a stroke feel the hardest.

However, the more important number is the drag factor, which indicates how fast the flywheel slows down. This number is affected by many variables, including the temperature of the surroundings, the elevation, and even the cleanliness of the machine and its flywheel housing. For this reason, the drag factor differs between different indoor rowers, even among the same make and model.

If you’re new to your rowing machine, it’s natural to ask what the heck a damper is and where can you find it on your machine.

I’ve got lots of ground to cover here, so let’s get started, shall we?

What Is a Damper?

Rowing machine flywheel damper

If you’re like a lot of people, you know that fireplaces have dampers, but you had no idea that a rowing machine can have one.

While a fireplace and a rowing machine might seem like completely different things, the fact is that they both use airflow to get the most out of their operation.

Try that question at your next trivia challenge. “What do a fireplace and a rowing machine have in common?” I bet you can win a fiver or at least a free beer out of that question.

Damper settings are used to control the amount of air flowing into the flywheel.

For most air rowers or those that use a combination of air and another source of resistance, such as magnets, the damper controls how much air goes into the fan cage.

Higher damper settings means more air enters the fan cage and more resistance. Lower damper settings means less air and less resistance created.

I can hear some of you Ergatta and Hydrow owners thinking that you don’t have an adjustment, but hold on a minute- I will answer these questions in a bit.

What Is the Hardest Setting on an Indoor Rower?

The hardest setting is the one that makes your 30-minute workout feel like a 3-hour workout!

Each machine is different, and each has different damper settings, so there is no one size fits all answer here.

If you are using an air rower, such as Concept 2, you will find that damper settings are located on the side of the fan cage. They number from 1-10.

This damper limits the amount of airflow and the resistance you will feel.

The drag factor, however, is the number indicator that tells you how fast the flywheel is decelerating, which relates to how much effort is required from you.

This might seem a little confusing, but I’ll go into it more in the next few sections.

How to Set the Drag and Damper on Various Rowing Machines

I can’t say that I’ve used all the indoor rowers in the world, but I have been lucky to use a great many of them.

Since I’ve used so many, I want to share with you the correct technique for controlling the damper settings so that you get more out of your workouts.

Concept 2 Settings

Changing the drag setting first will help you get more out of your workouts than anything else.

  • On your performance monitor, click on Main Menu, then More Options.
  • Select Display Drag Factor. Start rowing and the drag factor number will appear on the screen, usually showing about 103-105.
  • Don’t go all out and lower the drag factor to 50 or increase it to 150. Use very small increments of 3-5 points. Let’s say that the drag factor shows 103. If you want more resistance, try setting the number to 105 or 106.

Do a rowing workout and see how you feel. How is your performance?

  • You can also set lower damper settings or higher damper settings, but on Concept 2, this won’t matter nearly as much as the drag factor.

Settings on a Concept 2 Rower

Generally speaking, most women will find that 100-110 is a good drag factor number and for men, 125-130.

Remember that proper technique with your rowing stroke will give you a far better workout than any change you can make to the drag or damper settings.

Hydrow Drag Settings

Hydrow was designed by rowers for rowing fans to make it feel as close as possible to the real thing, and it has a default drag setting of 104.

  • You can change this at any time by starting a rowing session.
  • Tap Sound and Drag Settings. Use the slide button to add or reduce drag. Remember not to change it too much!

Take a few strokes to see how you like this setting.

  • If you’re happy with your new and different settings, you can tap anywhere outside the window, then tap Row to resume your workout.

Ergatta Drag Settings

Ergatta Water Tank

Unlike some other machines, Ergatta does not have a drag setting number that you can change.

Adding more water to the tank will not increase the amount of resistance, but will affect how heavy or light your “boat” feels. Resistance levels are entirely controlled by you, your effort, and the group level that you are at.

If you feel you want a harder workout, work harder at your skills and improve your performance to reach more difficult group levels (VII, V, IV, etc).

NordicTrack Rowers

User picking workout options on a NordicTrack RW700

While NordicTrack rowers use dual resistance, they don’t allow the user to change the drag factor.

NordicTrack rowers use the iFit workout app., which will control the amount of resistance you feel.

If you want a harder workout, choose a workout level that is harder than the one you are currently using.

LIT Method Settings

LIT Method water tank

While LIT doesn’t call this a damper setting or drag factor, they do have what they call a resistance setting.

You can change the amount of resistance (LIT measures this in pounds) by turning the level on the top of the water tank.

There are 4 settings, with the lowest setting being 10 pounds and the highest setting being 40 pounds.

Their programs do not change the resistance, but the knob is right in front of you, so simply move the lever to a higher or lower number, and you are set to do your workout.

Aviron Impact Series Rower

Man working out on an Aviron indoor rower

Like the NordicTrack, this rower does not allow you to change the drag factor or the damper settings.

The computer-controlled workout programs adjust and control all the resistance settings, so you get the best workout possible in the amount of time you have selected.

What Resistance Should I Row at?

Each rowing machine has its own way of measuring resistance.

Some use numbers, others have dials and gauges, while most smart rowers are automatically controlled.

Focus on damper of Rowing machines in use

You can get the best workout on your indoor rower, regardless of the brand, by following these tips:

  • Be sure you are using the proper technique for your rowing stroke.
  • Row for a minimum of 20 minutes. Thirty to 60 minutes is better if you want to lose weight or increase muscle mass.
  • Use your legs! Rowing is 60 percent leg work, so be sure you are pushing off with your legs.
  • Row longer distances one day, then a shorter distance but a faster stroke rating the next.
  • Use a heart rate monitor or fitness watch to ensure that you are working hard enough.

The best resistance level is the one that makes you sweaty but not sore or exhausted the next day.

The Bottom Line

The drag factor or damper settings make a difference on some rowing machines, but some models don’t allow you to change these settings.

You can get a terrific, high-intensity workout simply by following the tips above.

Remember, form over speed! You’ll get a better workout and be less likely to injure yourself.

Keep rowing on!