Setting My Row Machine Resistance – How to Use Damper Settings 1-10 on the Concept2 Rower

Person on Row machine in Gyms in Franklin TN

The Damper on the Concept2 Rower – It’s the little lever on the flywheel that either makes a rowing interval easier or more difficult. Dampers range from 1-10.

The “1” setting allows for less airflow in the flywheel by closing the vent. This makes for an easier, yet quicker pull on the rower’s flywheel. Concept2 designed this setting to mimic a smaller and narrower row boat slicing through the water with ease.

The “10” setting allows more airflow into the flywheel and therefore, more resistance. This provides forces much more difficult and slower pulls on the flywheel and designed to replicate a larger boat that has more surface area in contact with the water. The numbers in between vary accordingly.

Even if you don’t plan on becoming an Olympic rower anytime soon, these small numbers on the side of the erg can greatly increase your rowing efficiency if you use them properly. So, how can you take advantage of this tool?

The Answer
Generally speaking, if you are rowing for longer periods of time (> 5-6 min), you should use a higher damper setting. Yes, you read that right. And if you are going for shorter intervals (<1-4 minutes), you might want to adjust the damper closer to a “1” setting. Here is a good workout that I have used in the past to find my optimal damper setting at different interval durations.


  • Tap the “Units” button until you get to “watts”.
  • Try to create maximal force per stroke at each interval and stroke rate.
  • You will want to refresh the rower after each interval by pressing the “Menu” button. This allows you to log each interval individually.

6 minutes – Damper: 10 – 16 strokes per minute

— rest 6 minutes —

5 minutes – Damper: 8 – 20 strokes per minute

— rest 5 minutes —

4 minutes – Damper: 6 – 24 strokes per minute

— rest 4 minutes —

3 minutes – Damper: 4 – 28 strokes per minute

— rest 3 minutes —

2 minutes – Damper: 2 – 32 strokes per minute

— rest 2 minutes —

1 minute – Damper: wherever felt best in previous intervals – Any number of strokes per minut

When you are done with the last interval, go to the main menu and choose “Memory.” It is sometimes listed under “More Options” in older models. Click on “List by Date”. The previous 6 events will be the intervals you completed during the workout. Now, you want to go into each interval and look at the “watt” column. The higher this number, the better. But, why are we looking at this number?

Watts help us determine how powerful each stroke is. This is greatly influenced by your own personal muscle composition.

Your body is made up of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers. They function exactly as they sound. Fast twitch fibers help with any rapid, powerful movement (jumping/sprinting), while slow twitch fibers help with posture, stabilization and endurance-based exercises (jogging/walking). You use a combination of the two every day without even realizing it; often times, simultaneously. People who tend to be more conditioned for rapid, high intensity intervals (i.e. – sprinting/fast twitch), will see a higher wattage with a lower damper, while people who partake in endurance sports (i.e. – marathons/slow twitch) will generally have a higher wattage at a higher damper with a lower stroke rate on average.

The last factor that plays into the average wattage per interval is muscular strength. Obviously, if a person is stronger, they will be able to get away with a higher damper setting at a shorter interval simply because they are able to pull harder on the flywheel. This is why we do the test shown above; we want to find out where you are A) the most efficient, and B) where you are the most comfortable.

The Takeaway

Most individuals will do best between a “3” and a “7” damper setting on most interval types. Duration, air resistance in the flywheel, stroke rate, and muscle composition/strength all play different roles in finding optimal efficiency on the rower. Test out where you feel most comfortable and get the best results with different interval types. It all comes down to feel!

This is my rule of thumb if you don’t want to take the time to test out your rowing:

Longer Row – “Damper 5-7” with lower stroke rate

Shorter Row – “Damper 3-5” with higher stroke rate

My personal damper settings for different interval lengths by using the test from above are shown here:

>5 minute intervals – Damper: 8 – Avg. strokes/minute: 26-28

5 minute intervals – Damper: 7-8 – Avg. strokes/minute: 28

4 minute intervals – Damper: 7 – Avg. strokes/minute: 30

3 minute intervals – Damper: 6 – Avg. strokes/minute: 34

2 minute intervals – Damper: 6-7 – Avg. strokes/minute: 34

<1-1 minute intervals – Damper: 7 – Strokes/minute: Around 38-40

Zack Lannan, CSCS, TPI
Chadwick’s Fitness and Performance

1 Comment

  • Elrumbo_Info

    November 12, 2019 @ 11:33 am

    Try this: Row 100 metres at different damper settings: 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. Keep your stroke rating at a 24. What feels differently? Which damper setting gave you the best time? Keep in mind, you still may want to change the damper setting for longer workouts. See more on damper setting .

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