First off, let’s talk about what the Damper is and what happens as I move it up or down.
The Damper is the lever on the side of the flywheel cage that controls the intake of airflow. It's settings vary from 1 to 10. The higher settings allow more air in while lower settings begin to close off the airflow.
What are the effects of these different settings?
At higher settings, the higher airflow takes more effort to keep the flywheel spinning. The extra air will catch the flywheel on the “recovery” of the stroke, thus requiring more work when you begin your next “drive”.
At the lower settings, the airflow is cut off more and flywheel will continue to spin at faster rates so when you begin your next "drive" it is a little bit easier to generate speed from the “catch”.
Higher settings increase my intensity and resistance…right?
False. The intensity and resistance level is created by the rower (meaning YOU), not the damper. These are determined by how much effort and work you are putting into your stroke and how hard you pull, which is independent of the damper setting. The harder you row, the more wind resistance is created, and the more resistance you will feel.
At lower settings, force is required at quicker rates. While higher settings, more force is needed at slower rates to equal the same splits. Long story-short, to increase intensity you have to increase your effort regardless of the setting. Think of the damper like the gears on a bicycle. Changing your bike gears does not affect your resistance, but it does affect how it feels.
Far too often, I will see someone instantly move the damper to 10 because they feel like it will be more of a challenge or give them some sort of advantage. Truth be told, a 10 setting will likely burn you out muscularly too quick before you get the cardiovascular benefits. Concept 2 (the rowing machine manufacturer) states that Olympic rowers do not row competitively at a 10, if that helps persuade you.
So where should I set my damper?
Typically you will receive the best workout between the settings of 4-6. We at ROW Studios suggest and set our dampers to 5, unless the instructor advises or the workout says otherwise.
Adjusting the damper setting has it’s benefits. There is also a time and place for it. We design our workouts with this in mind to help you achieve your fitness goals. If you have any other questions about the damper, just ask!