(Repost from CrossFit St. Louis blog 2-6-14)
I often walk into the gym to get the rowers set up for my class, only to find that many of the dampers are set all the way up to 10. This always amazes me because I know what a slog rowing at a 10 can be. I understand that people don't always know better and often treat a damper setting like resistance. They think, "If I set this thing at a 10, it will make me work harder and I'll get a tougher workout, and that will make me a badass." You will have a tough workout, and quite possibly a miserable experience and a backache to boot. Understanding what the damper actually does for you will allow you to row more efficiently and create a more "enjoyable" experience on the erg.
Damper 101 First of all, damper setting is NOT resistance. The damper setting creates a drag (allows more or less air into the flywheel). It gives you the feel of a heavier boat or a lighter boat. To move both types of boats quickly, you have to put more energy into the system. If you want to move a lighter boat quickly, you must row faster or harder. However, if you just paddle along, even a light boat will go slower. It all depends on how much energy you put into the oars. Imagine a sleek, one person racing boat. The faster you move the oars through the water, the faster you will go. The same principle applies to the erg. At a lower damper setting (1-3), you will move quickly on the slide, and it is easier to row at higher stroke ratings. Rowing at a low damper means that the flywheel is more closed and less air is able to come in and slow it down. This also means that the flywheel doesn't decelerate as quickly so at the catch, you can continue to move quickly into the next drive without taxing the leg muscles too much. Once again, your pace will be determined by how much pressure you put into your footplate and handle. At a lower damper, you can move faster and rowing at faster stroke rates tends to be more cardiovascularly taxing.
On the flip side, rowing a heavier boat requires more pressure into the oar to move the boat through the water. As with a lighter boat, to move a big boat faster,
you have to row harder. On the erg, rowing at damper settings between 8-10 can feel like
a big, heavy boat. The damper opens up the flywheel allowing more air to circulate, thereby requiring more energy to keep it moving. The flywheel also decelerates quicker, requiring more muscular energy at the catch to get it moving again. This typically
means a slower stroke rate. Rowing at a high damper setting can be more muscularly taxing.
Which one do I do? Damper setting is a very personal preference. You need to row at different dampers to find out where YOU are most efficient. Some questions to ask yourself... Do you like to move faster like a sprinter? Do you like to move slower but pull a heavier load? What type of build do you have? What type of piece are you rowing? In general, smaller people with petite builds seem to have good luck at the lower damper settings. Bigger, taller, more muscular people can often handle a higher damper. I find that rowing somewhere between 4-5 works well for me for all purpose rowing.
For very short pieces or when looking for max power or calories, you may consider bumping
up the damper a notch. It's always good to practice and see where you feel the most
powerful. Try a watt test...row at damper 2 for 30 seconds at heavy pressure and see what
watt output is. (Bodyweight plus is a good thing to shoot for). Rest 30 seconds and try
again at damper 4. Feel any different? Continue up the flyhweel until you get to an 8 or 9.
As you go to a higher damper number, when do your returns begin to diminish? Play around
with it and you will find a damper that seems to give you what you want.
For a great article and more info on damper setting and drag, visit the Concept2 website here:
This article is fantastic and I borrowed heavily from it.
For other great videos on Damper setting, check out Shane Farmer's Dark Horse Rowing. He has two videos on damper setting...Part 1 and Part 2.
Here is another great video from UCanRow2 featuring the late, great Terry Smythe on choosing a damper setting. She makes the point that the better you can learn to make a good connection at the catch, the more efficient you can be with your stroke working less hard and with less air flow.
There is a common flaw among indoor rowers to go hard on the drive and in their effort to recover slowly, inadvertently stop the handle and rest it on the legs, or even pause or stop during the recovery en route to the catch. While this may allow you to catch your breath, it’s not helping you be efficient and it effs up the consistency of your technique and stroke on the recovery. Below is a video of what I’m talking about. When I see people do this, Lil Jon shouts in my head, “Turn down for what?”. Why are you slowing down the flywheel and basically stopping mid stroke?
In the video above I am rowing about a 16 stroke rate, driving hard, and catching my breath on the recovery. The problem is, in rowing, your hands should always be moving. You can still come in nice and slow to the catch, but don’t stop. Glide to the catch slower. At the finish of your drive, redirect the hands back to the flywheel, follow with the body, and then slowly layer in the bend of the knees to get you to the next stroke. By half slide coming back in, you should have shoulders in front of hips so you are ready to go for the next stroke at the catch and not trying to get into position at the last minute. See video below:
This video shows slower stroke rate rowing with hands constantly moving.
Whether you are rowing a 16 or a 30, your hands should always be moving and your recovery sequence of “arms, body and legs” should look the same. The slower your stroke rate, the longer it takes you to get back to the catch. The faster you are stroking, obviously, the less time you have to recover. But nothing else changes technique wise. For more info on how to recover on your rowing stroke, see this article.
So keep that handle moving and breathe on your way in. You’ll be set up early for success on your next stroke. And Lil Jon won’t be screaming at you.
(This article is a repost from October 2014 when I originally posted it on the CrossFit St. Louis blog.)
Here's a nice little workout of the week! I am naming this Metabolic Magic because it hits two of the things we need to lose fat...a little bit of conditioning as well as building muscle through strength training. Depending on your experience in the weight room, you can use a barbell or dumbbells. I know my back squat numbers so I based the percentages off my one rep max. If you would rather use dumbbells, go for it!
You will start with 1000m row and go down by 100m each round. Then you will do 10 back squats at a light weight and go down by one rep each round as you build in weight. So each round starts with a row and finishes with a round of back squats both descending every round.
You can go different ways with this workout depending on what you are trying to accomplish.
For speed: Go harder on the rows and try to negative split (go faster) each time, and use lighter weights in the squats.
For strength: Go heavier with the squats and use the row as an active recovery, going about 60%.
Let me know how it goes! Tag @leenyhoff on Instagram and show me your numbers!
Swingers and Ballers
Equipment needed: Wallball, kettle bell, and rowing machine
If no rower, you can sub rowing with biking, running or jump roping)
6 - 3 minute rounds with 1 min rest in between rounds (23 min total)
Round 1: Start 3 min round with 15 wall ball shots, and then row out the rest of the interval. Take note of meters rowed. Rest 1 min.
Round 2: Start 3 min round with 15 swings, and then row out the rest of the interval. Take not of meters rowed. Rest 1 min.
Repeat rounds 1 and 2 two more times for a total of 6 rounds, resting a minute between rounds.
Score is total meters rowed over 6 intervals.
I am a certified rowing instructor through UCanRow2/Concept2 and since my certification in 2012, along with countless hours of coaching athletes in my CrossFit St. Louis hybrid row class, I like to brag that I can "straighten out anyone's rowing in 30 min or less". I would say 15 minutes, but I like to give them a little practice time. (insert winking emoji here). I thought it would be fun to do some "before and afters" of athletes who commit to improving their technique and call it "Row Tech. U."
I recently had a client who had come to me after purchasing a donation I made to a "Girls on the Run" auction of a one hour rowing technique session. With the popularity of the rower in many on trend fitness classes (and the rampant bad rowing technique that I have witnessed in said classes), I hoped that someone would appreciate some technique tips to help them power through the rowing portions of whatever fitness classes they took. Luckily, my new client enjoyed Orange Theory classes, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to help her improve her rowing technique so she could be more efficient and produce more power in her workouts. Check out the before and after videos below and see what a difference 30 minutes with a certified instructor can make.
This nice little triplet is sure to leave you hurting next time you want to sit up in bed or have to cough! Equipment needed: Kettlebell, abmat or situp mat, rower
ABS-olutely Swinging and Rowing
2 min Row
Rest 1 min
1 min swings
Rest 1 min
2 min Row
Rest 1 min
1 min Wall Ball
Rest 1 min
Repeat above two rounds. Score is total meters plus reps of exercises.
Have you ever gotten on the erg and wondered what else the monitor could do for you besides reluctantly dole out meters? Do you get bored with the meter and pace screen so many rowers seem to be stuck on? It might be time to hit the “change display” button on the monitor and check out the force curve. Not only does this screen give you your work output parameters in meters, calories or watts, but it also gives you immediate feedback on your stroke.Per the Concept2 website:
The Force Curve graphically represents how you apply force (or power) during the rowing stroke, indicating how your total force varies as you use your legs, back and arms during the drive:
Some things to consider when trying for that “ideal” curve:
Watt do you mean by power?The average power applied during each stroke can be displayed in Watts. (Use the “change units” button on your display to get to watts.) In general, the more power applied, the faster your pace. However, this relationship between power and pace is non linear. There is no direct relationship between power and pace because of the variations in efficiency between strokes with different force profiles. You may have two force profiles with the same average power (watts), but the inefficient (spiky) force profile will produce a slower pace than an efficient (smooth) one. Dialing in that technique and working on that smooth force curve will pay dividends by making you a more efficient rower.
Next time you get on the rower, whether during warm up or in class, change the display to the force curve and see what your stroke looks like. What can you do to smooth it out? How does it change depending on the force you apply? Play around with this and watch your stroke improve.
May the Force be with YOU!
I was checking out different Crossfit blogs the other day and came across this picture of a rower (not from our gym) getting after it. I have no doubt that this chick was giving it her all and I’m sure she was killing this row. But her finish was killing me so I thought I would address it here. One of my goals as a rowing instructor is to teach proper technique so people are safe and efficient on the erg. Unfortunately, no one told this gal that she didn’t need to pull the covers up so high. Her excessive layback at the finish did not increase her stroke power and only added extra, unnecessary movement. And we all know that rowing is tiring enough without adding more work that doesn’t pay off in meters.
At the finish of the stroke, position your back angle at about 20 degrees, or in the 11:00 position on a clock. Handle comes to your sternum in a straight line from where it came out of the flywheel. For you ladies, that is about the bottom of your sports bra. Guys, we’re talking just at or below your pecs. Arms are comfortably down at your sides and slightly out, but not chicken winged. Toes should be pressed firmly into the footplate at the finish, not straining against the footstraps.
To fix excessive layback at the finish, practice rowing unstrapped. Check out this article from
Below are some proper finish positions from people in the rowing class.
Finish that stroke well and set yourself up for success! And if you need more technique tips, come visit our rowing class on M, W, or F mornings at 8:30am.
Shakira would have been a great rower, I just know it. Girl can swing some hips and that’s exactly what you need to do to get power out of your rowing stroke. If you’ve taken my class, you’ll often her me say, “Position yourself from 11-1”. Of course, I’m talking about back angle at the catch and finish of each stroke. I see people working harder than a one legged man in a butt kicking contest, but they sacrifice power because they don’t use their hips efficiently during the drive of the stroke, or prepare well for the next stroke.
Think about a deadlift for a second. At the bottom, shoulders are in front of the bar and back angle is set. As you bring the bar up your shins, you maintain that back angle until the knees, and then you use your hips to open up and finish the pull. On the way down, you close (flex) your hips until the bar hits your knees, then you lower with the legs. The same goes with the rowing stroke. At the catch, your back angle is in a closed position with shoulders in front of hips. As you draw back with the handle, you maintain a somewhat closed back angle, pushing hard with the legs, until the handle crosses the knee at which time you swing your hips open and finish the stroke with your arms. As you recover back toward the flywheel, you close your hips and after the handle crosses the knee, you bend your knees and glide into the catch.
If you don’t close those hips, you’ll never get the power you need for the next stroke. And that would be dumb. Your hips don’t lie and neither does the monitor, so harness that hip power by setting your back angle. You’ll be rewarded with effortless meters.
Thanks for stopping by! Info here will help guide you on the path to better health. I'll share my passion about health, fitness, nutrition, and finding safer personal care products as well as cooking, gardening, and raising chickens. You want it, I got it. ~ Leeny