Indoor rowing on a Concept2 rowing ergometer, commonly known as a row-erg, has gained immense popularity as a full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups. While many enthusiasts focus on increasing the damper setting to achieve maximum resistance, there’s more to proper rowing technique than just turning the dial to 10. In this blog post, we will delve into the nuances of rowing technique and explain why it’s essential to vary your damper setting for optimal performance and injury prevention.

Understanding the Concept2 Row-Erg:

The Concept2 row-erg is a state-of-the-art machine designed to simulate the feeling of rowing on water. It consists of a sliding seat, a handle attached to a chain, and a flywheel that generates resistance. The damper setting on the side of the flywheel adjusts the amount of air allowed into the flywheel housing, thus affecting the resistance. Contrary to popular belief, the damper setting is not equivalent to the resistance level on other exercise machines like the treadmill or stationary bike.

Proper Rowing Technique:

  1. The Catch: Begin with your shins vertical, gripping the handle with an overhand grip, arms extended, and back straight. Your heels should be slightly lifted, and your core engaged.
  2. The Drive: Initiate the drive by pushing through your legs, followed by leaning back slightly. Simultaneously, pull the handle towards your chest using your arms and engage your core muscles.
  3. The Finish: Once your legs are fully extended, lean back slightly, engaging your core, and pull the handle towards your upper abdomen or lower chest. Maintain a relaxed grip on the handle to avoid excessive tension in your arms.
  4. The Recovery: Gradually reverse the movement by straightening your arms, leaning forward from the hips, and allowing your knees to bend. Slide the seat forward, returning to the catch position.

Why Avoid Always Rowing with the Damper on 10:

  1. Injury Risk: Rowing with a high damper setting places excessive strain on your muscles and joints, increasing the risk of injury. It can lead to overuse injuries in the lower back, knees, and shoulders. Varying the damper setting allows for a more balanced and sustainable workout.
  2. Technique Improvement: Relying solely on a high damper setting masks technical flaws in your rowing stroke. By reducing the resistance and focusing on proper technique, you can refine your form, improve efficiency, and achieve better overall results.
  3. Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Training: Rowing with a high damper setting primarily engages your muscles in an anaerobic fashion, focusing on power and strength. By adjusting the damper setting lower, you can shift the emphasis to aerobic training, improving your endurance and cardiovascular fitness.
  4. Muscle Engagement: Lower damper settings encourage greater focus on leg power, as it requires driving against less resistance. By incorporating lower settings into your workouts, you can achieve a balanced engagement of muscles, including the legs, core, and upper body.
  5. Cross-Training Benefits: Rowing is a great cross-training activity for various sports and fitness goals. By varying the damper setting, you can mimic different water conditions, adapting your training to suit the demands of specific activities, such as endurance training or race simulations.

Is there a time and place for putting the damper on 10? Yes! On very short intervals or on medium distance sets when you are capping the stroke rate at a very low number with a focus on an aggressive pull at a very slow SPM (strokes per minute).


Proper rowing technique on a Concept2 row-erg involves more than just setting the damper at maximum resistance. By varying the damper setting, you can optimize your workouts, reduce the risk of injury, refine your technique, and achieve a more balanced engagement of muscles. Remember, rowing is a holistic exercise that encompasses both aerobic and anaerobic training, allowing you to challenge yourself while reaping the benefits of a full-body workout. So, next time you hop on a row-erg, don’t hesitate to explore different damper settings and unlock the true potential of your rowing experience.

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