SPORT TECH : ROW

Quick Fixes To Improve Rowing -- Brian MacKenzie
Rowing Warm Up-- Erin Cafaro
Headed to The Olympics: Erin Cafaro

How to Set Your Drag Factor on the Concept 2 Erg

By Erin Cafaro

The first thing you should do before you start your workout on the erg is to check your drag factor level on the monitor.  Most people will just sit down on the erg machine and start pulling OR they may adjust the fan lever (known as the damper) on the side of the erg to a certain number and then go, no matter what the workout is.  I would relate this behavior to every racer in the Tour de France using in the same gear in a time trial as they would in a long mountain stage.  It just doesn’t make sense because those are two different types of races. On top of that, all athletes are built differently and have different strengths and weaknesses, so it makes good sense to adjust your equipment appropriately.

Why is it important to find your drag factor on the monitor rather than just setting the damper lever to a number on the erg? There are quite a few different conditions that can affect the accuracy of the damper lever on the erg:

1) Dust/Rust/Age – If you store your erg outside or have had it for quite a while, and are guilty of never opening up the fan screen or pulling out the chain to clean it, then you most likely have gathered quite a bit of dust in the erg that will restrict the airflow in and out of the fan, which in turn affects the accuracy of the damper lever related to the drag factor.

2) Altitude – The air at higher altitude is a lot less dense than the air at sea level.  You will find that you need to adjust the damper lever a lot lower to get the same drag factor in Denver as you would need in San Diego.

3) Wind – If you do your erg workout outdoors when it is windy or too close to another fan, this will give you a lower drag factor number because the air that’s coming into the erg fan already has some movement to it. You will need to adjust the damper lever higher to get the same drag factor as you would get indoors in a protected area.

4) Air Temperature – When the air temperature is warm, the air is less dense because the air molecules are moving faster, therefore you will need to adjust the damper lever higher to get the same drag factor as you would in a colder space.

The most accurate way to test the resistance on your erg is to find your drag factor number on your Concept 2 monitor.

For PM3 or PM4 monitors:

1) Press the “Menu/Back” button to turn on the machine and prompt the main menu page.

2) Select “More Options”

3) Select “Display Drag Factor”

4) Row about 5-10 strokes and a number will show on the screen fairly consistently. This number is your Drag Factor.

For PM2/PM2+ monitors (the older version):

1) Press the “On/Off” button to turn the machine on

2) Wait for all zeros to be displayed on the screen

3) Press the “Ready” and “Rest” button at the same time and the drag factor value will show up in the bottom right hand side of the screen.  Row about 5-10 strokes and a number will show in the drag factor box fairly consistently.  This number is your Drag Factor.

Now that you know how to get your drag factor, what is the best setting for you and your workout?

Back in 2003, there was an epic battle in the mountain stages of the Tour de France between Jan Ullrich, a big, strong (in cycling terms) German dude, and Lance Armstrong, who was a smaller, leaner athlete with the Vo2 max of a champion thoroughbred race horse.  They battled up the mountain at very different gears – Ullrich was in a high, hard gear tapping into his leg strength and Armstrong was in a low, easy gear which allowed him to spin at a very rapid cadence and use his cardiovascular strength.

Finding your optimal drag factor on the erg is similar to finding your optimal, most effective gear on the bike. In the Crossfit world, there are some people with beast strength and little to no stamina/endurance, also people with a ton of stamina/endurance but little strength, and then we have those rare freak athletes who are good at everything.  To achieve the most effective results on the erg you must play to your own body’s strengths. So, are you a Lance or an Ullrich?

For the Lance’s out there:

Between 110-130 Drag Factor

For the Ullrich’s:

Between 120-140 Drag Factor

I’ve given you quite the range, but consider: would you use the same gear going up a mountain as you would in a time trial? No! And you shouldn’t use the same drag factor for a time trial/tempo WOD as you would in a short powerful interval WOD.  For TT/tempo WOD’s you should be on the lower end of the drag factor spectrum, which means the fan lever on the side of the erg is lower.  For short interval WOD’s, you would probably benefit from bumping up your drag factor 5-10 numbers.  You increase your drag factor number by raising the fan lever.

Sorry to say, I can’t give you a magical drag factor number that will automatically make your numbers on the erg better.  You need to do a little experimenting to find what drag factor feels the most powerful and efficient for you.  Keep in mind though that the drag factor affects the feeling of resistance, it does not create the resistance.  The resistance is created by effort.