So there are two battles going on with the drag factor setting on a Concept2 erg. The first, is mine – where should I set it for the most effective performance when sprinting.
The second battle is trying to explain to and convince people that the lever on the side of a Concept2 ISN’T a resistance setting (although you will feel you’re working harder at 10 and easier at 1) but more it’s a Drag Factor – which in the right hands is used to make rowing on the erg feel similar to a boat on the water.
Defining the Drag
There are a few ways to think about this. One way is to understand that the lever on the side of the machine was about resistance – when it was set to 1 – you’d find you’d be going really fast, covering a lot of meters, and your split time would be really low. Whereas when it was set to 10 – it would be like rowing through treacle – you’d not cover many meters, and your split time would be really high.
If you look at the monitor, you’ll find this isn’t the case.
One way to look at it is as though at 1 on the damper setting, you’re rowing a single, small boat. Each pull glides you effortlessly through the water – but not very quickly, and the water resistance slows you back down soon after each stroke.
When the lever is at 10, it’s like you’re trying to row on a barge. It’s tough to get it going, but once you do get it going, inertia means that takes longer for it to slow down between strokes.
So essentially, if you did one session at a damper setting of 1 (which is likely to give you a drag factor of around 100) and another at 10 (which will probably be about 190) over the same distance – you’ll put in the same amount of total effort for both settings, but the perceived effort level per stroke for each session would feel different.
This is the reason why Concept 2 machines are able to be used in competition. If I have my machine set to a drag factor of 175 and you have it set to 130 – then we both covered the same distance in the same amount of time, we’d have both used the same amount of effort. But when one of us tries harder – we’ll finish faster than the other one.
Where to set it?
That’s the big question, and one I have constant battles with. Search enough on the internet, and you’ll find most people tend to suggest a Drag Factor of between 130 and 150 if you want the erg to feel similar to rowing on the water. But, if you can increase your effort as you increase the drag factor – you’ll finish quicker.
And it’s also not as simple as that. Considering your body type, and your fitness base may also help with this decision. For example, I’m powerful, and very anaerobically fit (my VO2max is in the high 70’s) so I find that a higher Drag Factor works better for me, as I can push (or pull) myself into the ground at something like 175 – whereas 150 I don’t seem to perform quite as well. Fatigue certainly sets in quicker at 175 @ 34 strokes per minute – but I can hang on for a 1k or 2k long enough that it seems to work best for me.
Right now anyway!