With the summer heat in full swing, many people are choosing the Concept 2 rower over running in the blazing sun. This is a smart alternative when the heat index is 112○F outside. This raises the question about what is the best, most efficient way to row. There are several factors that play into an efficient row, just pulling faster or harder, will not get you to the finish line quicker. So here are the secret (or not so secret) keys to rowing more efficiently. Why the damper? I get asked this question almost every time the rowers are pulled out. Some people (guys usually) set the damper on 10 every time and just row their hearts away. However, when we ask these same guys to set the damper on 5 or 6, they can barely catch their breath. While other people who usually row at a 6 or 7, can only get a few good pulls at a 10 before they are wiped. So what's it all about anyway? Damper basics: The damper is a mechanism on the rower that controls how much air is reaching the flywheel inside the fan cage. It DOES NOT change the intensity or resistance level, this is based on you. Setting the damper at a lower number allows LESS air into the flywheel, allowing it to spin more freely and not slow as much between each pull. Setting the damper at a higher number allows MORE air into the flywheel, decreasing the amount of free spin and slowing it more between each pull. Essentially, at a higher damper setting, you will need to pull harder and a lower damper setting you will need to pull faster to get the same amount of work in the same time domain. How to determine the correct damper setting for you. This is where the drag factor comes in. Take some time before your workout to test your personal drag factor (if you don't know where to find this, ask your coach). Everyone is different and depending on your rowing technique you may work best at a higher or lower damper setting. The drag factor is the amount the flywheel slows between each pull. This can vary from rower to rower based on a number of different factors including air temperature, humidity, etc., so it is best to test it each time you switch rowers. Find a drag factor that you perform best at and make sure you are rowing at that drag factor regardless of the damper setting. Posture. Another key element to efficient rowing is maintaining a good posture throughout your row. Slumping over at the beginning of your pull, or bringing your chest forward too quickly at the end of your pull, will significantly decrease the efficiency of your row. Start with your chest and back in a full upright position, with your abs tight. Grab the handles; push hard through the heels (not toes). Once your legs are fully extended, and then pull hard to your upper chest while leaning back slightly. Make sure the handles fully reach your upper chest before you begin any forward motion with your chest/back. When working with athletes that tend to bring their chest forward too early, I have them practice with an exaggerated pause at the top when the handles contact the chest and then I have them let their arms down with another pause in this position before bringing their chest and legs back to the starting position. Keeping a good posture throughout the stroke will allow you to get the most out of each pull. Hands and Shoulders. When rowing, make sure you keep you grip and shoulders relaxed throughout the movement. Gripping the handles too hard will fatigue your grip and forearms much too fast. Your fingers should be lightly wrapped around the handles with your thumb on top or lightly wrapped around the bottom. Shrugging your shoulders at the finish of your pull and bringing the elbows up high will also fatigue you much quicker than necessary. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows back and down throughout the movement. At the top of the pull, your coach should be able to clearly see your elbows behind the midline of your torso. There are a number of different ways to improve your row; however, start by following these 3 simple techniques and tweak as you go. Find what works best for you and do that. And most importantly, stay cool and fit this summer!
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