Monday 150914

Take 15 minutes to establish 2RM push press

Take 15 minutes to establish 2RM push jerk

Then, max effort attempt at shoulder to overhead @ 40% of today’s 2RM push jerk

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That my friends is a damper.

That my friends is a damper.


You know that little device that moves up and down on the fan on a rower? (hint, it’s also pictured above)  It’s called a damper and often we get asked where we should have the damper during workouts.  I give you expert advice from our very own Maddie Berky.

Welcome to one of the greatest rowing – CrossFit controversies of all time: damper setting. And when I say controversies, I really mean the #1 thing I argue (yes, there have been legit serious discussions, and I’m not one for confrontation) with athletes about on the daily. Damper – or fan – setting controls how much air gets let not the fan, and this how much resistance that machine offers in return. A higher damper setting creates more resistance. Conversely a lower damper setting creates less resistance. Higher = heavier. Lower = lighter.

The heavier / lighter scenario is where we tend to get stuck when new / not very efficient on the erg. A heavier damper setting essentially cheats connection. We fell CONNECTED and like we are working our ass off. A) debatable. B) Cause you are, but is all that work really worth it?

Heaviness makes you feel like you are doing work every single stroke. It’s akin to how a heavy deadlift makes it aggressively obvious that you are moving load. But, should rowing feel like a heavy deadlift? Not usually. While rowing is of course going to have more pointed places of power than say, running, it should still be light and fluid in the vast majority of your pieces. Think about it more like a light deadlift you have to bust out 21 of at a time – yes, you feel yourself moving load over time, but how you do so is much quicker and lighter than your 5RM.

But here’s the problem: when you’re not good at getting connected at the front end of your stroke and you have your damper set at a 6 (gents) 4 (ladies) – you feel like you’re dicking around with a PVC pipe instead of actually doing work. Hence, damper gets bumped up. Plus, there’s the common misconception that rowing should feel heavy, always. And that we should almost attack each stroke like a separate rep.

What happens next in this scenario: you hate rowing.

So, in order to remove rowing from your – things you hate – list and nestle it solidly into your – things that make me feel warm and fuzzy inside – list, we need to change some things.

1) I want you to bump your damper down! If you’re a gent I want you closer to a 6 and if you’re a lady I want you closer to a 4. Different ergs run differently depending on their age and how well they’re maintained. You might have to tweak your damper setting depending on the machine, but 6 & 4 are your basic start points.

Don’t think that I’m salting your rowing game by bumping your damper down. Collegiate rowers rock those damper settings. In fact, I’m being generous. I rowed lower than that in college (granted I was a buck 35, but still…;) Both of those setting help to simulate the resistance of the water. You can do A TON of work at those damper settings.

2) Take any and all pauses out of your stroke. This is the main issue I see for people who have difficulty connecting at the front end, hate rowing at a lower damper, and / or want to tell the entire sport of rowing to go F itself. There is absolutely a difference in ratio between the drive (work portion) and recovery (rest portion) of your stroke – it should be about a 1:2 ration – but that doesn’t mean you should ever pause. Ever.

The most common places I see pauses are at the finish (back of the stroke, arms resting at the base of the sternum), at arms away (right after you extend your arms from the finish), when the arms are right over the knees, or at the catch.

A great drill for removing the pause: Progressive Pause Drill

Start with pausing at the finish, arms away (just extend your arms) & arms and body away (just lean forward. Then start to remove the pause at the finish, the pause at arms away, and then finally the pause at arms & body away. After the last pause in the cycle take a full stroke, pausing back that the first pause (example: first cycle would be a pause at the finish, at arms away, at arms and body away, and then finish the stroke pausing again at the finish.)

5 – 10 cycles: Pause @ the finish, arms away, arms & body away.

5 -1 0 cycles: Pause @ arms away, arms & body away.

5 – 10 cycles: Pause @ arms & body away.

10 full strokes paying attention to not pause throughout the stroke.

Will this drill instantaneously want to make you row at a 6 or a 4? Probably not. But will it help to make you more efficient: absolutely. If it causes you physical pain to just cold turkey adjust your damper – I feel you. Instead slowly work it down over time. You’ll get there. I’m not worried.

Do I ever change my damper?

Excellent question. Rarely. The only circumstance I’ve really encountered where I’ve wanted a different damper is when rowing for calories when 1) there aren’t a whole lot of calories to be rowed, 2) the workout isn’t super leg heavy, and 3) the workout is super lung heavy. Why would I want a higher damper in this scenario: because I’ll slow my rating down and freaking haul on that handle. These long, heavy strokes aren’t great on my legs, but they give my lungs a break and I can get off that machine pretty darn quick.

Otherwise, you will always see my damper right around a 4. True fact.

Have more rowing questions that are keeping you up at night. I know. It happens all the time. Come to rowing! We’re in between a cycle right now, so it’s the PERFECT time to join. And I promise you will hate it a little bit less. If not I’ll personally do 30 burpees right then and there.

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