Even though most of us grew up near the ocean and the many marina's surrounding it, rowing is a brand new endeavor. Learning how to efficiently row, will not only help you improve your times, but will also keep you from getting fatigued too early, as well as preventing injuries down the road. Not rowing properly can lead to injuries to the lower back as well as to the rib area.
Taking the time to learn how to row, is just as important as learning how to perfectly execute a Clean and Jerk. The following video covers the basics:
Now that the basics have been covered, let's talk about damper settings. Damper or the lever at the side of the erg goes from 1 to 10. The common misconception is that if you are rowing with the damper setting at 10, that you are putting in more work than someone with a damper setting of 5. That is incorrect, in fact putting the damper that high for long distances is putting you at a higher risk for injury. A damper setting that high should be for short distances only (150M or less).
Fact is that most elite rowers, place that damper between 3 and 4, since they feel that is the drag factor of water. In CrossFit competition there is no official setting, however the default is 3.5. Hoping on the rower is an exciting endeavor for most, but you must have a checklist before rowing. Make sure you have a proper damper setting, followed by making sure that you are securely strapped in.
Recommended damper settings based on body weight:
250lbs - 6-7
200lbs - 5-6
175lbs - 4-6
150lbs - 3-4
125lbs - 2-3
At the end, pick a damper setting that you are comfortable with, just keep in mind, higher doesn't mean better and it definitely does not mean you are putting in more work/strokes than the person with a lower damper setting. Safety/Technique first, power and intensity follows.