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This type of calorie burn is better than what you would get from cycling or running, and it’s much gentler on the body. You can also position your hands differently in order to work new muscle groups in your lower and upper arms. Many people will be surprised to learn that rowing works the legs more than any other muscle group, but by switching up your rowing position, you can also focus on your abs, arms and shoulders for a total upper body workout that can provide impressive results just by working out a few times a week.
Outside of resistance type, we found the number-one arbiter of ride feel to be cord quality. Water ergometers tend to employ nylon cords, while air ergometers feature metal chains — a durability factor we anticipated would result in our favoring air. But while all three water rowers aced our expectation of smooth, high-tension strokes, perfecting the chain seems to be more difficult: Some tug with just a slight rumble, others feature bouncy, grinding chains that are incredibly loud, something akin to angry snoring. As for nylon, the best wind and unwind like elastic silk — no slack, no sound, no catching, just perfectly even tension throughout the stroke.