Of the four types of rowing machines or ergometers, water rowers are best at reproducing the sensation of on-water rowing. Their stroke cycles hold true to the dynamics of real paddling, and each stroke is punctuated with a splash! Water rowers have sliding seats to allow full-body cardiovascular workouts. (With cheaper rowing machines, in contrast, the seats don’t move.) These fitness machines tend to feature high quality parts and can last a lifetime.
The recovery phase follows the drive. The recovery starts with the extraction and involves coordinating the body movements with the goal to move the oar back to the catch position. In extraction, the rower pushes down on the oar handle to quickly lift the blade from the water and rapidly rotates the oar so that the blade is parallel to the water. This process is sometimes referred to as feathering the blade. Simultaneously, the rower pushes the oar handle away from the chest. The blade emerges from the water square and feathers immediately once clear of the water. After feathering and extending the arms, the rower pivots the body forward. Once the hands are past the knees, the rower compresses the legs which moves the seat towards the stern of the boat. The leg compression occurs relatively slowly compared to the rest of the stroke, which affords the rower a moment to recover, and allows the boat to glide through the water. The gliding of the boat through the water during recovery is often called run.
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.