In the starting position, the knees should be bent, with the shoulders and arms extended forward and the shins held vertically. Begin rowing by pushing both feet against the row machine’s platform and straighten the legs until they’re slightly bent. Pull the paddle towards you, using bent elbows as you slightly lean back while focusing on keeping your back straight. This type of motion should be both continuous and fluid.

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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.
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