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Stationary rowing machines are commonly used for off-season crew training but are also associated with back injuries due to different rowing ergonomics. The newer style dynamic ergometers seek to reduce back injuries by improving biomechanics, but it is unclear how efficiency compares between the two ergometers. PURPOSE: This study sought to compare the efficiency and physiological responses between a stationary and dynamic rowing ergometer. METHODS: Participants included 10 subjects (2 females and 8 males) between 18-48 y. A race pace for each participant was determined by a 500-m row at an RPE of 6-7 (out of 10) on a stationary ergometer to determine the average power that should be maintained during testing. After a 10-min rest, participants then completed a 1000-m row test on both a stationary (STA) and dynamic (DYN) rower, separated by a 10-min rest. The starting ergometer was randomly selected. Participants maintained their race pace + 5 watts throughout each 1000-m test. Data was collected for stroke rate, average power, and heart rate every 50 m for the last 250 m of each trial. Total caloric expenditure and upper and lower body RPE were recorded following each trial. Rowing efficiency was determined two ways: 1) by dividing the average power by average heart rate, and 2) by dividing total work by total caloric expenditure for each trial. Dependent variables were compared for STA vs. DYN using a dependent test at p<0.05. RESULTS: Results showed no difference in 1000-m time, total caloric expenditure, average power, or total work between STA and DYN, indicating that participants maintained the same race pace on both ergometers. There was, however, a significant difference between stroke rate (39.3 + 8.2 strokes/min vs. 31.7 + 5.1 strokes/min) and heart rate (167.6 + 17.1 bpm vs. 163.6 + 15.8 bpm), for DYN vs. STA, respectively, p<0.05). Lower body RPE was similar (p>0.05), but upper body RPE was 1.2 + 0.4 points higher following DYN (p<0.001). There was a strong trend for better efficiency with the STA rower using the average power/HR method (p=0.06) but not using the other method. CONCLUSION: Our data demonstrates that the DYN rowing machine is more physiologically demanding and potentially less efficient than the STA version, given the higher stroke rate required to produce similar power and work output. A major limitation, however, was that all participants were familiar only with the STA style ergometer so the DYN machine was novel. Although we allowed participants to practice on the DYN on test day, future research should include an acclimation trial to minimize the novelty of the DYN machine and should perform testing on separate days to minimize fatigue.

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