What is a SkiErg and How To Use One
updated January 1, 2019
There’s an exciting new piece of fitness equipment on the market – and it comes from one of the most recognized and respected brands out there. It is the SkiErg from Concept 2, the people behind the world’s most popular rowing machine.
The SkiErg take the extremely popular – and very effective – sport of Nordic skiing and makes it accessible to anyone, anywhere. In this article, we take a close look at the SkiErg so that you can decide if it belongs in your home gym.
What is the SkiErg?
It is similar to a rower or an assault bike or skipping in terms of being a low complexity cyclical conditioning piece of equipment. The focus is on cardiovascular and respiratory fitness. The unit looks like a Concept 2 rower that has been mounted on the wall. This allows you to grab the two handles and simulate the Nordic Rowing action.
The SkiErg uses the same flywheel resistance and electronic monitoring systems as the Concept 2 Rower. An advanced monitor provides immediate, accurate and reliable feedback on your workout. In fact, it is fitted with Concept 2’s most advanced Performance Monitor, the PM5.
The SkiErg can either be wall-mounted, or you can purchase an additional freestanding mount, which has an anti-skid deck and caster wheels. The stand option allows the unit to be mobile, whereas once it is fixed to the wall, it is stuck in place. The high strength, lightweight drive cords that are central to the power drive system are stronger than steel, resulting in a very responsive and smooth action.
It features a spiral flywheel dampener, which allows you to quickly and efficiently adjust the airflow to the flywheel, thereby controlling the resistance level. Ergonomic strapless handles effectively simulate the feel of working with Nordic ski poles.
The SkiErg allows you to work your muscles in a completely different way to most cardio based exercise machines. Unlike the rowing machine, it is upper body-centric, with a focus on the anterior chain and dynamic hip closing.
It specifically works for the following muscles groups directly:
- Latissimus dorsi
It indirectly works the following:
- Lower Back
At the same time that is it working for every muscle group in your body, it is also providing you with a fantastic cardiovascular workout to improve your aerobic fitness level and endurance capability.
It can be easily modified to allow for sports specific training, including swimming. You can also perform such exercises as lunges on the machine to ramp up the intensity level. In addition, you will find that this machine is a great way to finish off a heavy weight training workout, especially if you have been working on your back or chest.
The SkiErg is wheelchair accessible, making it an ideal piece of equipment for those who are wheelchair bound. It is a compact piece of equipment that takes up a very modest footprint.
SkiErg vs Rowing Machine
It takes the traditional Concept 2 Rower and turns it upright, making it usable for a lot of different applications. The single handle of the rowing erg has been replaced with two independent handles. These allow for independent arm movement as well as b-lateral arm movement.
On the rowing machine, you have a chain, whereas on the SkiErg you have a rope. This provides a smoother feel to the rowing action. If you have been rowing using the Concept 2 rower, you will find the exact same monitor on the machine. It has the same measurements and reads the same way. The SkiErg also has the same flywheel that you will be used to form the Concept 2 rower. So, it is a flywheel-based machine, with resistance being adjusted by way of a dampener to control the flow of air.
The SkiErg features the same solid construction that you will appreciate from the Concept 2 rower. Just like the rower, the SkiErg is made to last forever.
Despite the fact that many of the features of the machines are the same, using the SkiErg is the complete opposite to what you are used to doing when you’re rowing. Rowing is lower extremity dominant, with dynamic hip opening and posterior chain engagement. Skiing, on the other hand, is upper extremity dominant, anterior activating and dynamic hip closing. So, you can see that the two forms of exercises actually act as a beautiful complement to one another.
If you pair the Concept 2 Rower with the SkiErg you will get an extremely complete, though hugely challenging, workout.
How to Use the SkiErg
To begin your workout on the SkiErg stand facing the machine and grab the handles. The handles should be at about eye level and you should be slightly on the balls of your feet. Your arms should be at about 90 degrees at the forearms. Now drive down with your arms as you squat down and crunch at the stomach.
Unlike when doing triceps extensions, you do not want to extend your elbows into full extension (remember you are simulating t Nordic skiing action). You do not want your triceps to overcome your core power. Keep everything tight, so that your core is initiating the pull. Everything should happen at once, so an observer should not see a squat then a pull, but rather one fluid motion.
When you are using the SkiErg you want to maintain a consistent pace (unless you are doing HIIT on it). For that reason, you want to avoid the tendency to go too hard at the start.
Finding Proper Technique
The proper technique on the SkiErg may not come easily, especially if you are a person who is used to isolating muscles group while weight training. When working on improving your technique, it can help to learn the proper technique by spending a little time doing it wrong in certain specific ways. Here are 3 drills designed to help you find the proper technique:
Ideal Arm Bend
- Stand in front of the machine and take ten pulls on the handles with your arms completely straight.
- This time take ten pulls where you bend your arms too much so that the handles run down alongside your body.
- Now take the perfect position between those two extremes, with arms around 90 degrees in the early part of the drive and then they extend straight down to the hips. Bend at the knees as you do this.
Ideal Leg Bend
- Stand in front of the machine and take ten pulls on the handles with your legs completely straight.
- Now take ten pulls where you finish in a squat position, using your legs too much. This provides a great workout, but it is not an ideal skiing technique.
- Now take the perfect position between those two extremes, to find the ideal amount of leg involvement. Pull from the core, with a slight knee bend to drive the cords down.
The Ideal Core Position
- Stand in front of the machine and take ten pulls on the handles, using your arms and legs correctly but not involving the core at all. Keep your torso upright.
- Now take ten pulls that involve too much torso involvement, with an exaggerated forward bend.
- Now take the perfect position between those two extremes, with a good solid core engagement that involves an abdominal crunch while also using the arms and the legs.
While there really is no ‘wrong’ technique on the SkiErg, by following the pointers above, you will be able to follow the most efficient technique as used by Nordic skiers.
In addition to being effective cardio and anaerobic trainer, the SkiErg is great as a skiing trainer. This option simulates the double pole action of skiing very well. The resistance is even and smooth and the recoil is about right, not be overly strong. The first version of the machine gave a pullback that was a little too dramatic, which didn’t replicate the real world action very well. This problem has been remedied on the latest version of the SkiErg.
When you use the SkiErg the resistance starts immediately you begin the hand motion, unlike in real life where you only get resistance when the poles hit the ground. This is not an issue, as it will make you over prepared for when you get out in the snow. However, experienced skiers may find this to be quite strange when they begin using the SkiErg.
The SkiErg is now in its second carnation. This machine very effectively simulates the motion of Nordic skiing. It works the body in the opposite way to the rowing machine, making it an ideal complement for that machine. The SkiErg is also an effective simulator of the snow trainer for skiers. Overall, this is a very good, compact home fitness cardio trainer that we thoroughly recommend to all home gym users.