The Best SkiErg For CrossFit

While in most commercial gyms, the skierg is a niche piece of cardio equipment that sits in the corner gathering dust, this is not the case in the world of CrossFit. The skierg is a staple in every box and has featured in almost every CrossFit Games since its inception.

The skierg as we know it was invented by Concept2 (yep. the same guys who make the rowers) but there are plenty of other manufacturers creeping into the market. We checked out the competition to see what skierg you need to buy for your home gym or box.

A brief history of the skierg

Early in the  1970’s, two brothers, Peter and Dick Dreissigacker while training for the Montreal Olympics created the prototype that became skierg. A skierg is short for “ski ergometer”. An ergometer measures work done during exercise.  For most people, the best way to describe it is that it is similar to a Nordic track.  Only it’s so much more, and the design is specifically designed.

Both of the brothers trialed but did not compete in the Olympics in rowing. Both brothers had engineering degrees, so they modified their oars to create better training possibilities. The amalgam of carbon fiber was an attempt to go faster.  The good new for us, and bad new for them, is they were not selected for the Olympic team, and instead founded the company Concept2 – which manufacturers rowing equipment and exercise machines. 

They started in their garage selling carbon-fiber oars and now dominate the world of gym fitness equipment.

So, What’s the point of the skierg?

A fabulous workout that keeps you safe from injury, and yet works you as hard as you are willing to work is what skierg is all about.  The whole point is to help you build strength, muscle, and endurance. It achieves this by working the entire body in a rhythmic motion that is smooth and almost meditative. Although it tends to focus on the upper body, it does give a full-body workout.  It is great to finish up a solid weight routine to get maximum burn.  The efficiency and safety of movement is what makes it an exceptional machine in your fitness routine. This is because the sport of cross country skiing, which the equipment emulates, is a low-impact exercise that is high-calorie burning. Unlike some machinery, it is suitable for any age and any ability.  You can make it as hard as you want and need it to be.

What muscles does the SkiErg work?

Although it mainly focuses on the arm motion that would be exercised if you had ski poles in your hands, it does give a full-body workout. But because it’s low impact on the legs and gives a high-intensity workout it is safe and can give you an intense cardio burn. It is an excellent way to burn out your arms or back after weightlifting training. When it is done properly, and that’s a key here, the SkiErg is a full-body machine.

The SkieErg works the;

  • lower back
  • calves
  • glutes
  • quads
  • hamstrings
  • biceps
  • abdominals
  • triceps
  • pecs.   

It does everything simultaneously, with as much ease or intensity as you require.

What resistance setting on the skierg do I need for CrossFit – and why?

The magic of resistance in the skierg is the damper. The damper is a lever on the side of the flywheel housing.  This fan controls how much air flow moves in and out of machinery.

You can set the damper to a value between 1 and 10. The higher the damper setting the more air. More air acts to slow the flywheel down requiring more work to accelerate the next stroke. However, don’t confuse the damper setting with intensity level or resistance. The intensity of a workout is controlled by how much you use your core legs and arm to move the handles. It’s about how hard you pull and how hard you work yourself.  So it’s you that generates the resistance.  

For CrossFit training, it’s best to look at the intervals and variations in how you train.  

  • Short intense sprints for calories require a higher damper setting in the range of 8-10. This allows the handles to bite at the start of the stroke and get more work done in the same timeframe.
  • Long-distance pieces in the range of 2k to 10k require rhythm any flow to get the machine and your body working efficiently and as one. A damper setting of 4-7 is best but will vary based on your own personal preference.

Our Top 5 Tips To Master The SkiErg 

1. Understand the mechanics

Understanding how the machinery works is the first step in having an effective workout. If you understand that the settings on the damper do help you but that ultimately how hard you pull each time is what makes the difference in your personal workout, this mindset will serve you well. It’s all about you.  It’s not about the machine it’s about you manifesting a top-level workout.  It’s about you striving for intensity.

2. Learn from the best

Skierg was designed and created to simulate the sport of Nordic skiing and cross-country skiing. So you need to understand the techniques used by world-class athletes in that sport. There are numerous YouTube videos by Concept2 on how to use the machinery, but you can scale up by researching who are the best athletes in Nordic skiing and learning what their techniques are. That will give you a significant edge.

3. Rate controls speed

Understanding how the concept of gears on an indoor rower works, will help you understand the same principles that apply to the SkiErig.  Understanding how to pace using these gears will help you attain the best possible workout. Understand how to increase or decrease the number of strokes per minute there’s a natural range of speech that can be maintained given the distance or duration.

The rating on a skierig, is significantly higher than an indoor rower. By understanding your own stroke profile you can create consistent improvement in your performance and vary the intensity

4. Ski longer

SkiErg workouts in CrossFit are usually divided into short sprints and calorie-based intervals. The short sprints require less skill but for overall capacity, you need to spend more time going longer distances. By mixing it up and having a few steady 5K and 10K workouts you’ll be able to build muscle and a workout tempo of excellence.

Most people can’t go for an hour on the skierig with the same pace and tempo that you can achieve on a treadmill, a rower, or an exercise bike.

Look at a skierig as an exercise tool. Additionally, this is great for someone who is tired of other cardio machines and people with leg injuries who require a cardiovascular workout but currently don’t have the ability to do so. Another advantage is you can even use the machine while seated.   It has many nuances that will enhance your workout and give you the mental toughness to go the distance safely.

5. Vary the drag

The flywheel casing controls have a dial that controls the air going in and out. This is called a drag factor.

  • Set the damper to 10 and do some sprint intervals to develop stroke power and strength through the lats, and triceps
  • Lower the damper to 4 and try to hold your split for 30min to an hour

What to look for when buying a SkiErg

Because Nordic skiing is challenging and full body it’s a great exercise however it’s not the most convenient. You need snow or access to a ski center. There are many elements that contain the risk of falling, sustaining a broken bone, and dealing with extreme cold.  When buying any of this machinery you need to look at something that you can work for yourself and that is serviceable and has replacement parts. There are a number of different models.   Also, although it doesn’t take up much room, make sure you have sufficient floorspace and room to manuever.

The 5 best SkiErgs for CrossFit (in 2022)

We took a look at the 5 most popular SkiErgs on the market to see how they stack up.

#1 Concept 2 SkiERG [Best Overall]

The Concept 2 SkiERG is the most popular SkiErg machine on the market for a reason.  It’s mechanically a good machine. This machine adopts the flywheel resistance they have on their rowing machine along with the PM5 Performance Monitor that tracks numerous stats.   When training at high levels, metrics rule and the Concept2 SkiErg tells you everything you need to know and more. It’s also familiar to anyone who’s used their rowing machines before!

The Concept2 simulates the movements of real cross-country skiing with both double-pole as well as the classic alternating arm technique so you can do whichever you prefer.

This is the best machine overall.   It’s a favorite among many people, athletes and novices.

Pros

  • Most popular ski erg
  • Reasonably priced
  • Solid warranty
  • Assembled in the USA
  • CrossFit sanctioned brand

Cons

  • Often not in stock
  • Expensive

  • Available at: RogueFitness.com   https://www.roguefitness.com/concept-2-skierg-2

#2 Xebex Ski Trainer [Best Budget SkiErg]

It isn’t much less than the top choice however, you can save and still get a quality machine. The Xebex Ski Trainer has 16 levels of console-controlled resistance along with preset programs to give you variety. It comes with equipment to mount it to the wall or you can buy the floor stand to make it free-standing.

  • Pros
  • Less expensive
  • Delivers preset programs and 16 levels of resistance
  • Wall mounting equipment included
  • In stock
  • Cons
  • Made in Taiwan
  • Website: GetRXD.com

#3 Water Resistance Ski Erg by First Degree Fitness

  • Best High-End Ski Erg
  • Ski Erg Machines
  • This is high end and offers something different.  FluidPowerERG by First Degree Fitness could be the answer
  • This erg is different from the others on the list in that it uses fluid resistance rather than air resistance like the others on the list.

The advantage is that the fluid delivers a more consistent load than an air resistance flywheel and it delivers even resistance throughout the movement no matter how fast or slow the rate.You can do single and double-handed movements along with single side double hand diagonal chopping movements, which give you more versatility

  • This machine is built heavy duty and is commercially rated. The frame has a 10-year warranty along with a 5-year warranty on the tank and seals.
  • The console is Bluetooth-ready with power graphs and all the stats you could want.
  • The only downside is the expense.
  • Pros
  • Uses water resistance
  • Built for heavy-duty use
  • Solid Warranty
  • Cons
  • Expensive
  • Website: TracFitness.com

#4 Air Ski Erg by Rally Fitness

Floor Stand Included. The 2 machines top machines are extra if you want a floor stand. The floor stand is included with this one.It also has infinite levels of air resistance and a nice LCD panel to track your workouts.  This unit comes with all equipment and tools to mount it to the wall or stand.  However, what it has in versatility it lacks in construction.

  • Pros
  • Floor stand included
  • LCD screen to track workouts
  • Less expensive
  • Cons
  • Lower quality
  • Website: RallyFitness.com

#5 Ski Exercise Machine by MEETGG

Ski Exercise Machine by MEETGG is for someone who needs something different and wants to use Amazon Prime Shipping.   It is expensive and is a competitive knock-off from China.   But it seems to have a quicker delivery straight to you, than the others.

  • Pros
  • In Stock on Amazon
  • Cons
  • Expensive
  • Made overseas

Frequently Asked Questions:

Does skierg build muscle?

Although endurance and cardio are the primary functions, it does build muscle.   When combined with weight training beforehand it enhances the ability of weights to significantly build muscle.

What muscles does the skierg work?

Although it mainly focuses on the arm motion that would come if you had poles in your hands, it does give a full-body workout. Because it’s low impact on the legs and gives a high-intensity workout. It’s an excellent way to burn out your arms or back after weightlifting training. When it is done properly, and that’s a key here, the SkiErig is a full-body machine. It works the lower back, the calves, the glutes, the quads, the hamstrings, as well as the biceps, the abdominals, the triceps, the lats, and the pecs. 

What’s better the skierg or a rower?

SkiErg definitely offers more when it comes to workout for your arms.  A lower provides more of a lower body workout and provides more of an overall full-body workout. Another advantage is the SkiErg takes up less floor space.

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