The number of exercise variations and hybrid circuits that can be performed using a SkiErg is relatively unknown.
Simple adjustments in body position, adding exercises or implementing other equipment to alter and amplify the training effect of the SkiErg are many. You’re only limited by your creativity.
Most SkiErg videos and articles are centered around “SkiErg how-to” stroke technique and mechanics. We need these videos, and there are some really informative instructional videos on YouTube.
But for people wondering how they can expand there use of SkiErg, there are very few videos. Not a lot of discussion on stroke variations, adding movement to strokes, combining exercises with SkiErg to create work circuits, or other creative applications for the cardio machine.
This article is an introduction to a few of the variations I’ve played with and implemented successfully into my own workouts.
Per usual, everything shared has been tested by me first.
Try Something Different, Avoid Boredom at All Costs
There are ZERO reasons to allow boredom to creep in and dissolve your workout regimen.
Fitness pro’s are willing to argue over nutrient transport and motor units recruitment during deadlifts, but few acknowledge how boredom is a very effective killer of exercise motivation.
Changing it up from time to time is important.
Adjustments and tweaks can always be made to create a new challenge and keep daily workouts fresh.
I’m a big believer in gym discipline. Show up and leverage basic fitness principles because they are powerful. The fundamentals get results.
… if you’re one bland workout away from throwing in the towel with your fitness, it’s time to switch it up.
SkiErg workouts have never made me cringe the way other cardio machines do.
Rowing? Brutal. Someone utters “2000m row for time” and I melt into the floor. Gross.
Airbike? Meh. Not as bad, but bad enough. Higher intensity air bike training can be awful, especially when gunning for personal records on the 5-mile ride for time.
For whatever reason, I’ve developed an affinity for tough workouts on the SkiErg.
I’m always game for a quality SkiErg session. Even the longer distances don’t give me the heebie-jeebies like the rower.
Save the Legs!
SkiErg training is a leg sparing cardio activity.
The training stress is much different compared to rowing, biking or running.
SkiErg is upper body dominant.
While the arms pull on the handles, the trunk begins to flex slightly as the hips hinge and knees bend ever so slightly.
This loosely describes traditional SkiErg stroke technique.
Reach and contract, pull and flex/hinge…. relax and return to the start.
Photos of a split squat variation…
Strokes become rhythmic while the meters accumulate.
SkiErg training is mostly (not always) performed in a vertical standing position. Training in a standing position with feet on the floor is a nice feature of SkiErg.
I say “not always” because the SkiErg can be used in the seated or kneeling positions.
These modified positio are great for adapted athletes or people with lower-body injuries.
Over the course of the last year, I’ve tested a wide scope of applications for SkiErg training.
- Short burst efforts integrated into hybrid circuits
- Long distances (2000m, 5000m, etc)
- Power training for shorter distances (100-200 meters)
- Multi-modal aerobic cardio training (bike, row, SkiErg)
What did I find?
It all works quite well.
SkiErg is seamless to integrate into circuits because there’s zero set up to initiate the exertion.
You don’t have to climb onto it or need to strap any body parts in, or mess around with seat heights, etc.
Check out this little circuit: Lizard Crawl + Kettlebell Swing + SkiErg circuit.
As you can see… pairing SkiErg with other exercises (bodyweight, kettlebells, barbell, etc) is a piece of cake, and challenging as hell. This integration adds a whole new dynamic to basic gym equipment.
Simply walk up to the machine, grab the handles and start pulling. Make it purrrrrrr.
Tiny adjustments to the traditional SkiErg stroke technique can change a lot about the training stimulus.
Staggering the stance, turning the body to a 45-degree angle, jumping on each stroke all create a new training experience.
Below are several different ways to shake up your next SkiErg session.
Future articles will branch off to share more SkiErg variations I’ve found to be challenging and “fun”.
The idea here is simple…
TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
Foot Placement/Base of Support Variations
Shifting foot position can alter the base of support, which changes the training effect ever so slightly as the body makes on-the-go adjustments to remain in control and balanced during efforts. The feet remain in a fixed position on the floor in all of these variations.
Split Squat Double Arm Pull
Technique cue: “kiss” the knee cap of the rear to the floor at the bottom of the split squat.
Leverage your body weight’s descent to the floor and pull HARD on the handles. Generate power!
45 Degree Angle Stance + Double Arm Pull
Rotate the lower body to a 45-degree angle to the SkiErg. Turn the upper body to face the chest at the SkiErg.
Training from this position will challenge the upper body/lower body separation and hammer the obliques. Again, the obliques will take a serious beating here.
Now, we get the lower body moving.
What was once upper body focused training, goes headfirst into the total body cardio realm.
Everchanging positions, twisting/turning, jumping and lateral bounding. The lower body movement will vary, the upper body pulling action remains the same.
Alternating Split Squat Jumps + Double Arm Pull
Adding split squat jumps to the double arm pull creates a total body training effect. The split squat jump increases the fatigue factor 3x, versus normal technique. Traditional SkiErg training is primarily upper-body focused, the split squat jump changes that.
At the bottom of the split squat jump, “kiss” the knee cap to the floor. Soft and quiet landings. Try and time the pull of the handles with the landing of the split squat, which will give you the best opportunity to create as much power on each stroke as possible.
Rotational Squat Jumps + Double Arm Pull
Squat, jump and rotate. Find the floor, pull.
This SkiErg variation adds complexity to the effort.
The key to having success with this exercise is planting the front foot on the floor in line (or as close to) with the tower of the SkiErg. Doing so will create space for the handles to straddle the front leg and avoid any interference on the pull.
Sometimes, other gym tools can be used to add a new dynamic or challenge to a cardio experience. With SkiErg, the hands are fixed to the handles, so the external loading will likely be hands-free. Weight vests and resistance bands work really well here.
Here is a badass resistance band variation worth trying out...
Stretch Band Resisted + Double Arm Pull
The resistance band pulls the hips backward, making driving hips forward into extension a more difficult.
The pull of the band will set your glutes on fire.
Of all of the variations listed in this post, this is my favorite.
Getting a little more action for the glutes and reinforcing aggressive hip extension is a fantastic addition to an already great cardio activity.
SkiErg Hybrid Circuits
Whenever I feel my workouts getting a bit stale, I’ll mix 1-2 exercises with the SkiErg to create a hybrid circuit. “Nano-Circuit” may be a more accurate description.
Kettlebell swings, clean and press, loaded lunges, goblet squats and lizard crawling all pair extremely well with the SkiErg and the transition between activities is painless.
Generally, I keep the SkiErg distance consistent. Each of the videos below shows a 100m effort on the SkiErg, short enough to really power up each stroke, but not so far to create fatigue too early in the workout.
I recommend keeping the resistance exercise, locomotion pattern and SkiErg effort brief and intense. Choose fewer reps for the non-SkiErg exercise… anywhere from 6-10 reps.
Rest after achieving your target distance. Execute for however many rounds you prefer.
Steady, accumulated fatigue is the goal. As the clock ticks, you’re going to get tired training using this format. Don’t start out too aggressively and burn out in the first round.
I value these workouts because almost all of the work is performed standing.
Here are some examples:
Kettlebell Swings + SkiErg
Macebell 360’s + SkiErg
Lizard Crawl Flow + SkiErg
Ah, yeah, that’s enough for this post.
Get into some of these variations and let me know how it went.
I love hearing from everyone!