How to get better at the SkiErg

The Concept 2 SkiErg

The Concept 2 SkiErg

The Concept 2 Ski-Erg is growing in popularity. And not just for winter sports athletes in the summer break – recently used in many high-level CrossFit competitions, the erg has become a relevant machine to the sport. Here are some thoughts about how to start your relationship with it right.


The right damper setting

The SkiErg is very straightforward - athletes of every height can get started immediately with the training, without having to make height adjustments. Perfect also for partner and team workouts, where fast changes between the individual athletes are important. Even wheelchair users can use the device.
Only the adjustment of the damper often causes uncertainty. 10 levels are available. The higher the lever is moved on the scale, the wider the air flap opens and the more air can flow into the wheel. More air means more resistance in the initial phase of the pull - comparable to a higher resistance in the higher gears on the bike. Thus, each stroke requires more effort, but produces a greater power output.
It is important to find a setting where a continuous and controlled pressure can be maintained. If the damper is set too high, the air resistance must first be overcome with an excessively strong pull and the remaining stroke "goes into the empty run&" – waste of energy! Pay attention to the sound effects: The aim should be to achieve a whirl as uniform as possible with only slight peaks in the initial phase of the stroke.
Most athletes tend to set the damper over-optimistic. Less is usually more - for men, the levels 6 to 7 mostly work best, for women 4 to 6. Exceptions apply to particularly heavy and strong athletes.


Double-Pole or classic skiing technique?

The SkiErg is usually used with the double-pole technique where both arms work synchronously with each other. The classic skiing technique, where the arms are used alternately, is less common. It achieves lower velocities than the simultaneous pulling from the arms, but it is an occasional training stimulus, which requires a healthy rotation of the
spine and trains the oblique muscles. Also in the case of unequally developed dorsal and arm muscles, e.g. after injuries, the classic skiing technique can correct imbalances.
The information in this post should refer to the of double-pole technique since it has pretty much sole relevance in CrossFit training.
The training with the SkiErg requires no previous knowledge from winter sports, the technique is beginner friendly and easy to learn. Still, there are some points to consider.

The correct position and movement pattern

Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. How close you get to the SkiErg is a matter of your personal preference. Large athletes usually prefer a slightly longer distance to create a more complete arm extent at the starting point, and thus ultimately a longer way to generate power from the pull.
The hands should be just outside the shoulders when you hold the handles as well. Since the handles of the ski rack are attached to freely movable hinges, you can easily turn them into your optimum position.
The small finger, should be placed on the thickened end of the handle - this will allow you to apply more pressure. At the beginning of the stroke, the whole body is extended, only the arms remain slightly bent. Pull the handles diagonally down until your hands are just below your knee. Avoid a V-shaped curve with your hands moving away from the body.
At the lowest point, the elbows are fully extended, while the knees are slightly soft, comparable to the start position of a jump. Try the following drill to get to your ideal posture:
A:     10 Strokes with completely extended legs
B:     10 strokes with a parallel squat (90°) at the lowest point of the movement
C:     Your final body posture at the lowest point is somewhere in the middle of both
Do not turn every repetition into a squat - your legs will get tired.
In the recovery phase, the body straightens up fully again, synchronized with the backward swing of the arms. Lifting the heels off the ground is perfectly fine, especially at higher speeds.
Two hints: First, do not forget to breathe deeply at the beginning of each stroke. Second, keep your core tight. Otherwise, you will collapse at the lowest point of the movement and you will not be able to maintain the pressure.

Control your tempo

The SkiErg can be used for sprints, medium and long distances. The control of the stroke race, force and tempo for every type is important.
Most athletes familiar with the Concept2 rowing machine will find that with the SkiErg, they reach lower speeds with the same force input. This is due to the increased use of the legs on the rowing machine - our legs can generally generate more power than the upper body, which plays the main roll on the ski. Particularly athletes with long legs will notice a significant reduction in performance, as they can benefit less from the long pull when using the ski ergometer.
The following average speeds can be used as a reference point:
Long distance:                     2:20 – 2:30min/500m          or                     600 – 800cal/hr
Middle distance:                   2:00 – 2:20min/500m          or                     800 – 1.200cal/hr
Sprint:                                  <2:00min/500m                    or                     >1.200cal/hr

Female Athletes can refer to values approx. 20% lower.
The strokes per minute, displayed on the top right corner of the performance monitor, is roughly two times as high as on the Concept 2 rower. Thus 30 to 45 trains correspond to a relaxed tempo, 45 to 60 a moderate one. In sprints, 60 or more strokes per minute can be done, depending on body size, force and damper setting.
It is important to be able to always control the frequency of strokes. As a beginner, you should dedicate some training sessions specifically to exercise only the control of this rate. Think of a value that you want to keep for several minutes. You will quickly get used to the right rhythm.