All low-impact cardio workouts have one thing in common: Some of your body weight is supported as you exercise—say, by the water when you swim or the bike seat while cycling. That’s great, because it takes pressure off your joints. On the other hand, the simple act of bearing your own weight is a big plus for functional fitness and endurance.
Which gets us to the SkiErg. Modeled after the pole pull used by nordic skiers, the machine provides a full body-weight cardio challenge that’s still low impact on your knees, with minimal pounding overall.
But that’s just the first selling point. The SkiErg is a favorite among trainers for its unique lower- and upper-body movement patterns. “The whole time, you’re opening and closing your hips, improving your strength and flexibility in that area,” says Kenny Kane, owner of Oak Park gym in Los Angeles. “And it requires full arm extension—something that gets muted in a lot of typical gym movements.”
The stroke takes a little practice. Grip the handles with a slight bend in your elbows. Rise to the balls of your feet, reach arms up, then pull down hard, sending hips back and fists toward the ground and dropping into a slight crouch. Immediately push through heels to reverse, then pull again. Your upper body supplies the force for the first part of the pull, then your lower body (glutes especially) for the tail end.
As a workout tool, the SkiErg checks a lot of boxes. You can use it as a warmup to a tough lifting session, since it helps make your hip and shoulder joints more pliable while raising your heart rate. It can also be the main event, as it’s such a calorie burner—expect to torch 400 calories in just 30 minutes, which is on par with running and jumping rope.
Becoming proficient in SkiErg carries over to other parts of your workout, too. “It’s really squatting and pulling, and every part of your body is utilized for maximum efficiency,” Kane says. And don’t forget, ski season is just around the corner.
Sprinting VS the Long Haul
The SkiErg has a flywheel with a lever to control resistance, and a digital display to track splits. For sprint training, keep the tension at 5 to 8, and use distance traveled for each interval to ensure consistency throughout the reps. If you’re training for endurance, bump it down to a 4 or 5, set a distance to cover (say, 10,000 meters), and use time elapsed as a benchmark for progress.