How to Use Mechanics and Skills to Improve Your SkiErg Workouts and Technique
The SkiErg is a great piece of equipment found in most gyms that is specifically useful for training the aerobic system. The SkiErg also appears in numerous functional fitness workout routines. But, clients commonly experience difficulties in using the SkiErg.
In the video below OPEX Fitness Founder, James FitzGerald, explains how proper form will improve your SkiErg workouts.
Sample SkiErg Workouts:
Map 10 Aerobic – “Around the World”
1 Minute easy bike
1 Minute box step up
1 Minute skierg
1 Minute jump rope single unders
1 Minute plank
x 8 rounds continuously and relaxed
A Slightly Faster and Shorter Interval Workout (MAP 5)
5 Minute “AMRAP” at 80% aerobic pacing (not all out)
10 Calories on the skierg
30 Ft Dumbbell (DB) front rack (FR) walking lunge (WL)
A SkiErg Workout That Tests Upper Body Muscle Endurance
7K Skierg for Time
Benefits of The Skierg When Trained Properly:
Improved muscle endurance under low central nervous system (CNS) fatigue
Building upper body pulling
Low demand on the brain because of no eccentric
Great paring exercise – as it is aerobic and not CNS draining
Good blood flow movement
Good rhythm and relaxation exercise when the damper is low and the speed is more of a MAP 10 aerobic speed
Less taxing than something like a rower (when you build efficiency in the technique) – bike would be the most simple so if your technique is poor, you should probably use the bike for a metabolic response
How Will A SkiErg Workout Affect You
The skierg is primarily a full-body flexion activity. So the effect will be quite similar to other functional fitness exercises such as:
Full body flexion often carries over into powerful movements – think ball slams.
What will all those concentric reps do for you? They will help you build up a lot of muscle endurance in the concentric portion of your hip flexion. Because of the lack of eccentric load, a heck of a lot of people can do the skierg. Somebody could start slow and easy with the skierg, and then they could progress and build up volume effectively. Learn progressions like these here.
Tips for Better Technique on The SkiErg
A huge key for anybody who is using the skierg workouts to train the aerobic system (even OPEX’s MAP 10) is to ensure that all of the angles of your body close together. Proper form on the SkiErg includes:
Getting into triple extension where you are all of the way hip exntended with your arms as high up overhead as the machine allows (if you’re too tall, you’re out of luck unfortunately), and you’re on your toes
Drop into the ground, and at the same time you flex your knees and hips while you are driving your arms down toward the ground – That action should try to work all together
“Lather, rinse, and repeat” – Don’t overcomplicate this movement, it is a concentric movement followed by a reload into the triple extension movement over and over
How to Coach and Cue SkiErg Workouts
You can use sound cueing to help yourself or your clients on the skierg. The sound should be consistent from rep to rep (once you get “up to speed”), and it should also be similar from right to left or else you may be pulling harder on one side or the other.
You can say that you want everything “collapsing” at the same time, like a ball throw. This is often a helpful cue because the connection to releasing the ball often helps people to move their body together and then finish the handles all the way through the end of the hip flexion. You can investigate collapsing on the skierg by asking:
Does your lower back get fatigued in this movement?
Do your triceps get highly fatigued in the movement? – The long head of the tricep is a muscle that is highly used in this movement. If you do not connect the hip flexion and the arm drive, the triceps can get quite fatigued
Think about this example; if you have somebody who can’t do a front leaning rest (FLR) well, who can’t do toes to bar or knees to elbows, and has a weak side bridge, but you give them a lot of skierg, what would you expect from them? You’d expect them to break down in the movement rather quickly because they do not have the prerequisite strength and muscle endurance to maintain the synergy of the hip flexion and arm pull together. If you had them do 30 strokes per minute for 10 minutes, that’s 300 “broken” reps that may create low back pain or overuse in one lat vs the other.
How to Best Use the SkiErg:
Aerobic activity – You want to use the skierg in longer, slower aerobic environment rather than faster environments. That doesn’t mean you need to only use the skierg in long and slow aerobic work, you can incorporate multiple exercises in your training, it just means that you are not trying to go too fast/hard on the skierg in your training. You cannot cycle the movement hard enough and fast enough to create an anaerobic environment.
Skill development – You can work to get better at the skierg itself as it may show up at the CrossFit Regionals or CrossFit Games if you compete in the functional fitness.
Warm up – You can certainly use the skierg to warm up your body for your day’s training.
Final Thoughts on the SkiErg
You must understand the response that you are trying to elicit from skierg workouts. It’s not designed for strength training or lactic endurance training. It’s meant for aerobic work and skill development.
The skierg is all concentric activity that is a closed chain movement with all flexion. You need great core control and consistency of connection through the hips, lats, and arms.
Writing a repeatable aerobic exercise program can be difficult. Imagine learning the essentials to writing repeatable programs. Get an introduction to those essentials in this free coaching course.
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