SKIERG: 4 Tips to Improve Performance

By Justin Farina

1. LEARN from the BEST

I can’t understand how this became so widely used, but the BUTTERFLY style seems to be the predominant skiing technique among functional exercisers. Now go on YouTube and search for “Nordic Skiing” and “double polling technique”. See any butterfly?

Didn’t think so.

The SkiErg was designed to simulate the sport of Cross Country/Nordic Skiing. It makes sense to apply  the techniques used by world-class athletes from the sport to understand how to ski efficiently and effectively. Do your homework.

Check out this introductory clip from Dark Horse Rowing:

Everybody knows the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If you look at the SkiErg handles, the most efficient path for them to travel on would be straight down and straight up. To spin the flywheel, the athlete has to apply downward force during the “pull”. How an individual returns their hands back to the top of the pull should be as short and efficient as possible to both conserve energy and maintain a consistent (and hopefully higher) stroke rate. Wildly swinging the arms back to the starting point at the top of the pull is inefficient, slow, and unnecessary. Shorter, compact pulls with a strong bent arm allow for higher rating, greater stroke efficiency, and better performances…regardless of the distance.

2. RATE controls SPEED

Hopefully if you are reading this article you have also read our piece explaining the concept of “gears” on the indoor rower. If not, you can read that here.

The same principles should apply to the SkiErg.

                                                                                          8000m - alternating between 2k at r32 and 1k at r40.

                                                                                         8000m - alternating between 2k at r32 and 1k at r40.

Stroke rate ranges will vary for each athlete, but we still base our training paces off of a 2k PR pace, and we still avoid controlling speed with stroke power and focus our attention on controlling speed (split) by focusing on rates. Since rating on the SkiErg is significantly higher than the indoor rower (for comparision, r18 row = ~r30 ski) control is a lot more challenging. Understanding your own “stroke profile” is critical to more consistent performance improvement.

Download our "SkiErg Pacing Target Guide" here.

3. Ski LONGER

Most folks in the functional fitness world spend the majority of their SkiErg time on short sprints and calorie-based intervals within a workout. Where are all the 5k and 10k efforts?

We prescribe a fair amount of volume for our Online Members, and for good reason…higher capacity requires it.


Check out our FREE 5-DAY SESSION PLAN to see what a typical training week looks like.


Short sprints require less overall skill…meaning you can get away with dropping and yanking wildly on the handles (butterfly) and still manage to finish those 21 calories in a reasonable amount of time.

If you want to build overall capacity, you need to spend a lot more time going longer. Try some mid-distance intervals, see if you can manage 8000m in under 30-minutes, or try a steady 5k. Don’t just sprint! Mix it up…your fitness will thank you.

 

4. CHECK your DAMPER

The dial on the front of the flywheel casing controls the amount of air going in and out. Most people look at this as a “resistance” level. The SkiErg is not a tricep pull-down machine!

The damper setting controls something called “drag factor” (DF). You can check out this article from Concept2 for a basic overview.

I've "hacked" my damper by marking the corresponding drag factors to where they are located along damper levels. This makes working at varying drags much more convenient, especially if multiple people use the same machine.

I've "hacked" my damper by marking the corresponding drag factors to where they are located along damper levels. This makes working at varying drags much more convenient, especially if multiple people use the same machine.

A damper cranked all the way to 10 doesn’t make you any more faster/efficient than you’d be at a lower setting. In fact, I bet if you spent more time at a drag factor of 70, 80, or 90 (let’s say about 3, 5, or 7 on the dial) you’d realize that 10 isn’t necessarily best. A lower drag factor will likely make you more capable of sustaining higher rates for longer periods of time.

In the end, what drag factor you settle on is based on individual preference. Find what works for you, but don’t be afraid to play with different settings to get a good feel for where you are MOST efficient.


About the author.

Justin Farina is a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, and currently a 7x SkiErg World Record Holder in the 4:00, 30:00, 2k, 5k, 6k, 10k, and 1/2 Marathon. Working as a Coach/Trainer since 2006, the now 35-year old has accumulated countless hours of experience working with hundreds of athletes in parks, in gyms, on tracks, and in his garage.