The Best Workout You're Not Doing

STACK Expert Steve Ball shows you how to get a great cardio workout that engages your upper body with the new Concept2 SkiERG.


Most cardiovascular training is lower-body based. Running, biking, elliptical, stair climbing—even rowing—are mainly lower-body activities if done properly. It is hard to find a good cardiovascular workout that primarily engages upper-body musculature.

Swimming is a good upper-body workout, but sometimes the pool can be inconvenient; and if you don't know the technique, it can be difficult to get an adequate workout. The arm ergometer, or arm bike, is OK, but it can be tough to work more than just your arms and shoulders.

A relatively new piece of equipment that does work your upper body for cardio is the Concept2 SkiErg. It mimics the motion of cross-country skiing, but you don't have to be a skier to train on it. It requires the use of the lats, triceps, pecs, and abdominals to pull the handles down; and this movement is unlike any other type of cardio. Not only will you increase your heart rate quickly, but because it engages more muscles than other forms of cardio, you will burn more calories.

When done properly, training on the SkiErg hits the lats, triceps, abdominals, pecs, biceps, quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and lower back.

The SkiErg uses a flywheel that traps air to increase resistance. The intensity varies with your effort: the harder you pull, the greater the intensity. It's designed to mimic Nordic skiing, but the movement can be modified for other activities, especially swimming. Full Squats and Reverse Lunges can be added to make the exercise more intense. It's also a good way to burn out your arms or back after a heavy bout of weight training.

The SkiErg is wheelchair accessible for people with leg injuries or adaptive athletes, and the exercises can be just as hard sitting down.

SkiErg Workout

After a five-minute warm-up, start with 30 seconds of high-intensity skiing followed by two minutes at moderate intensity to catch your breath a bit. Repeat this four to six times. As it becomes easier for you, increase the high-intensity interval or reduce the moderate interval, or both. This is a great way to get a cardio workout in 10 to 15 minutes.

After a few weeks getting accustomed to the SkiErg, try the one-minute challenge. Test yourself to see how many meters you can cover in 60 seconds. If you can reach 300 meters, you are really moving.

Good luck!

For proper SkiErg technique, check out this video:

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock