Reviews

Concept2 SkiErg Review: Is This The Ultimate CrossFit Cardio Machine?

July 5, 2022 by
Concept2 SkiErg against a white brick wall on floor stand
Photo courtesy Rogue Fitness.
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Dent-free wallballs, sanded plyometric boxes, well-oiled barbells: The list of underrated CrossFit delicacies is as long as Murph is hard. And one other thing that belongs on that list? The Concept2 SkiErg. 

The Concept2 SkiErg made its debut appearance in the CrossFit world during the 2016 CrossFit Games in a grueling event known as The Rope Chipper. Since, it’s been programmed into a variety of CrossFit Mainsite, Semifinal, and Games workouts. 

Even for people not interested in competing in the sport of functional fitness, we think the Concept2 SkiErg is a good investment. Even though it’s not a must-have for everyday CrossFit participants (yet), we think it’s on its way to becoming a mainstay in CrossFit boxes. 

Ahead, our complete Concept2 SkiErg review. 

TL;DR: Concept2 SkiErg Review

What we love: This well-built machine is designed to build your muscles and cardiovascular capacity. Manufactured with athletes in mind, the Concept2 SkiErg has an intuitive design, easy-to-use monitor, and small footprint that make it a sound investment for people all across the fitness spectrum. 

What we don’t: We have a hard time finding something to complain about with this machine. But if we had to think of something, we’d say we wish there was a way for people 5’2” and under to be able to reach the handles rather than jumping for them. One workaround would be for Concept2 to offer an optional strap that shorties can pull to bring the handles down towards their hands. We also wish the floor stand wasn’t so expensive. 

The Chalk Up: At the end of the day, the Concept2 SkiErg is an incredible investment for affiliate and home gym owners looking for a full-body, intuitive piece of equipment that provides a great workout. But, we’d put the SkiErg alongside secondary or even tertiary equipment for affiliate owners to buy; the same category as a GHD or reverse hyper—amazing to have if you have the space and money, but likely something you’ll put off until you have all the essentials.  

CrossFit Cardio Is The Name Of Our Game

Our roster of certified fitness professionals includes several CrossFit coaches and athletes who have been using CrossFit exercise machines and testing fitness equipment for years. Although we don’t confess to loving cardio workouts, we have done our fair share on everything from air bikes to rowing machines to the SkiErg we’re reviewing here. 

Concept2 SkiErg: Pros and Cons 

Pros: 

  • Provides a full-body workout
  • Has an easy-to-use PM5 monitor 
  • Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity
  • Durable enough to handle wear-and-tear of commercial and CrossFit gyms
  • Reasonably priced
  • Small-gym friendly, small footprint
  • Impressive, transferable warranty
  • Easy to transport
  • Freestanding or wall-mounted option
  • Great for cross-training and for people with lower-body injuries to get cardio in

Cons:

  • Can’t be used by most people with upper body injuries
  • There is a bit of a learning curve
  • Floor stand costs an additional $220
  • Short people may have to jump to the handles

Concept2 SkiErg Specs

Wall Mount Footprint19” W x 16” L  x 85” H
Floor Stand Footprint23.5” W x 50” L  x 85” H
Weight61 lbs
Weight with Floor Stand99 lbs
ConstructionSteel frame 
FinishPowder coat
MonitorPM5 Performance Monitor 

Do You Need a SkiErg for CrossFit?

While some might assume a SkiErg is best suited to training for cross-country skiing (and it sure is great for that), the Concept2 SkiErg has solidified its place as a mainstay in high-level CrossFit, but it is still a rising luxury for a typical affiliate or CrossFit home gym owner. 

Because the SkiErg is not a part of regular programming, most local comps, and (as of yet) the Open, it isn’t a priority. You might see some CompTrain or Mayhem workouts that have a SkiErg incorporated, but they will always provide a sub-in like the rower or bike, because they know most people/affiliates haven’t gotten a SkiErg yet. 

Concept2 cardio equipment
Concept2 cardio equipment. Credit: Garage Gym Reviews.

Using the Concept2 SkiErg

A machine that you use while standing, the SkiErg combines a pulling motion with a hinge motion to activate every muscle from your JunkBrand-clad head to your NOBULL-clad toe. 

Here’s how it works: The machine can either be mounted to a wall, or mounted to a floor stand that you can buy separately for a couple hundred extra dollars. (For most people, we think the floor stand is worth it because it allows you to drag your machine outdoors in warmer months). 

Once you put the machine together, which shouldn’t take more than an hour or half an hour with a friend, you’re set to get your cross-country skier on.  

But how do you use the SkiErg, exactly? You stand on the floor stand or ground, reach above your head for the handles, then pull the handles down past your thighs while hinging at your hips. Then, you return the drive cords (and your hands) overhead while returning to standing. 

Concept2 SkiErg wall mount
Concept2 SkiErg wall mount. Credit: Garage Gym Reviews

Many of the mechanics on the SkiErg machine are similar to that of a Concept2 RowErg (formerly the Concept2 Model D indoor rower). 

Just like the Concept2 rowing machine, for example, you can tamper with the damper setting to alter how much air enters the flywheel, thus manipulating how hard each pull feels.

Similarly, the SkiErg has the same intuitive PM5 Performance Monitor that you’ll find on the other Concept2 machines. This monitor allows you to easily track how fast, hard, and far you’re going. So, whether you’re skiing for calories, meters, or time, this machine will tell you how far you’ve gone, and how far you’ve got left to go. 

On the PM5, you can also select a number of preset workouts, just like you can on the RowErg and Concept2 BikeErg.

Footprint And Portability 

Calling all garage gym owners who put the XS in exercise: This machine optimizes your limited space better than any other cardio machine on the market. 

The SkiErg has the smallest footprint of any Concept2 machine, and also of any other machine you’d see at a commercial or CrossFit gym. 

If you mount it to the wall, it takes up just 16 inches by 19 inches of space (and 7 feet and 3 inches of vertical space). Frame of reference: That is less floor space than a weight sled or plyo box consumes. 

Concept2 SkiErg parts pre-assembly
Concept2 SkiErg parts pre-assembly. Credit: Garage Gym Reviews

If you choose to mount the machine to the floor stand, which would allow you to move the machine inside, outside, and all around your gym, it takes up 24 inches by 48.5 inches of floor space. It sits 7 feet, 4 inches tall. Sure, that’s more space than the wall-mounted version, but that is still less space than a bike or treadmill.  

As you might guess, the wall-mounted SkiErg is…mounted to the wall. That means once it’s in place, it’s there until you get out your handy-dandy screwdriver. 

The floor stand, however, has wheels attached to it! That means you can tilt the machine forward, then roll it anywhere you want. Unlike some other cardio machines, such as the monstrous AssaultRunner, the SkiErg is quite easy to move around. 

Pro tip: In the summer, lather your lats in sunscreen and take your SkiErg outside. Nothing beats the feeling of sun on your muscles while you work up a sweat. 

Construction And Durability 

Concept2 SkiErg handles
Concept2 SkiErg handles. Credit: Garage Gym Reviews

Just like other Concept2 machines, the SkiErg is virtually indestructible. Made primarily from steel, the SkiErg is basically bomb-proof. (Though, do your neighbors and the FBI agents a favor and don’t test that theory). 

The best part is it doesn’t require much maintenance to last you years and years.

As a general rule, you’ll want to wipe your machines clean of sweat after a salty sesh. 

Beyond that, however, you’ll only need to tinker with your machine every 50 hours of use. Concept2 recommends inspecting (and if needed, fixing) the drive cords, fasteners, and top bracket pulleys every 50 hours of use to maximize the machine’s lifespan. Easy!

Tech Specs 

Concept2 SkiErg monitor
Concept2 SkiErg monitor workout options. Credit: Garage Gym Reviews

The Concept2 SkiErg has the same PM5 Performance Monitor that comes standard with all Concept2 gym equipment. 

Given that just about every single CrossFit gym has a collection of Concept2 rowers, we’d be shocked if there is someone reading this who hasn’t used the PM5 monitor. 

But just in case, let’s chat about this intuitive, easy-to-use performance monitor. 

If you’re in the middle of a metcon and start pulling at the handles, the PM5 will automatically turn on and begin tracking your pace, watts, strokes per minute, calories, speed, and more. If you want to focus on just one of these metrics, you can alter the appearance by pressing the “Display” button. 

Concept2 SkiErg monitor
Concept2 SkiErg monitor with workout stats. Credit: Garage Gym Reviews

Not using the machine as just one part of a CrossFit workout of the day? Good news: You can also pre-program a number of workouts. For instance, you can either elect to do an interval workout, ski for a set distance, or ski for a set number of calories. 

Best, the monitor automatically stores the data from your workout. So, after your workout, you can go back in and look at what your average stroke rate and pace were throughout the duration of the workout. For CrossFit athletes looking to learn the difference between their “forever pace” and “push pace,” this is huge. If you need more storage for workouts, download the ErgData app, which serves as an online logbook for all your Concept2 workouts. 

People who are into heart rate training will also be thrilled to learn that you can connect your heart rate monitor to the machine via Bluetooth. You can also use the Bluetooth connectivity to hook your smartphone up to the machine. Both options allow you to get a more in-depth look at your workout, as well as a place to store them. 

Customer Reviews

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who was unhappy with their SkiErg purchase. The machine earned a 5-out-of-5-star average out of the 150-plus Rogue Fitness customers who left a review. 

Actually, there were only two people who left reviews that weren’t 5 stars! One customer complained that the machine was hard to put together. And another said the machine was noisier than they hoped it would be. 

Honestly, both complaints are fair. 

This machine can be a bear to assemble on your own—after all, the SkiErg itself weighs about 61 pounds and the floor mount weighs an additional 35 pounds, which can be hard to wrestle with on your own. That’s why we recommend avoiding frustration by enlisting a friend to help you put it together from the get-go.  

And while the machine is nowhere near as noisy as the infamous AssaultBike, when you sprint on this machine, it makes its own music. Transparently, if you need a machine you can use while your partner is on a work call in the next room, this probably isn’t it. 

The only other complaint we’ve heard CrossFit athletes make is that it’s not quite as accessible if you’re short. People 5’2” and under often complain about how high they have to jump to reach the handles. Luckily, the handles are lime green in color which makes them hard to miss. 

Warranty, Financing, and Returns

Concept2 SkiErg flywheel
Concept2 SkiErg flywheel. Credit: Garage Gym Reviews

Concept2 puts their warranties where their mouth is! This company has very reasonable warranties for all of their machines, the SkiErg included. 

Concept2 will repair or replace any of the frame parts for up to five years after the date of purchase. That means if something goes wackadoodle with the floor stand, flywheel cover, flywheel axle, or frame connector plates, as well as a few additional parts, the company will take care of it for you. 

They will repair or replace all the other parts of the machine within two years of purchase. The only exceptions are the monitor batteries and handle cords.  

Another warranty win is that the warranty is fully transferable. That means if you sell the machine to someone before the warranty window(s) are up, the new owner can take full advantage of the two- and/or five-year warranties. 

This feature is great for anyone thinking about buying a SkiErg who may plan to downsize homes in coming years, or someone who is thinking about returning to their local affiliate once the pandemic is fully over. 

On the off-chance that you order your SkiErg and then immediately have buyer’s remorse, the good news is that Concept2 has a very reasonable return policy. You can return your SkiErg to Concept2 within 30 days of the date of shipment and they will refund the full cost of the machine entirely. The only thing you’ll have to cover is the cost of shipping, to and fro. 

As far as CrossFit and cardio machines go, the SkiErg is a fantastic deal. After all, it costs just $770, while curved treadmills like the AssaultRunner will ring you up twice or thrice that. But unfortunately, if you want to buy the machine from Concept2, you’ll need to shell all of that dough out at once. The company does not offer any financing plans. 

If you need a financing plan, consider purchasing the machine from Rogue Fitness or Amazon, instead. Rogue offers a number of different financing options that you can read about here.

Is a SkiErg Better Than a Rower or Exercise Bike?

concept2 row erg in a garage
Concept2 RowErg. Photo courtesy Garage Gym Reviews

Don’t worry functional fitness fam, we will answer this question. 

But first we want to be clear that we think comparing a SkiErg to a rower or exercise bike is like comparing peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, and jelly. Just as all three condiments can (and should!) be used as part of a well-rounded sandwich buffet, all three of the machines can (and should!) be used as part of a well-rounded workout regime. After all, all three bring something a little different to the table. 

As it goes, if money is no object, we recommend getting all three. But investing in three different types of machines is not feasible financially for most exercisers. 

If you are only going to buy one machine, which you invest in will vary based on your current fitness goals, how you want to use your machine, and your space limitations.  

If you’re interested in competing in CrossFit either locally or globally, you’ll probably want to invest in the Concept2 rower. That’s because the rower frequently makes an appearance in online qualifiers like the CrossFit Open and QuarterFinals. 

Concept2 BikeErg
Concept2 BikeErg. Credit: Garage Gym Reviews

While the SkiErg and BikeErg do make an appearance during Semifinals and the CrossFit Games, they have yet to appear in the Open or QuarterFinals. So while you certainly can use the erg or bike to get your fitness up to par, if you don’t have access to a rower you may not be able to complete certain Open or Quarterfinal workouts. 

If you’re interested in a machine that you can easily use for lower-intensity training, a bike is probably a better option than either a SkiErg or rower. It tends to be much easier to reduce the intensity of your workout on a bike than it is on a rower and skierg. 

No doubt, a SkiErg or RowErg can absolutely be used on recovery days. But you’ll have to mentally focus a little harder on technique as you move. Many people struggle to maintain good form on the SkiErg and rower when they’re only going at 60 percent intensity. 

A final thing to consider is how much space you have. An upright machine, the SkiErg requires the least floor space of the three options. As a result, the SkiErg is the best option for anyone who also wants to equip their small home gym with a squat rack, plyo box, and other gizmos and gadgets. 

What muscles does a SkiErg work? 

Sam Briggs on the Ski Erg during Event 1A. Photo credit: Athlete’s Eye Photography

Put simply, all of them. Every single rep pull on the ski erg effectively engages your: 

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Core
  • Hip flexors
  • Lats
  • Forearm 
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Traps
  • Hip extensors

To understand how the SkiErg is able to work all of these muscles at once, you need to understand exactly how one moves on and moves with the machine. 

To properly move and groove on the machine, you need to use your upper-body pulling muscles to initiate the pull and lower-body hinging muscles to finish each stroke. 

Concept2 SkiErg Review: The Chalk Up 

The Concept2 SkiErg is a great investment you can make for your gym, your health, and the health of your athletes. A machine that involves your pulling and hinging muscles in equal parts, this machine will help you inch toward your fitness goals one stroke at a time. However, at this time, we don’t think it’s a necessity for most CrossFit home gym owners or affiliates, and would encourage you to allocate funds to an air bike or rowing machine first.

Concept2 BikeErg FAQs

Is a SkiErg a good workout? 

You bet. The SkiErg calls on every muscle in your body, including your heart. 

Depending on how you incorporate the machine into your workout regime, it can be used to improve explosiveness and power or to improve endurance. 

How tall is a SkiErg? 

If you’re interested in outfitting your home gym with a SkiErg, you’re wise to ask this question. The answer depends on whether or not you choose to mount the erg on the wall or mount it on the floor stand you can purchase separately. 

If you choose to mount the SkiErg to the wall, you’ll need a ceiling that is at least 87 inches high. If you would prefer to mount the SkiErg to the floor stand so that you can cart it across your gym, you’ll need an additional inch—with the floor stand, the machine measures in at 88 inches tall. 

The average ceiling height is 108 inches. So, as long as you’re not looking for a machine for your short-ceiling basement, the SkiErg should fit. 

Is SkiErg cardio exercise?

The SkiErg isn’t just any cardiovascular exercise, it’s a great one. Because the machine calls on every single one of your muscles, your heart has to deliver blood to all of those muscles. Delivering blood to all that meat is no joke! Meaning, your heart has to work hard. 

If you want a little first-hand proof that this machine targets your ticker, try doing five 100-meter sprints on the SkiErg with 30 seconds rest between. 

Plus, since the SkiErg is low-impact, it’s a good option for those invested in improving their cardiovascular capacity who can’t handle the impact of pavement pounding and treadmill sprints, as well as those who don’t know how to swim.

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