This exercise is insane for upper body power and endurance – it’s my new favourite

It gives me a serious shoulder pump

Woman with upper body muscles smiling
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I’ve always loved weightlifting – I love feeling strong and seeing what my body is capable of when I put my mind to it. But when I swapped from weightlifting to HYROX training in prep for my first event in October, I worried that waving goodbye to heavy weights would see my strength and muscle slowly diminish. I couldn’t have been more wrong, especially since starting this new exercise that, not only gives an insane upper body pump, but is brilliant for building endurance too.

This exercise, or piece of equipment, is the Concept2 SkiErg. “The SkiErg provides a full body workout as it works the glutes, hamstrings, lats, triceps and shoulders," says Aimee Cringle, one of the UK’s top CrossFit athletes. "This makes it a good option if you’re after a cardio machine which also targets the upper body as some don’t (such as the treadmill, bike or elliptical). And it’s great machine to use to test your aerobic conditioning and challenge your strength endurance by engaging lots of different muscle groups."

Woman performing the SkiErg

(Image credit: Future)

A SkiErg is one of the more lesser-known cardio machines, in comparison to the best treadmills or rowing machines but, essentially, it’s just a machine with two handles that you pull down on to mimic the technique used in Nordic skiing. I’ve been using it a couple of times a week within my training, doing three to five 200 metre skis, and every single time I finish on it I feel like my upper body (especially my shoulders) has a better pump than when I was consistently weightlifting. 

When I first started using it a month ago it took me just over seven minutes to ski 1000 metres and I became puffed out very quickly. Now, it takes me just over five, proving my strength and endurance levels have both increased dramatically. Plus, it's a great way to burn calories quickly. Albeit, you won't be on it as long as you would a treadmill, but it's a hell of more fun.

If you have one at your gym, but quickly bypass it (as I so often did) because you have no clue how to use it or what it does. Seriously, don’t, especially as Aimee has broken down exactly how to use it and shared some top tips of what not to do. Try it –  you may never step foot on any other cardio machine again. 

How to use the SkiErg

Woman performing the SkiErg

(Image credit: Future)
  • Face the SkiErg with feet hip-width apart, grip the handles with your palms facing inwards.
  • Then, hinging at the hips, with a slight bend in the knee, brace your core, push through your feet to engage your glutes and hamstrings, and pull the handles down. 
  • Continue pulling in a fluid motion until your arms move back past your thighs.
  • As you rise back to standing, push your hips forward to full extension, and return your arms up to start.


1. Avoid squatting when pulling the handles down. The movement pattern should be a hinge (pushing your hips back with a slight knee bend).

2. Don't drop your chest. You want your torso at a slight angle but not parallel to the floor as your back may be too flexed and could cause discomfort by the lower back muscles overworking.

3. Don't cut your stroke short. Some people do this by not extending fully at the top of the movement. The longer the stroke, the more power you can produce and therefore more distance/calories you’ll cover.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.