How To SkiErg – James Fitzgerald Teaches Proper Form On The SkiErg


We’re
going to talk about some mechanics of the SkiErg. I’ll give you some insight so you can put those mechanics into practice in different scenarios for work
or for specific skills. Because the SkiErg looks
like a cardio machine, people think of it as a cardio tool. It’s what we’d consider a cyclical activity,
but don’t forget that there are muscle contractions per rep on the SkiErg. Let’s go back to dose response for a second. Dose response will formulate an idea of who should be using it and
then we’ll discuss the things you should think about as you move on the SkiErg. The SkiErg is a very concentric activity. That means that the
action to move the SkiErg is a full-body flexion activity. As you may have recognized, when you place this into a category like a kipping pull-up, toes to ring, toes to bar, seated v-ups,
GHD sit ups, etc… you probably have recognized that a lot of flexion
activities, like in ball slams, a lot of flexion activities are done for very powerful activities. The problem with the
SkiErg in relation to its non-carryover into skiing is that when you actually
are on ice or snow – For those of you who don’t know, snow is the white powder up North haha – for cross-country skiers, whether you’re doing classic skiing or skating,
you actually get to use your lower body to help power production.
Some things we forget about when we do the SkiErg is that we
actually can’t use our lower body to release energy as we flex.
As I go through a skiing action outdoors I get to pull, which I’m actually pushing on the ground, with my poles, but at the same
time I’m releasing energy. It’s almost like a barbell snatch.
It goes from a flexion to an extension but my lower body gets to push as well. Even if it’s
classic skiing, I still need to be able to dig in and push away. The shitty
thing about the SkiErg being fixed in place is that as I’m trying to release that
stored energy of flexion, I have nowhere to dissipate that energy. My feet are
closed in a closed-chain activity. The movement is like a
quasi GHD sit-up, but it’s a shit ton of reps. The great thing about
it is that it’s a gravity based hip flexion activity. The difference between
gravity base and eccentric based hip activities, for ex GHD sit-ups, I go
into an eccentric component where I have a lot of tension. Then I
go back to a concentric activity when I go into full extension there’s no major tension. When I’m up high , it’s not a lot of work
whereas when I’m fully extended on GHD sit-ups there’s a lot of tension. When I want to go into a contraction on
the SkiErg, it’s really just one activity. It’s all concentric with no eccentric.
It’s an active eccentric and then a powerful concentric. It’s not a really great carryover. Don’t think you’re going to
become world champion cross country skiier if you get really good on a SkiErg.
All you’re going to do is develop more slower twitch muscle fibers in
your upper body, and you’re gonna turn all that flexion activity into a little
bit more of a muscle endurance activity. You need to know that for
dose-response, some of the positives you may have extracted are that
when you do the activity repetitively when I do that SkiErg movement repetitively,
every rep that I do I’m doing a concentric powerful movement.
The positive thing around that, unlike wall balls, burpees, box jump
rebounds, double unders, etc… there’s not a lot of eccentric tension to it.
Therefore a whole ton of people can SkiErg If all you practice is
great technique of that full flexion, you can get someone to
start off really slow and easy on the SkiErg and effectively progress them
effectively. The shitty part around that is that because it’s a powerful flexion movement, if you go too hard
you’re gonna burn out very quickly. For those who practice this, you
probably recognize that if you do really hard sets you get burned quickly.
For technique, there’s a couple of points I want you to think
about for it. If you’re going to practice this with
individuals who aren’t looking to become world champion skiers,
you’re involving the SkiErg for the cyclical component in their work.
Make sure that all the angles are closing and being used
together. The main thing you could pick up as a coach is that you want a joined
concentric activity. You don’t want disjointed movement. Disjointed movement would be hip flexion prior to your arms being pulled down. This would be disjointed – I’ll
try to demo as best as I can – I hope that looks funny cuz it feels funny. That’s
a disjointed movement. Use a keen eye to coach this.
Say you’re getting a lot of hip flexion first, that may be with people who don’t have
correct overhead position on either side. You may want to do a scratch
test or an Front Leaning Rest (FLR) or side bridge to see if they have good core control to periphery.
You may have people who just create power by extending their mid and low back. You can also have the other group.
The other group are the “all arms” people.
They pull down secondarily. I’m actually not even doing the hi flexion activity effectively afterwards. That felt funny haha. The “arms only” person is someone who is only doing lots of pulling. That’s disjointed in that they’re not doing a pull, body flexion, hip flexion, and gravity drop all at the same time. One way you can teach people is to give them external cues. Those cues can be based upon sound.
You can pull them away from the SkiErg and say that you want everything collapsing at one time. You want it to be a fluid movement almost
like a ball throw. If they think about a ball throw and release,
they may carry that over to a SkiErg when they want to do a bunch of reps. What I mean by joined activity is
that as the person is going to be getting into full extension, all of these
things are going to work together at the same time. From full triple extension position,
hopefully you’re not too tall, You’re going to drop into the ground. At the same time, flex your knees, flex your hips, and pull simultaneously. This entire action should try to work together. I am a Canadian with cross-country
skiing background, so I may have a leg up. Hopefully I was able
to demonstrate and coordinate some of the finer points of it. Indirect assessment of the SkiErg.
You want to ask people if they get more fatigued on one lat
relative to the other. Ask them if they get low back pain or
fatigue afterwards because some people may not actually be able to do the core
tension that’s required with the SkiErg’s flexion activity for lots of reps. If someone doesn’t do an FLR well,
and if they can’t do Tabata situps they likely will have a hard time doing, they likely will have a hard time with knees to elbow too. If you decide to give
them ten minutes on the SkiErg, that’s 30 strokes a a minute. That’s 300 times that person
needs to go through that flexion activity but they’re probably not
capable of core tightening in a really stable position on the ground. The chance of them using their entire core to send energy down to their hips through the arms is probably slim to none. They’ll end up doing a lot of upper body pulling or they may have low back pain simply
because they’re over using their psoas, iliacus or other hip flexor muscles. I hope I give you some some pointers on the technique of the SkiErg. Bare with me here for an aside… SkiErg should only be implemented in
aerobic activities or skill building muscle contractions. That means you’re trying to develop the concentric action of this movement. I think you can put it in any skill progression that’s good, but where it does not belong is in lactic endurance pieces, any high anaerobic training, and sport specific training. Something such as the CrossFit Open, something like the SkiErg being used at this moment is slim. Not that it couldn’t happen, but its slim. So, most times the SkiErg should be practiced in aerobic environments and often those aerobic environments should be on the slower end of aerobic such as MAP 10 to MAP 3. The downside of doing really
hard powerful contractions is that you can’t cycle it enough to create an
anaerobic environment. Secondly, most humans’ have more powerful flexion muscles. Hip flexion, midsection flexion, and arm flexion activities are all more powerful muscles. If you have more powerful
muscles and you do really powerful activity – like sprinting – those
muscles will poop out very quickly. In layman’s terms, the SkiErg, because
it doesn’t have that released energy like I talked about vs outdoor skiing, is a recipe
for disaster when you try to make it anaerobic. What you’re going to end up doing after a minute is feel like you’re going into mud. It just means that if you want to train it effectively, you want to do it aerobically or as a skill. Aerobically – in MAP10 down to MAP3 (slower to slightly faster) Often, put the SkiErg in the back end of a training session just for people to work on it, or put it in the warm-up for them to just do some concentric contractions. The long head of the tricep is more of a fast twitch muscle. It’s used a lot on the SkiErg. You may get some feedback from people saying that their muscles are really blown up. It’s the
same thing you’ll feel if you did a lot of flexion activity through your
midsection like supine (laying face up) movements. It feels completely different to other slower
twitch muscles like the quads or extensors of the arm. Understanding of the dose response will
be the moneymaker for you Remember, it’s all concentric activity. Also remember that because you cannot
disconnect energy through your body out through the lower body/feet, it’s a closed chain activity that is really all flexion.
If you know that, you’ll prescribe it really effectively either in aerobic sessions,
mixed modal aerobic work, or cyclical work all by itself. People need to have that great core control before they do a whole bunch of reps on the SkiErg Put it into simple formats so that people can get the best out of it. That was a lot on the SkiErg! Thanks for sticking with me. If you have
questions, hit me up in the comments section. We can discuss
some ways of implementing it in training. If I miss some pieces on technique
or form or you want to add, don’t hesitate to place that in there too

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