Ski Erg / Ski machine for mountain ultra pole use

  • Creator
  • #82176


    I was hoping some of you have experience or could give me advise about the following.
    Where I live is pancake flat, but I compete in steep mountain ultra races (Europe).
    Using poles has always been my weak spot. I think my technique is not bad, but I jut lack the endurance in my arms and upper body.
    There is no way I can train with poles on a regular base, as the mountains / hills are a days’ drive from my place.

    I am considering investing in a ski erg / ski machine which is quitte a big investment to me.
    No local gyms have one to try out for me.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks a lot for any input.

    Best regards,

Posted In: Mountain Running

  • Participant
    hafjell on #82217

    I would not spend the money. I had access to one at last job and, imo, it’s a very specialized piece of equipment that is not applicable here. It’s also intensely boring.
    If you get tired poling, you are generally weak in the upper body. That’s actually good news as you can change that with weight and muscular endurance regimens.
    Have you trained pull ups? Have you done muscular enurance workouts for a sustained period of time (16 weeks?)
    Spend your time doing arm exercises and pullups. Strong core (back and abdomen) will help too.

    sf_maverick on #82219

    Thank you for your comment Hafjell, it will probably save me from a big investment.
    I have trained pull ups for a few years now, I just do about 10-12 every other day. In the days in between, I often do some push ups and simple core exercises. If you or anybody else can suggest some specific workouts for running with poles, I will be more than happy to hear.


    Jane Mackay on #82239

    Johan, strengthening the mid- and lower trapezius, rhomboids and lats could help. In the Chamonix Mountain Fit program there’s a series of exercises (mostly in plank pose) that do exactly that. It could be worth checking out. At 99 USD a year it’s a lot smaller investment than a machine, with a much bigger payoff, as it also immproves single leg strength and stability, which really pays off on the trails. Or Google around for mid- and lower trap strengtheners. Rows and dips of various kinds are good for this.

    hafjell on #82258

    Hmmm…10-12 pull ups is pretty good. How are you lacking strength? “Endurance” means you tire after how many hours of running / hiking uphill? A lot of us are running the flats and descents without poles and then taking them out of the pack for the climbs. Is that your strategy? Or are you using them from start to finish? Over how many hours and miles / km? I defer to Jane, ofc, about planks, rows and dips.

    sf_maverick on #82260

    Hafjell. Thanks again.

    In races I only use poles on the (biggest) climbs, never on downhills or flats.
    My arms start to feel weak after a few big clmbs, let’s say 1500m / 4500ft of vert which is usual a quarter of the race.
    I see other guys hiking away from me on the steepest climbs. On runnable climbs, less steep without poles I do fine.
    I am no elite by any means, but often I finish top 5%, or at least top 10% and I believe my aerobic capactity is fine.
    Let’s put it this way: I would be better off if poles were forbidden but now it seems the competition uses a weapon which I can’t handle.
    I have never done pull ups with weights, which might be the key but I can’t figure how many sets, reps and how much weight.

    Hopefully you vieuw again? I really appreciate that!


    sf_maverick on #82261


    Thanks a lot, I will look into that and give it a serious try!

    Best regards,


    rich.b on #82297

    I occasionally use a SkiErg and in the summer run a lot with poles. Mainly I use it just to maintain some double-poling strength for nordic skiing rather than being directly useful for running with poles. I find it very different to carry and run with poles for a few to several hours, plus the range of motion and the rhythm I use running with poles is very different from training on a SkiErg, whether double poling or classic poling. The SkiErg is not unhelpful, but as others commented, they’re other exercises that can achieve the same thing (without the cost of buying the machine).

    sf_maverick on #82303

    Hi Rich,

    Thank you so much, your comment has been very helpfull.


    hafjell on #82309

    Keep it simple. Slowly work in weighted pullups with minimal weights. The book is quite good at giving a few options for this. But it really sounds like it’s an ME issue not a power one. And you’re really fit so I understand this can be frustrating. I would consider dips or other whole-arm exercises that concentrate on the triceps, but I am not an expert. Have you considered not competing with them or using that at all and enjoying the weight loss?

    sf_maverick on #82311

    Thanks again Hafjell.
    I have competed without them, as a matter affect I would not use them in hilly races with less than let’s say 40m of vert per km (approx. 200ft of elevation per mile I believe). My last ultra was a 100km with about 3000m of elevation, and I hadn’t even considered using poles.
    But on the long steep climbs in the high Alps, you are definitaly in disadvantage compared to a runner who uses poles and has trained a with them as well. For me personally it would be best if poles become illegal 🙂


    rich.b on #82445


    You mentioned that you considered it a disadvantage not using poles, and I am not sure that I fully agree. Obviously, on one level being comfortable using poles is one factor. But in the past when I did a few races in the Alps (2013–2017), I never used poles and given my experience using them now, I still would not have used them at that time. Using them now at 60 is a different discussion, but I should add that at that time, like you, I would also typically be in the top 5% in my A races and 10% in B races. The main reason for no poles is that at that time, uphills and specifically uphill power-hiking – pushing with hands on thighs – were one of my main strengths and I passed people rather than being passed. I would lose places on downhills instead.

    First, power-hiking felt most natural for me and I felt it easier to transition in and out of running (other running acquaintances do not find this natural), and second I had the muscular endurance for it, in part because I targeted some of my training for it. I live at sea level and only have a little ski hill to train on with 46 m with about 300 m or so distance; better than nothing but not super helpful for alpine climbs and boring after 20 reps. But I would practice transitioning back and forth between running the bottom 2/3 into power-hiking mode for the top 1/3. In the winter I would do a spinning session every week or two, often choosing an interval session: 10-15 min warm-up then 30-60 intervals mixing high cadence, slow grind, standing, and heavy seated grind that mimicking power-hiking with hands pushing on thighs, and after each interval jumping off and doing 10 squats, lunges or jump squats with 10-15 kg, 1-2 min recovery then next interval. Typically 10 intervals, then filling out the time to 1 hour. Sometimes I might just do it as an alpine climb and after warming up slowly increasing resistance every 2 min until I was in power-hiking mode, then working my way back down; again aiming for a total session of 1 hour. I aimed for one proper gym strength session per week, mainly doing heavy weights with few reps, plus tacking on 1-2 lighter weight sessions during the week onto the back of my morning run commute. Finally, 6 and 3-4 weeks out from the race, driving 2+ hours to a ski hill with 250 m vert over 1.5 km service road, mainly for conditioning my quads for the downhills and not so much for uphills.

    Don’t know if this would be any help.

    sf_maverick on #82532

    Thanks so much for your comment Rich, I really appreciate it.

    I can relate to your story, regarding the way you travel to find some hills.
    Maybe you are right, and I should focus more on muscle endurance in the legs rather than to be focused on my arms and poles.

    Thanks again.


    MtnHauz on #82538


    I am going to go in a different direction than the general consensus and recommend the SkiErg. My gym recently added one into the mix, and it is fantastic. I cannot envision any exercise/tool/machine that can provide the same endurance building opportunity. Pullups, dips, cable work, all great for strength, but you cant get that long slow grind. As another responder posted, it is a different movement, more ski specific, but its not that different. Having said all that, I am in the poles on the way down camp. Have found using them on the way up increases my speed but also increases my fatigue. Is there a market for resale if it doesnt workout?

    sf_maverick on #82557

    Thanks a lot for your input.

    The main reason I would want to use a SkiErg, is to increase my uphill speed. But like you said, if that would also increase my fatigue too much, it might not be worth it the invenstment and time spent on the machine. I allready own a treadmill with pretty steep incline for power hiking, and an elleptical machine for low impact aerobic exercise.

    I would probably be able te re-sell the machine for about 60% of new price by the way.

    Lyle F Bogart on #82587

    Johan, an option that I have used successfully in the past when I’ve lived in places without easy access to proper hills, is a long-ish tire drag while poling. I’ve done this using a waist harness (climbing harness), to attach to the car tire being dragged, and with a chest harness. I find that the chest harness also really engages the trunk musculature so there’s an added benefit there. The trick is finding a tire of the best weight to allow for a workout of the length you’re looking for. I have several tires ranging from 15kilos to about 8kilos.
    Good luck!


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