Concepts of the Concept2

Many gyms and fitness centers have RowErgs or SkiErgs made by Concept2, but are you using them correctly? It is important to use each machine correctly to minimize the chances of injury. When looking to use a machine whether in your warm-up, workout, or as a conditioning tool there are some key concepts of technique to be aware of. We will cover the correct technique to both row and ski, as well as how to choose a damper setting correctly, and finally some workout options on the machines to make sure that you are ready to use a RowErg or SkiErg next time you come across the programming in your workout.


To row correctly there are four phases that one must pass through systematically and in the correct order. These phases include a catch, drive, finish, and recovery. The catch starts when the body is compressed towards the front of the machine. When an individual is on the machine from the side, the shins should look vertical, back relaxed and core engaged. The drive is initiated with the legs extending and the lats locked in place. Next, the hips extend into a layback, and finally, the arms pull the handle to just below the rib cage. At the finish, the handle is close to the body, and the shoulders are rotated internally. The last phase is the recovery; in this phase, the body is to follow the exact opposite pattern as performed in the drive. This means that the arms will relax back to extension, the torso sits up tall, and then the legs slide back into compression or flexion. The recovery phase must be used as a recovery with a drive to recovery ratio of 1:2.

Many common mistakes may be made while rowing. One is pulling the arms too early. Either out of rhythm or pulling the arms out of sequence will lose biomechanical efficiencies and exhaust the arms early in the workout. Lunging at the catch is a phrase to describe leaning too far forward. Along with that, over-compression may be another error. Both mean that the body is getting too far over itself to push back and away. Just as there is a specific way to set up the body for every pull of a deadlift for maximum strength and power, rowing works the same way. Among many other common mistakes, rhythm can be a make-or-break aspect of enjoyment and efficiency on the machine. Finding the correct movement and breathing pattern may take time but will create significant differences when an individual can find how their body moves best.


Skiing correctly also comes in four phases of the overall movement. There is a start, pull, finish, and return. The start is critical positioning for flow and consistency throughout the ski motion. Feet should start shoulder-width apart about 8-24 inches away from the flywheel. Arms start at 90 degrees with the shoulder extended so hands are just above eye level. Next is the pull initiated by a hinge at the hips with the core engaged. The finish phase ends with the arms extended to about 160 degrees the thumbs stiff and wrists stiff. There should be tension in the hamstrings just as if you were completing an RDL. The return is equivalent to the recovery of the row. Depending on the stimulus of the workout that is being completed the return to start phase may be quicker or longer however, maintains the same technique regardless of the time component.

Some common mistakes while performing a ski workout include: reaching too high, extending too far back, dipping the chest too low, and leaving the arms behind the body. Reaching too high often looks like the individual is trying to swim butterfly on land. It is important to remember that the SkiErg is not a cable machine to complete tricep extensions on. The triceps will be engaged isometrically throughout the pull however never reach full extension. The eyes should be able to maintain vision with the screen the entire pull and return. Finally, just as rhythm is important during the row, pulling and hinging at the same time keeping the arms and legs in one fluid motion is imperative for the rhythm while skiing.

The Damper:

The damper is among one of the common mistakes while using a Concept2 machine. Most people view the damper and flywheel as a level of resistance, however, that is false. The damper is a cage that controls how much air flows into the flywheel. A higher damper setting (7-10) means that more air is allowed inside of the cage and the flywheel will slow down quicker which requires a harder pull to accelerate the flywheel on the next stroke. A lower damper setting (1-3) works the opposite. It is important to note that the damper is not a level of intensity or resistance. No matter the number that the damper is set to, movement controls the intensity. The harder and faster an individual can move the wheel, the more air is resisting itself inside of the cage. That being said, someone with a damper setting of 1 can achieve the same intensity during a workout with more movement and machine efficiency as one completing the same workout with a damper setting of 10.

To find the perfect damper setting for you, there is a setting on the Concept2 screens called “Display Drag Factor”. This setting gives a hard number on the rate at which the flywheel is decelerating. A general range is for a drag factor between 100-130. A heavier male will be closer to the higher end of the spectrum, while a lightweight female will be closer to the number of 100.

Workout Options:

Below are some workout options that one may choose to program or use after accomplishing proper technique.

• Row: 100m Sprint x5

• 15 minute time cap

• Row: 100cal for Time

• every 3:00 minutes (EMOM 3:00 minutes)

• Ski: 1:00 Hard, 1:00 Easy x 20 minutes

• Ski: 750m x 4:00 rounds

• 2:00 min rest

When used correctly, the Concept2 Ski and RowErg can be implemented as a useful tool in any part of a workout. To be used to its fullest advantage Concept2 machines require proper movement technique and the ideal damper setting for people of all ages to get the most out of their equipment.