Tag: core training

Concept2 SkiErg Upper Body Warmup Series

I have been using the Concept2 SkiErg for a while now for cross training primarily. I also like it as a warmup for upper body training. The resistance is a large fan, similar to the Concept2 rowing machines, only upright. Inside the post are ropes exiting the top at two rotating swiveling pulleys. There are 10 resistance settings, depending on your training goals and personal fitness level.

Concept2 SkiErg upper body training
Getting my back and Lats ready for Ice Climbing

For my upper body warmup, I set the Concept2 SkiErg (Ski Ergometer – the movement simulates the arm/hand motion of Nordic skiing) to level 5, about halfway on the resistance scale. I mix it up a bit, but in general do a little Lat work and a little Pec work. I do some Core work and occasionally a little Tricep work.

For a more advanced warmup, especially if I’m doing a few extra minutes of core work, I keep a wobble disc [Reebok Balance Board] or pad handy to add some instability. I like how it helps me use my core and leg stabilizers. It’s also a pretty cool mind game, since it’s tough doing a few different things at once.

Concept2 SkiErg Warmup Video

Concept2 SkiErg Warmup Ideas

Some things to keep in mind when using the Concept2 SkiErg for training other than as intended. The pulleys will go a lot of different directions. Experiment and see what different angles you can come up with. Keep in mind that the rope is thin, and limited in length. Don’t try too hard to go past the internal stop. Protect your back, keep your lower back flat. Don’t hunch unless, like ab curls, it’s part of the motion. Even then, do what’s right for your body.

Remember it’s only a warmup. A good burn is a great feeling, but if you can’t lift your arms after, you might affect your other training negatively. Be very careful of what’s in your blind spots, or behind you. Notice that for the high and low diagonal movement I have to clear the racked squat bar.

I use a Nordic Grip on the handles. This is probably the best way to use it, since it’s originally intended for Nordic ski training. But whatever works for you, just grab the handles and go.

Concept2 SkiErg warmup for full body cardio
Warm up for full body cardio on the SkiErg

The Concept2 SkiErg is a little expensive to use only for an upper body warmup. I generally do a few 15 minute sprints at level 10 (max level) every week for cross training, as well as endurance training for Ice Climbing. I noticed a huge difference in my endurance last season after using it in the Fall prior. I’m looking for even better results this season, having worked my way up in levels over the Summer.

If you have a Concept2 SkiErg and want to share your own warmup videos, please post them to my Facebook Page and share with all of us. We’d love to see what you have for us.

Core Week – Standing Side Abs with Barbell

You need to work your obliques, including the abs on the side. Bending side to side is a pretty good way to train your core and improve strength that applies to mountaineering, like picking up your really heavy pack, lifting a sled over a crevasse lip, digging out a tent platform.

The instructions for this one are pretty simple. In my case I like to use a barbell for the instability, but you could use something more compact and stable, like a kettlebell, dumbbell or weight plate. I grab the middle from a mid-thigh position off a rack, straighten my back and shoulders for good posture, then dip the bar up and down, lower and lift, pulling with my side muscles.

I avoid tilting my hip, bending my elbow and wrist, so that the force is applied better to the side ab muscles.

As for the other exercises, guard your back and joints, be careful, and really, you don’t need a lot of weight for this one. I usually use an empty bar (45 lb) for about 25 reps, but anything from 10 to 25 reps is good. These are tiny muscles overall, and don’t worry about bulking them up grotesquely – it would be really tough to do with a movement like this.

Core Week – Standing Band Ab Curls

The Standing Band Ab Curl is a pretty cool exercise for your core that works a lot harder than you would think. Gravity really doesn’t give you a boost, since you’d be pulling against the resistance from above and/or to the rear. Typically you’d use a little over-the-shoulder yoke hooked to a cable and a pulley to a weight stack, like in a lat tower. I prefer to use bands crossed over my chest. Pretty cheap and simple, and you can adjust the resistance by stepping forward or back as needed.

Lean into the bands and use your core to curl forward into a “C” shape, pulling your chest toward your knees. This can be as hard or easy as you like, but be careful not to go too heavy with bands that are thicker than you can handle. If you can’t make the curl correctly, you won’t get the best benefit from it. I also arch backward a bit at the top, but let your own flexibility and condition of your lower back be your guide to your range of motion.

I have my bands girth hitched to my power rack, but you can hang them from your door frame, or stair railing or something else convenient. If you do things like this a lot, you might consider a pullup bar that fits over a door or in the frame for the best multi-tasking opportunities.

Go easy on your back, be safe and in control. Steady and slow is the right way to progress for these. I’d say anything between 20 and 50 reps would be good. If you can’t do 20, then step back or use longer or thinner bands. If you are comfortable with the power to do sets of only 10, then I’d say 3 sets with about a minute of rest between. FWIW I normally do 2 sets of 25.

Core Week – Inverted Situp

So you want a set of six-pack abs? Or at least a strong core, which is probably more meaningful for ice climbing and hauling around an 85 lb pack while dragging a 45 lb sled (standard fare in Alaska). I really like this exercise – the inverted situp.

I do it a few different ways, but one of the easiest for me is on the Glute Ham Raise bench. If you go to a gym, there is probably some type of bench designed for inverted situps, or something you could improvise. At home you might be able to figure out how to use a deck or staircase, but don’t blame me if something goes horribly wrong…

Lock in your feet with the back of your knees up on the pad, and drop back down slowly and carefully. Use your core muscles to thrust/pull yourself up quickly, pause, and drop back down slowly to repeat for sets of 10 to 25 reps. This can be pretty intense for some people, and there might be minor risk of back and joint pain, so be careful and check with your health provider if you have any questions.

A couple of notes. I have a jacket under my knees so I can slide around a bit without sticking to the vinyl. At the bottom I almost touch the floor, so I hold my fingers out as feelers so I know how close I get without bonking my head. Don’t crank on your neck with your hands, in fact, don’t use them at all for any normal ab curl/crunch/situp motion. Especially be careful with your back in the extreme forward position like when I’m starting and stopping to free my feet (barely visible at the very beginning and end of the clip).

Core Week – Rotation Planks

Very simple and very effective – works your entire core, including your abs and obliques and the QL. I like to use something to take the stress off my wrists when I do planks. In the video below I’m using the Perfect Pushup handles to allow my wrists to stay in a neutral position and rotate a bit. I type and mouse for a living so that’s really important to me.

Just get down into a plank position with your feet wide and hands close, then put a hand up in the air above you, rotating into place off the balls of your feet, using your hips and shoulders to drive the motion. Gently return to the plank, switch hands and repeat on the other side.

For an ab exercise like this I recommend you do 10 on each side to begin and work your way up to 25 on each side. If that gets too easy you can elevate your feet, or suspend them in straps or bands to make it more difficult. Go slow, be careful, and protect your back and joints.

Core Week – Roman Chair Crunches

First up in this week of core movements is the Roman Chair Crunch. I have a Back Hyperextension/Roman Chair combination bench.

Roman Chair from the front
Roman Chair – Front
Roman Chair from the side
Roman Chair – Side

Hop up to sit on the large front pads with the large fleshy part of your hamstrings, and hook your ankles under the round foot pads.

Roman Chair with feet set
Place your feet under the pad – Roman Chair

Lean back carefully. If you’ve never done this before, or your abs are particularly weak, you should be very careful. You don’t need to go all the way back or down, just to level or parallel to the floor is fine. From there do a crunching motion. Bring your chest up toward your knees and lower back. With a good range of motion this would be like curling your spine into a c-shape and then flat again. In this little video clip I go a little below parallel, but not too much. Your own levels might be different from mine, either less or more as the case may be.

If you’re doing good at this, you might do sets of 15-25. If that doesn’t give you a burn in the abs, I wouldn’t recommend that you add weight, since your spine is hanging out there. Maybe a 10 pound plate held outward in your hands would be okay. Just be careful. Otherwise, slow down, concentrate on your core, find the burn there by contracting and pausing at the top and bottom.

Do be careful not to hang onto your neck and crank on it. Notice that my “cue” is my hands out in front of and barely touching my face. If your back or knees hurt or are noisy at all, this might not be a good option for you.