SkiErg vs Rower vs Air Bike: Which Should You Buy for Your Home Gym?

Trying to figure out which CrossFit equipment to invest into your home gym is tough, particularly because there’s just so much to choose from and a lot of it is rather expensive. One thing is for certain: If you’re building a home gym for CrossFit, you’d be wise to invest in at least one cardio machine commonly programmed in CrossFit WODs. 

Ahead, a detailed guide to SkiErgs vs rowers vs air bikes to help you decide where to put your home gym dollars.

SkiErg vs Rower vs Air Bike: Overview of CrossFit Cardio Machines 

Truth be told that while there are a number of cardio machines on the market, in the wonderful world of CrossFit, four machines reign supreme: 

Concept2 SkiErg

Concept2 Rower

Rogue Echo Bike


Concept2 BikeErg

We’ll get into the details below, but to start us off, here’s a quick pros and cons chart of each of the machines ahead. 

(Apart from these few machines, you’ll also sometimes see a manual treadmill like the AssaultRunner, but since that isn’t as endemic to the sport, we’ll save it for another comparison). 

SkiErg vs Rower vs Air Bike: Specs

Which Cardio Machine Should You Buy for Your CrossFit Home Gym?

Concept2 RowErg handle. Credit: Rogue Fitness/Concept2

Great question. We’d say that 9 out of 10 times, if you’re looking to buy a cardio machine for a CrossFit gym, you should make it a rowing machine. 

Why? Because to date, the rower is the only cardio machine that’s ever made an appearance in the CrossFit Open, and it makes an appearance every single year. So, if you’re planning to participate in the CrossFit Open (and any level higher than that), you’ll need access to a rowing machine. 

Competition aside, the rower is a fantastic tool for achieving nearly every single fitness goal, whether they are CrossFit-specific or not. Rowing machines can be used to improve endurance and cardiovascular capacity, increase strength, lose weight, and more. 

So, when is an air bike or SkiErg the better pick? 

If you are nursing an injury or looking for a machine that your athletes can use while injured, you’d be better off investing in an air bike or SkiErg. Air bikes can be used by people with either lower- or upper-body injuries, since you can isolate muscle groups (except for the C2 bike, which is legs only). And the SkiErg can be utilized by people who need to get their legs a rest. 

The SkiErg or air bike both require less floor space than the rower, so if your home gym is tiny,  you may want to consider one of those instead. If you’re very tight on floor space and want a bike, we recommend the Concept2 BikeErg, as it’s much smaller and lighter than the AssaultBike and Echo Bike.

The SkiErg is great for small-space conditioning work, too. When mounted to the wall, it takes up just 16 inches by 19 inches. 

Air bikes are typically a little bulkier but require less space in length. Because the size of an air bike varies from model to model, you’d be wise to look at the exact specs on the machine you have in mind. 

CrossFit Cardio FAQs 

Rogue Echo Bike

Is CrossFit a cardio workout?

Certainly, CrossFit is good for your cardiovascular capacity. Through a variety of modalities, intensities, and workout formats, the sport builds up your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. 

Is CrossFit the same as HIIT training? 

Before we can compare and contrast the two modalities, we need to define them. CrossFit, as you’ve likely heard, is defined as constantly varied, high-intensity functional movement. 

HIIT, which stands for high-intensity interval training, is defined as a type of training made up of short bursts of high-intensity movement interspersed with varied recovery times. 

Sure, the two have some overlaps, but they are ultimately not synonymous. While HIIT workouts are always made up of intervals, CrossFit workouts only occasionally have intervals. 

Sometimes, CrossFit workouts prescribe that people alternate work periods with rest periods. But CrossFit workouts may also prescribe that people work straight through until a set amount of work has been done, or a set amount of time is up. 

Does CrossFit involve running? 

At its core, CrossFit is a combination of gymnastics movements, Olympic lifting, powerlifting, bodybuilding, and monostructural cardio. Alongside rowing, jumping rope, biking, and occasionally swimming, one of the monostructural cardio exercises CrossFit incorporates is running.  

As it goes, during warmer months, CrossFit programmers regularly incorporate outdoor running into their programming. During cooler months, it’s common for manual treadmills to be used. An

That said, everything in CrossFit can be scaled or adapted to your personal fitness needs. If, for whatever reason, you cannot run, you can elect to do another form of exercise instead. (Usually, rowing). 

What rower do CrossFit athletes use? 

Easy: The Concept2 RowErg. It’s worth noting that The Concept2 Rower was formerly sold under the name Concept2 Model D. So, if you see that name emblazoned on the rowers at your local affiliate, that’s why!

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