Top Conditioning Machines for CrossFit, Ranked

Back in the OG CrossFit days, when asked why CrossFit didn’t use machines, the common answer was, “because we are the machine.” Heck, it wasn’t until 2011 that the CrossFit Games featured a machine in competition (the Concept 2 rower and the stationary WattBike were used). Over the past decade, conditioning machines like the Concept2 rower, Assault/Rogue Bike have slowly crept into CrossFit and garage gyms around the world.

Nowadays, it’s likely your CrossFit gym has rows of Assault Bikes, Rowers and maybe even curved treadmills. The problem is these machines are generally expensive and take up a lot of room…especially if you have a garage gym.

So, we have ranked the conditioning machines found on Rogue Fitness from “must-have” to “nice-to-have” to help you when trying to decide which machine (or next machine) to get.

(note: if you use our links in this article to purchase something, we may earn a commission)

#1 “Must-Have”, Concept 2 RowErg Rower

The Concept 2 RowErg Rower was probably the first machine seen in CrossFit gyms. And for good reason. The rower works both the upper and lower body. The movement pattern also translates well with other movements (squat, deadlift and pulling movements).

The rower is also the only machine to be used in one of “The Girls” benchmark workouts. In “Jackie”, athletes start with a 1,000 meter row followed by 50 empty-bar thrusters and 30 pull-ups.

And if space is a concern, the rower can be tilted up to stand on its end leaving much more floor space available when it’s not being used. Another nice feature is that the two-piece construction can easily be taken apart and put back together making it a great machine to move.

Buy Concept 2 RowErg Rower | $990

#2 “Must Have”, Rogue Echo Bike (or Assault AirBike)

Known to many as the Devil’s Bicycle, the Assault Bike has brought many athletes to their knees. Modeled after the old Schwinn exercise bicycle in your grandparents basement, the Assault AirBike became popular in CrossFit in 2015 when it was featured in Pedal to the Metal 1 & 2. Two years later, Rogue Fitness came out with its own version, the Rogue Echo Bike.

Both the Assault AirBike and the Rogue Echo Bike do the same thing…provide a great workout and inflict pain. Both bikes use a fan to generate wind resistance. So as you pedal harder, the more wind resistance, the more difficult it is to maintain that pace.

From all-out sprints (think all-out 1:00 sprint for total calories) or longer distance conditioning work, the AirBike and Echo Bike provide a top notch workout. And while we have it at #2 on our list, if you bought this before a rower, we wouldn’t fault you. Both are excellent machines.

If you’re trying to decide between the Assault AirBike and the Rogue Echo Bike, it generally comes down to preference. In my garage gym, I have the Assault AirBike. I bought it in 2016 before the Rogue Echo Bike was available. It’s still holding up, but it’s not used day in and day out like a CrossFit gym. The Rogue Echo Bike, however, is built like a tank. It’s super solid and uses a belt, instead of a chain, to spin the fan.

If price matters, the Assault AirBike is $749 compared to the Rogue Echo Bike at $845. Whichever one you go with, you won’t regret.

Buy Rogue Echo Bike | $845

Buy Assault AirBike | $749

#3 “Nice-to-Have”, Concept 2 SkiErg

Alright, the SkiErg is the first on the nice-to-have list. But to be honest, this and the next two machines on this list can be somewhat interchangeable depending on the type of training you are doing…or what you like to do.

I put the SkiErg next on this list, ahead of the curved treadmill and BikeErg, mainly because of the uniqueness of the machine. The movement on the SkiErg requires lat strength and endurance. It also works the posterior chain as well as your abdominal muscles. It’s also unable to be easily replicated in the gym…compared to a curved treadmill or BikeErg.

Now, the SkiErg is not a common machine that is programmed in a ton of online programming (or even at a CrossFit gym), but if you’re thinking about competing at a high level in the future, you will see it at a competition at some point. On top of that, increasing lat endurance is always a good thing, especially when wanting to improve your ability at high volume pull-ups.

The SkiErg does a great job when pairing with opposite type movements – think thrusters/push-press/bench press, box jumps or burpees. It can also be used as a way to pre-fatigue your pulling muscles…kind of like a reverse Rinse ‘N’ Repeat workout from this year’s CrossFit Games.

Buy Concept 2 SkiErg | $850

#4 “Nice-to-Have”, TrueForm Trainer

You are probably thinking, “But I can just run outside!”. And six months ago I would have probably agreed with you. However, this past spring I got a curved treadmill and love it.

In the past, my workouts that required a run meant I would have to run up and down a gravel driveway. It was doable, but turned into a pain when it was raining, freezing (in the winter) or dark (in the early morning).

But after we got one in the garage gym, it made running so much easier. I now do more endurance-based workouts that require running a specific pace or a set amount a time…both which are more difficult to do while running on a road. I also have no excuses from the weather. Rain or shine, hot or cold, it’s right there in my garage.

I won’t lie…it’s an expensive piece of equipment. There are definitely more things that can be purchased for cheaper, but that’s why it’s on the “nice-to-have” list. If you are in your garage gym where weather can be prohibitive, this might be a great investment for you.

TrueForm Trainer | $3,995

#5 “Nice-to-Have”, Concept 2 BikeErg

The Concept 2 BikeErg is the latest machine to gain popularity in the CrossFit world. Using the same fan concept as the RowErg and SkiErg, the BikeErg is a stationary bike that uses the fan to create resistance…and make the workout harder.

The BikeErg will test your leg strength and endurance like no other machine higher up on the list. With all your focus on pedaling, your quads will know you’ve done a workout on this thing.

The downside to the machine is that it’s just that…a leg killer. Unlike the AirBike, your arms do not move so you’re only getting a lower body workout on this machine. You will need to do something else in addition to the BikeErg to get a full body workout.

The BikeErg is also the only machine on this list that I don’t have…which probably explains why it’s #5 on the list. I have, however, used the BikeErg before and can see the benefits. But overall, if I had the money to buy a BikeErg, I would spend it on something above this at first. If you’re like me and have everything above, then this is the next purchase.

Buy Concept 2 BikeErg | $1,100

Everything Else

And then there’s the machines that have not yet made it to the CrossFit world…yet. The Versa Climber, Jacobs Ladder and Stairway machines definitely will give you a great workout, but at this time they are seldom used by the CrossFit community (unless you are Mat Fraser and used the Stairway machine).

So maybe you want to do something different or do something special that would benefit by these machines over the above, these are not yet mainstream. But you never know what Adrian Bozman has in store down the road. Maybe you get one of these and are a trendsetter…

Buy VersaClimber | $3,295

Buy Jacobs Ladder | $6,495

Buy Stairway GTL | $7,495

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