Top 3 Alternative Gym Machines

17th November 2022

Amongst the exercise bikes, treadmills, and rowing machines commonly seen in the typical gym environment, there are very often a number of less familiar, less used machines sitting idly by away from the most popular CV equipment. ‘Less used’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘less useful’ however, and some of those machines gathering dust in the corner can not only provide a great workout, but also provide you with some much-needed variety in your training.

Check out our SquashSkills top 3 favourite ‘alternative’ CV machines, and keep an eye out for some of these pieces of equipment in your gym ready for your next endurance workout!



The VersaClimber is technically a brand name for ‘vertical climber machine’, but they’re by far the most well-known model. The machine is designed to replicate a climbing action, with an inter-connected handle to hold and foot pedal to strap into on each side of the rail, that makes this a true full-body workout.

The VersaClimber was a very popular piece of fitness equipment in the 80s, and was a favourite of many squash players back in those days who wanted an exercise to really induce a full body burn. It’s low impact, high intensity, and offers a great alternative to more traditional CV machines.

In addition, a Washington State University study found that subjects’ maximal heart rates were higher, and their VO2max levels more quickly increased, when doing VersaClimber intervals rather than working intervals on a treadmill or rower.


  • 1min full-range stroke effort
  • 30secs complete rest
  • Repeat x10

Measure how many feet climbed on your first 1min effort, and challenge yourself to keep that number within 5% on each subsequent set.


SkiErg/Ski Machine

SkiErg is again a brand name for the more generic ‘ski machine’, but the Concept2 company are very much the biggest producer of this type of exercise machine. Unlike the other 2 machines on this list, this is a relatively new piece of equipment that is only just starting to be seen more regularly in gyms.

This machine gets your heart rate up high with a focus on the upper body, which is very different to the vast majority of gym machines. You’ll move from flat feet to tip toes on each stroke, but there’s no real ground impact involved which means it can be a really useful machine for those suffering from lower body injuries, or for those looking to include some more low impact days into their programmes.

Since the machine operates with a flywheel, you have a lot of control over the resistance and intensity – the harder you pull the cables, the faster the flywheel inside spins which creates even more resistance.


  • 30secs full-range action
  • 30secs complete rest
  • Repeat x12

Aim to maintain the same speed and tempo on each set. Pace yourself on the 30sec efforts to start with, particularly if you’ve not used the SkiErg previously.


Assault Bike

The Assault Bike is the best-known brand of air bike, where a standard bike has the addition of moving handles to bring an upper body component in addition to pedalling. It has seen a resurgence in recent years due to its popularity in many CrossFit workouts.

For the untrained, the air bike’s level of entry is low. It’s a straightforward piece of equipment to use, and its compact design also means that it’s easy to transport and store if looking for something to purchase for home workouts. Most come with easily adjustable seats for multiple users, and small transport wheels attached to the front for smooth ferrying around.

For busy players looking to boost their fitness levels and improve body composition, it can be argued that the air bike is unrivalled by any other piece of fitness equipment from a time efficiency standpoint.


  • 20sec max pace effort
  • 10secs complete rest
  • Repeat x8

This high-intensity ‘Tabata’ format session works perfectly on the assault bike, for a short but super effective finisher.


Gary Nisbet

B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director

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