Paddling Fitness – Best Exercises to Get Fit

Last Updated on April 25, 2021 by KayakPro

Paddling fitness is very important – it helps prepare your body for what you intend to do with it! You may be ready to hop in that sea kayak – but before paddling – whether it’s for an hour or a weekend – get a Smart Start.

Condition Your Body . . .

Conditioning your body not only improves your endurance – it helps prevent injuries, sore muscles and strains. I have found that if I push myself into these routine paddling exercises consistently, I feel less fatigued while kayaking.

If you’re like me, you hibernate in the winter. Around the end of January guilt sets in. I start thinking about getting the kayak out in spring. So I begin to exercise and stretch to condition myself while I wait for the remainder of winter to pass. By Spring – I feel more fit and energetic – strong and ready.

During paddling season –
try warming up with these paddling exercises before setting out.

Now everyone has their own fitness routine. Some workout regularly at a gym, some workout at home and others are involved in various sports that keep you active. Here are the areas I focus on to prepare for a season of paddling … these can easily be added or worked into a current routine. They don’t take long but they do strengthen the areas that do the work of paddling. These exercises benefit both men and women. Please – go at your own pace.

Back Strengthening –

  • Stretch right arm up while bending low at the waist –
  • stretch it out to the left side in front of you / you should feel the pull on that side of your lower back
  • alternate with the left arm up – bend low at the waist stretching it out to the right side
  • begin this with 10 repeats daily for a few weeks –
  • work up to at least 30 sets gradually or increase at your own pace.
  • You’ll begin to feel the tone in your lower back – try these daily.

Side Curls –

    • From a flat floor position, bend your knees and plant your feet firmly on the floor –
    • curl from the waist to your opposite side as far as you can to without pulling something –
    • these are difficult – go at your own pace.

You can also try these with your feet propped on a chair seat if it’s more comfortable.

Torso Twisting –

This stretches the torso – it can be done almost anywhere – standing or in a chair (at work even). Stretching your torso adds flexibility and strengthens your paddling.

  • Start by bending your elbows and tuck your arms comfortably near your waist.
  • simply twist your torso keeping your chest and shoulders in a line
  • you’ll feel it on each side of your lower back muscles and your lower shoulder blades
  • alternate from side to side and do at least 20 of these a few times a day.

Shoulder Strengthening –

Arm bicycle – Just like it says – with your arms in front of you – create a bicycle pattern. This loosens the shoulders and strengthens the areas that will be worked when paddling.

  • Extend your fists as far as they’ll go and circling back close to your body.
  • Try about six sets of 10 revolutions per set – build at your own pace.

Arm Circles –

With arms outstretched at shoulders –

  • With open hands, make circles (about 12″ diameter) in a forward direction
  • then reverse the direction.
  • Begin with sets of 10 revolutions – gradually work up to at least 2 sets of 30 revolutions forward and back.

This works the shoulder muscles and helps support the disc area of the neck and upper spine. Try these daily.

Wall Push Ups –

Stand facing an unobstructed wall –

  • place your palms on the wall in front of you at shoulder height
  • line up your feet about 18″ – 24″ back from the wall –
  • adjust your palms to about 2′ apart –
  • then lean your face toward the wall till you nearly touch it, like a push-up.
  • These are great for the shoulder/neck area also – try about 20 of these and increase at your own pace.

Shoulder Drop –

From a standing position –

  • feet slightly apart –
  • arms at their natural position by your sides –
  • drop one shoulder to its side – extending from the waist –
  • let that arm and your head flow straight down as far as they will comfortably go –
  • hold for 5 seconds or so and then do the other side –
  • start with no more than 5 on each side and increase at your own pace.

Forearm and Wrist Strengthening – try using 5 lb weights for these.

  • With arms straight out in front of you – palms up –
  • grasp a 5 lb weight in each hand –
  • bend your elbows in toward your body and curl your wrists as tight as they will comfortably go –
  • return your arms to a straight position and hold –
  • flip the weights to the opposite side to twist and strengthen your wrists –
  • aim for about 6 in a set and increase at your own pace.

kayak fitnessFinal fitness words of encouragement . . .

Going at your own pace is extremely important – only you know your limits.

As with any training – consistency is the key. You may have to fight with yourself for a few weeks until your internal manager takes over.

Find a consistent time each day or evening when you can work on these uninterrupted.

Work these paddling exercises into your daily routine, use them to warm up before and you’ll be fit to paddle.

Now that’s a Smart Start to paddling fitness!

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Ryan Stoltz

Ryan Stoltz

Avid kayaker and lover of the outdoors. Having been kayaking for over 7 years, I love sharing my experiences and learnings along the way. Currently kayaking in upstate New York and always open to new adventures!

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