Exercise To Become A Better Paddler

Winter is here again, and this is a great time to work on conditioning your body so you’re ready and able to tackle harder, longer paddles when spring comes around again.

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Whether you’re new to paddling, or a seasoned veteran, a good winter workout routine is always beneficial, especially when you don’t have access to actual paddling opportunities.

Paddling is a repetitive sport, and injuries are always possible even if you never have a mishap on the water. Poor conditioning prior to an outing can lead to sore arms and shoulders, back, neck and more. If you’re going to spend the time and money to be out on the water, you should get the most benefit from your excursion!


Paddling Magazine recommends exercises that build muscular strength and muscular endurance. If you can’t get out on the water, these on-land exercise will help, written by Heather Herbeck.

Start your fitness training by focusing on these basics:

Muscular strength is the amount of resistance your muscle can take in a single contraction. Muscular strength is important for taking on sudden, external forces while kayaking and maintaining proper and safe body mechanics. It helps you go where you want to go when paddling challenging lines through rapids and it’s needed for carrying your kayak, putting your kayak on top of a vehicle and putting on your sprayskirt.


Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to work continuously for a long time without tiring. This is important for improving posture and alignment, thus decreasing the likelihood of acute or chronic injury.

Photo from iStock

Training plan

Goal: Build muscular strength and endurance with exercises specific to paddling

Time: January and February (8 weeks)

Frequency: Three times a week on land

Duration: 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps for strength, 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps for endurance

  1. Kettlebell swings, swinging kettlebell high and also keeping it low with more weight
  2. Overhead press
  3. Cleans
  4. Goblet squats
  5. Pull-ups
  6. Cable rows
  7. Push-ups

Remember to focus on technique. With strength training, you need to move with purpose – execute slow and controlled movements and work each exercise at a weight that causes fatigue at the end of the set.

Core training workouts for protection, power and mobility.

  1. Oblique twists with a medicine ball
  2. Leg extensions
  3. 4-square crunches
  4. Back extensions

Visit their website for a video about this training technique: https://www.rapidmedia.com/rapid/categories/skills/4263-your-ultimate-winter-paddle-fitness-plan

If you’re getting tired of the gym, swimming and hiking are other great ways to build strength and endurance that will help you once paddling season comes around again.

The following websites also have great information and conditioning plans: http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2012/03/12/how-to-get-yourself-and-equipment-ready-for-the-kayak-season/, https://www.roy-stevenson.com/conditioning-for-kayakers.html.

Photo from iStock

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