But anyone who’s dug in their paddle for any distance knows that it comes from the core. Your trunk is the root of all handling and propulsion power—regardless of your choice of craft, whether it’s a whitewater kayak, tripping canoe, or standup paddleboard. Your core muscles, including your hips and back, stabilize the body and make your strokes more efficient. And more fun, too (energy saved means less focus on fatigue). Conditioning your core is one of the most effective ways to both enhance your paddling adventures and reduce the risk of chronic or overuse injuries.
Why Build Core Strength?
Proper stroke technique (across paddling disciplines) starts from the core: leaning forward to reach for water, and keeping a more forward, active paddling position while twisting the torso to drive strokes. If your core is not strong or ready for it, your arms will overcompensate and tire quickly. As will your back. Core strength reduces that stress load on the arms, back (and even legs), while increasing balance. The result is a more powerful and efficient stroke.
Going out paddling will, of course, engage the right core muscles. If the timing and season don’t cooperate, however, a dry-land strength and conditioning routine done at home can offer an ideal way to strengthen the back, abdominal, and hip muscles. After a dedicated training block of 4 to 6 weeks, you’ll notice improved core muscles and be ready to go farther and feel better on the water.
How To Build Core Strength
To complete these recommended core strengthening workouts, you’ll need kettlebells or dumbbells and some space. Start with the general warm-up, then move into the core-specific warm-up. Alternate the two workout circuits, completing one or both each week with at least 24 to 48 hours of rest in between.
- Start easy with lighter weights and lower reps and slowly build volume as the stress decreases.
- Increase the length of aerobic exercise in the warm-up to build endurance.
- Stay hydrated during the workout to reduce fatigue on muscles, and fuel immediately after to aid recovery.
- End all workouts with gentle stretching and foam rolling of tight muscles.
Before any strength training exercises, start with easy aerobic exercise to get the blood flooding. This warm-up also improves cardiovascular endurance, and the amount of time can increase as training progresses. Start with 10 minutes of aerobic activity at an easy effort. Then, depending on your preference and fitness, try running, walking, or using a stationary bike or a rowing machine. Slowly increase the amount of time up to 20 or 30 minutes if you want to incorporate cardio training into your core routine.