To develop the proper muscles for prolonged touring, i.e., 20 mile camping treks, what muscles would you target at the gym that would be the most beneficial to paddling?

What areas would you target more and spend more time on?

Why go to a gym…
when all you have to do is paddle.

Increase your paddling distance, and then throw in some hard intervals.

It works for me and it is free!



Personally, I don’t think you can do much better than indoor rowing on the Concept 2 machines (learn to do it correctly- check out their website), but any serious cardiovascular workout done several times/week will greatly improve your paddling. Most of paddling is about sustained aerobic effort, with anaerobic threshold coming in when you start racing, etc. The muscle will come from paddling. Of course, pushups, pullups, dips and crunches will help you a lot too.


Rowing machine
Unless you live really near the water a rowing machine is the least expensive and easiest way to go. For endurance I put it on a low level like 1 or 2 and maintain high pace for at least 20 minutes or as long as I can.

The next day I put it on a much Higher level and row for a shorter time. This is more of a muscular strength workout to prevent injury and build the shoulders up.

I’d only row about 4 days a week and try something else on other days. I try to ride the bike or actaully get out on the water 2 or 3 times a week.

I lift small bar bells, do crunches, or push ups during commercials. I found that my boys are in better shape when ever we make a concerted effort to watch tv together for several weeks.

From the responses, I am doing the right things then. I spend at least a half an hour on the treadmill walking and running, then about 20 minutes on the rowing machine followed by abdominal crunches…the rest of the hour and a half I spend doing resistance weights. three times a week adn then paddling for about an hour a day.

for the first time in my life I am really enjoying the exercise…go figure.

some more
do pull-ups and if you can’t do them, do negatives…start at the top and let yourself down slowly. Do dips if you can (and if you get really strong and want to show off, try to do a ‘muscle-up’ which is a pullup continued straight into a dip…)

do some stability/core exercises with the physio-ball.

row or cycle.

cleans (with or without the jerk) are a fantastic exercise to build overall power.

also, light weight rotator cuff exercises for injury prevention.

there’s a ton more things you can do, but if all you want to do is paddle for a long time, the most important thing is just go for long paddles more often.

Maintaining/increasing your range of motion will help you stay comfortable over a long paddle.

Don’t forget to stay balanced, and also work the muscles that oppose the paddling muscles.

One thing you can do for your rolling and edging muscles is latin dancing – rolling your hips on the dance floor uses the same muscles as rolling your boat.

Bicycling helps believe it or not. Your need to work on your heart and lungs also. Weights can’t do that. Working out with free weights and a lat bar with bicycling in between seems to help me.

if you like books
I like to exercise, and occationally I like to pick up a book every now and then. The book “Fit to Paddle” is nice. Just a nice book hits all the points, and the whys that you do them. I feel it was one of the best books I have read. You should go to Borders and read it.


Fit to paddle – eh
I wasn’t terribly impressed by it. Aside from the poor production job – washed out photos, curling cover, I didn’t see much that was truly specialized to paddling, and a lot of generic exercises. I’d bet you can do better with a top-notch general fitness book that does stretching and strength training.

The one thing that clinched it for me was the total lack of strength exercises for wrists and forearms. Judging by the number of people who have wrist and elbow problems paddling, that omission makes no sense. Well, maybe it is just personal, but a few simple wrist and forearm exercises have totally cured my former elbow and wrist tendonitis and general soreness.


yes they can
Weights can work the heart and lungs, quite well. Lower the resistance and do continuous high intensity work. You can burn the lungs just like running wind sprints. I’ve got some upperbody circuits that are absolutely brutal. 30minutes of continuous work and I’m wrecked Only problem is that challenging circuits are not practical in a commercial gym as they require 8-12 movements with no rest between movements. Every now an again I can hit my small commercial gym at off-peak hours and do my circuits. I also do circuits when stuck at hotels with “fitness centers” that offer only light weight dumbells and a universal machine. It is good threshold training.

Paddle & compound exer.
Paddling is very sorts specific, so paddling is best for paddling. Compound exercises like pullups/chins & pushups can be done with little equipment & work tons of muscle. One arm lifts like presses & supported rows build core & stabilizer strength. You don’t need to worry about being on “Word’s Strongest Man” or need huge biceps or pecs, but some pec strength is needed to help avoid shoulder dislocations (pullups & pushups are fine.) Try to work antagonists, a press or pushup then a pullup/chin or row, to avoid imbalance. If you have shoulder problems avoid dips, upright rows, pullovers done sideways over a bench & heavy bench presses done below parallel. Don’t forget the gut & have fun training.

Free Weights
Free weights don’t give the kind of heart and lung work out like running or biking. That is what I should have said. I quit running to protect my knees.

helpful articles
Here is a link to an article with a few kayak specific stretches http://paddling.about.com/od/gettingstarted/ht/strecthes.htm

Diverse Regiment Of…
of regular cardio, strengthening and flexibility exercises is good. Unless you’re hard core competitive paddler, in which case more paddling is the way to go, a diverse regiment will keep everything fresh and interesting.

Don.t fall into the “weekend warrior” syndrome. So many folks think their one or two excursions on the weekend, be it paddling or something else, keeps them fit and healthy. More often than not, these are the folks who end up with injuries because of overuse in a short time frame. They then retreat back to their couch and tv.

Integrate regular physical activity into your weekday routine. I don’t even think matters much what it is as long as it’s accessible, relatively convenient and that you do it consistently as you would eat and sleep.


Anyone had experience with swimming as cross-training for paddling? Specifically, if I just swam for exercise most of the time, is there enough similarity in the range-of-motion, that I would maintain good paddling performance for occasional kayaking?

I know cross-training isn’t 1:1… running regularly can keep you fit for bicycling, but not vice-versa. I’m just curious if anyone has had such experience with swimming/paddling.

pull ups
postalgbv is spot on with the pullups. I am a football and weightlifting coach as well as avid paddler. They are probably the best all around weight bearing exercise going. If you cannot do three at a time, try doing hangs (keep your chin above the bar as long as possible). Or cheat. Use the bar on a bench press, put your feet on the floor, keep back straight and pull up from there. The next best exercise is probably push ups.

good luck,