What hurts the most after I’ve paddled a long time is my rhomboid muscle. Has anyone else had this problem? I don’t know if it’s because I’m paddling wrong or it’s already sore from being at the computer all week or if I just need to work out that muscle more to strengthen it.

I’m slower than most of the people in my kayak club. I don’t know if it’s because I’m paddling wrong or if my endurance is less or if I’m just not strong enough. I guess I need to work on all three.

No problem.
After a few years of paddling, my sister in law (a physical therapist) pointed out how developed my rhomboids have become due to paddling.

They are probably sore because there are not too many activities that people do that work the rhoms.

The Rhomboid is really a shoulder
muscle. The action is does is retraction and downward rotation. So if you your feeling back pain it really isn’t back pain like it feels… GO FIGURE>>> it is technically shoulder pain. You can strengthen this muscle by squeezing the shoulder blades together and relaxing. Repeat this action, and you should begin to strengthening this muscle. Also watch your paddling technique, posture and so on. I know we all get lazy in the seat, and slouch as we are relaxing on the water chilling in our AHHH moments… We are all guilty of this one time or another. When we compensate with another muscle, we can cause injury to others. Good luck with this!!

training vs technique
As I see it, with limited info, one of two things.

One, is that you may not be doing anything “wrong” technically, but might need to attend to better training.

A major concept of training is the overload principle. You will not improve unless the muscle is stressed. What is critical is to have an appropriate rest phase after the stress, but more likely is that there is too much time between the next “stress”. Wait too long, the muscle returns to its original state, and the next time there is a stress there is no improvement.

If there is more than 3-4 of rest before the next stress, you are wasting your time thinking that you will improve.

Bench rows/bench shrugs are good for this issue (even if it is the trapezius division 2 or 3 and not the rhomboideus major). Or, if you do not have a weight set, hang some straps somewhere, so that you can lie on your back extend your arms to the straps, and then shrug or even lift yourself off the ground a bit.

As for technique, if you are engaging your traps or rhomboids a lot, it is a clear indication of a lack of torso rotation, and by implication abuse of the arms in paddling. There should be no humeral extension in a good forward stroke- ie, the upper arm should not go past the midline of the body. Think of nailing a big chunk of wallboard to your back. If, while finishing your forward stroke, your elbow hits this imaginary board, you will be using too much arm, not enough body. Move the wallboard instead.

Once the humerus is extended past the midline, the prime mover of that action, the latissumus, has gone past its useful range. The shoulder joint then has to engage much smaller muscles to stabilize the scapula (rhomboids, traps), and the smaller,weaker Teres group continues the humeral extension.

Fancy way of saying, don’t go there.

IMO, this is one of the most common areas of complaint of untrained paddlers. While it is likely a combination of the first and second observations (training, technique), the issue of excessive humeral extension (due to lack of rotation) is all too common.

karl (current kayak instructor, ex-sports massage therapist, ex-athletic trainer)

thank you
Thank you for the suggestions.