What Muscles Does Kayaking Work?

Many people believe that a very small range of muscles during canoeing-mainly the arms. This however, is false and as a qualified canoe coach, I can confirm that there are many muscles used while kayaking. If you feel like your arms are hurting the most, there may be something wrong with your beginning technique and I would advise you to ask your coach, instructor or a senior member why and how to improve your paddling style and technique.

The three main areas that I will be writing about are the shoulders, glutes, and core.

1. Shoulder Muscles: The Connection Between Your Core And Paddles

First of all: the shoulders. Your shoulders allow you to connect your core to your paddle and provides connectivity between you and the water. Your shoulder is a major joint that does a lot during kayaking and needs to be strengthened. Often in the sport, your shoulder may be put in an unusual or strained position, yet it is still required to preform at maximum output providing strength and stability for you and your boat.

One of the most common injuries in kayaking is a dislocation in the shoulder.

However with good training to promote strength and flexibility, there should be no need for concern.

I would recommend doing small flexibility and strengthening exercises with resistance bands and the like of which you can find many examples of on platforms such as YouTube.

Your shoulders are one of the most important areas of your body in kayaking, yet it is one of the most fragile joints in the body. As long as you do not put excess strain on an underprepared or not fully healed shoulder, small resistance exercises of increasing difficulty and intensity should work to improve your strength and flexibility of the joint and surrounding muscles.

2. Glutes: Underrated Muscles That Need Training!

Next: the glutes. Your glutes are an underrated in the kayaking world. These large muscles are what connects you to your boat and allows you to seek the movement of the water underneath.

The glutes are also used as a stabilising muscle and can help connect your core to the footrests commonly found in most boats.

As an important connector between you and the boat, these muscles also need training to provide the most efficient and easygoing passage of energy that transfers from you into your boat to bring it to life and move.

These muscles are perhaps the easiest to train as it takes little effort and time and doesn’t intrude on your day to day life. The easiest method to train your glutes is to whilst seated driving, working, or relaxing, clench one glute at a time and repeat for however long you want.

Start at a slow pace for a short amount of time and slowly build up the exercise by quickening or participating for a longer duration of time. This will seamlessly integrate a great routine into your daily lives without the restraints of time, equipment, or concentration.

3. The Core: The Most Important Part To Train

Finally: the core.

The core is perhaps the most important, most crucial part of the body for a kayaker to train, and yet is rarely thought about. Almost all  power and connectivity whilst kayaking comes from the core. As the centre of mass whilst in the boat, the core is often used as a gyroscopic trunk to stabilise you whilst on your boat.

This engages almost all core muscles including but not limited to the abs, pelvic muscles and diaphragm.

All these muscles help stabilise you and your boat whilst paddling whether it is on white water, the sea, or simply a lake. The engagement of the core muscles is crucial.

Even while performing a basic forwards stroke, the core muscles are engaged through the rotation of the body for extended reach and efficient retraction allowing you to glide through the water.

The rotation of the core whilst forwards paddling is an essential part of the stroke so if you don’t think that you are rotation enough, ask your coach, instructor, or another paddler.

To train the core, general balancing and strengthening exercises are key. These could be exercise a such as sit ups or balancing on a balance board or exercise/ yoga ball.

In conclusion, I hope that you have learned about the 3 key muscle areas that are used in kayaking, what they are used for, and hopefully how to train them for future use.

1 thought on “What Muscles Does Kayaking Work?”

  1. Kayaking is great but when cold weather comes, the rowing machine keeps me in shape and gets me ready for the kayaking season!!


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