Kayaking is a physically demanding sport that involves the entire body for boat control and paddling movements. While some muscle groups, such as back and shoulders, seem like obvious targets for conditioning work, others are often overlooked. The hips and legs play a critical role in balancing and controlling the position and angles of the boat, and are constantly moving and correcting position when paddling in whitewater or choppy seas. Conditioning for kayaking is a full-body workout that will vary based on personal needs, but a few exercises in particular should definitely be included in your program.
Whether on a rowing machine, a weight stack or using free weights, rowing exercises work the back, shoulders and arms, which are critical areas for paddlers. Free-weight rowing exercises add the benefit of having to balance and control the weight throughout the range of motion, which works the smaller muscle groups of the arms used in balancing and fine position control.
A simple exercise that has been around for a long time, the twist is exactly as it sounds, twisting your torso from side to side. Resistance can be added with a cable pull or resistance band for an even stronger workout. Most of the power from your paddling stroke comes not from your arms but from the twisting of your torso, so strengthening this area will really build your power and endurance for paddling.
Forward Leg Lifts and Hamstring Presses
Controlling the pitch of your boat, which is to say angling the bow up or down while paddling or negotiating features and obstacles, involves lifting your legs from the hip or pressing them downward, along with the weight of the boat against the pressure of the water. Leg lifts strengthen your hips and the tops of your thighs for pulling the bow up, while hamstring presses will add strength for pressing the bow downward.
Side Leg Lifts
Lay on your side and lift your top leg straight up into the air to work your hips. Your hips are critical to boat stabilization, for bracing and for rolling should you become capsized. Resistance can be added with a cable pull or by adding ankle weights on the leg you are working.