Mobility Drills for Paddlers

While the old school static stretching you did in 7th grade gym class still has it’s place, there’s a better way to warm up prior to paddling.

Today we’re going to focus on a series of mobility drills that will warm up and loosen the muscles you use when paddling.


Core Stability Exercises for Paddlers

Learn these 5 core stability exercises to make your workout more effective
Learn these 5 core stability exercises to make your workout more effective

Strengthen your core and you’ll strengthen your paddling abilities.  Many people, when thinking of how they can improve their ability as a paddler through exercise automatically turn to the arms and shoulders.  While yes, strong and stable arms and shoulders are critical, the real work should come from your core. 

Most people narrowly define the core to mean the abdominals.  The core is actually comprised of the entire midsection of your body excluding the extremities.  It’s the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex and all the muscles that attach to it.  The chest, upper back, middle and low back, glutes, hamstrings, and yes, the abs too.

Develop good core stability followed by core strength and you’ll be a much better paddler.

I posted this video to You Tube a couple of years ago and it has since received well over 100,000 views. 

In this video, I show you five great core stabilization exercises to use the core muscles and get you on the way to developing a more functional core to help you become a better, more efficient paddler.


How to begin an exercise program

Getting started with an exercise program can be difficult and confusing.

Where do I start? What should I do? Will I make a fool of myself? Where do I begin?

Which way?
Which way?

Believe me, these are all questions that have run through the head of nearly every person who starts an exercise program. You’re not alone.

When first starting an exercise program, make sure you’re cleared to exercise. Check with your doctor, make sure there’s nothing brewing under the surface.

Once you’re cleared and assuming no restrictions, I recommend incorporating both resistance and cardiovascular exercise, especially if weight loss and/or improving daily function are part of your goals. Don’t just go to the gym and start lifting heavy stuff though.

With the resistance exercise, it’s very important to make sure your body can support and manage it’s own weight before adding more weight to it. For most, that means beginning with the core. Let’s start by defining the core. Your core is more than your abs. It’s the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex and all the muscles that attach to it. It’s the muscles of the chest, upper, middle, and lower back, the spinal extensors, the hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, and yes, your abs.

All movement begins in the core. The job of the core is to support your body when walking, sitting, or performing any type of movement. Since it’s job is to support the body, it only makes sense that we stabilize and strengthen the core and allow it to manage your own body weight first.

Only then should you start adding external weights. Below you’ll find several sample videos of exercises designed to activate the core.

As for your cardio exercise, pick something you enjoy. My first choice for cardio exercise: Go outside! Take a brisk walk. Ride a bike.

I’d love to tell you to paddle for your cardio exercise, but unless you’re continuously cranking along and a high pace, the intensity isn’t usually there.

If you’re looking for indoor options, how about the rowing machine, Stairmaster, Stepmill, Versa Climber, treadmill, or elliptical machine?

Whatever you choose, get your heart rate up and keep it up for the duration of your exercise. There are lots of formulas out there to tell you where your heart rate should be. Frankly, most are fiction, based on little science. A good rule of thumb to use is the Talk Test. Imagine yourself doing your preferred exercise. Can you still hold a conversation with someone or are you huffing and puffing too hard. Bring yourself to just below that point where it starts to get difficult to hold a conversation and stay there for the duration of the exercise. As your fitness develops, you can experiment with other more intense cardio options.

The important thing here is to take it slow to start and make sure you’re within your limits. Your cardiovascular system will develop faster than your muscular system, so don’t get ahead of yourself and ramp your exercise up too quickly. I see a lot of people who start an exercise program and they jump in with both feet. While enthusiasm is great, they hop off the couch and immediately start with a 3 mile run or an hour on the treadmill. They do this for a couple of days, they’re still feeling fine, so they double their efforts thinking they’ll get results faster. Instead, stuff starts to hurt and they end up quitting.

If you’re just off the couch and just starting your cardio exercise program, start with 20-30 minutes at a reasonable pace. Do this for a couple weeks and begin to increase gradually. You’ll be less likely to get injured and more likely to see better long-term results. Long term results is what you’re after, right!

Remember, you didn’t get to where you are in a week and you’re not going to get to your goals in a week either. Make smart choices and give it the right time and you’ll see success.

With that in mind, here are a few great exercises that can get you started and help activate the core. Don’t forget to leave a comment below!

Functional warm-up sequence

Rowing crunches

Bird dog

Stability ball rollout

5 Medicine Ball Exercises You Need to Know


A better way to warm up before exercise

High school gym class taught you that warming up meant a few static stretches before a rousing game of dodgeball or a rope climbing session. If you’re still using that warm up before your workout, or like most people you have no warm up, today’s column will give you a few ideas to make you think twice about skipping the warm up.

A proper warm up prepares the body for exercise and helps prevent injury, while making your workout more effective. The most beneficial warm ups activate the muscles you’ll be using during your program through their full range of motion by simulating the exercises that you’ll be performing during the workout. For example, if you’ll be doing loaded squats, warm up by performing body weight squats. If you’ll be bench pressing, start with some push ups. I’ve included a video showing examples of a few dynamic warm up exercises to get you thinking.

All this doesn’t mean you should throw out all of your static stretches though. Instead, perform the static stretches at the end of your workout to lessen tightness after your session. However, this is a recommendation and not a rule as static stretching before exercise has great value if you’ve got some specific areas of tightness that prevent you from moving through a full range of motion. In this case, stretch out or foam roll those muscles to loosen them up and then perform a dynamic warm up.


How strong is your spring?

Developing a strong core is very important to being a good paddler. 

I am a big proponent of core training. Many people narrowly define the core to mean the abs, but your core if basically your entire midsection with exception of your extremities. Developing a strong and solid core makes a huge difference with your functional ability. Every movement that you make, every step, every turn, lift, bend, and reach engages your core muscles.

How strong is your spring?
How strong is your spring?

The responsibility of your abs is not to bring your ribcage and hips together, as in a crunching movement. Instead, their responsibility is to resist that motion along with forward to back flexion and extension and twisting, or rotation. Imagine your core as a spring. That spring always wants to remain in one position. Bend it to the side and it snaps back in place. That’s the job of your core muscles too. They’re trying to keeping the body in place. A strong spring will do a better job than a weak spring.

Today’s exercise is a core rotation. This exercise can be performed using a cable machine or using a resistance band looped around a stationary object. Watch the video below to learn the proper way to perform this exercise. Remember to keep the arms away from the body to get the maximum effect of the weight. Draw the hands too close and you lose the benefit to your core.

Add this exercise to your program and watch for more core training ideas to build a strong foundation.