Exercises For Whitewater Kayaking

Whitewater kayaking is one of the most exciting and physically demanding water sports. Because it is about fast paddling ranging from simple waves to violent waves and holes, it is vital for whitewater kayakers to develop a high level of fitness to prepare for vigorous upper body activity. According to Better Health Channel experts, kayaking improves aerobic capacity, strength, and flexibility. Specific kayak exercises focus on these areas.

Circuit Training

The tandem kayak for whitewater requires repeated intense bursts of energy. Aerobic activities such as running, biking and swimming increase cardiovascular strength for maximum performance. In “Canoe and Kayak Magazine,” professional kayaker Brad Ludden suggests circuit training that complements 20-minute sessions of aerobic activity (varies these to maximize benefits) with 30 minutes of repetition exercises, such as chin-ups, backdrops, handstand push-ups, and squats. Do five to 15 repetitions of an exercise in one minute, changing exercises every minute to a total of 30 sets.

Back Exercises

Rowing requires strenuous upper body activity, so the exercises focus on the back, shoulders and torso. The rear part is responsible for most of the power of forwarding propulsion. Any movement of drag involves the muscles of the back and simulates rowing. Three of the best exercises include sitting paddling, rowing push, and pull-ups.

For seated rowing, sit on a bench or on the ground in front of a cable machine. Start with the arms straight and pull towards the chest.

For the rowing impulse, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in front of a weighted cable machine and pull down as in a tricep extension, but keep your arms slightly bent and hold that position at all times.

For the dominated, “Canoe and Kayak” writes that the dominated, which strengthen the biceps, back and main, is the best of all around exercise to paddle. Hold the bar with your palm down for the best rowing simulation. Wide grip to focus exercise on the last, the largest muscles in the back.

Shoulder Exercises

Strong shoulders are important to resist the fatigue of holding and lifting the paddle for each stroke.

The standing push-ups are like the military press, but backward and only with the body weight. Make a handstand against the wall, with your hands a few inches from the support wall. Drop slowly and press up. If you get tired of these quickly, regular push-ups also strengthen the deltoids.

For the standing barbell, hold a bar with your arms hanging down, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and raise the dumbbell up toward your chest until your arms are parallel to the floor.

For the air rowing, hold a weighted exercise bar just like you would with a kayak paddle and do an eight-oar rowing motion in a series of three to five minutes.

Torso Exercises

Note that “balance is everything with the kayak, so having a strong torso will help you give more control over your boat.” Basic abdominal strengthening such as abdominals, leg raises, and plates strengthen the torso. Also, use your torso muscles during the remaining strengthening exercises listed in this list for stabilization.

Put yourself in a Roman chair down with a light dumbbell or no weight to start. Let your torso hang with your arms out in front of you. Exhale as you lift up and turn aside until the torso is in line with the legs. Alternate the sides with each repetition. This strengthens the muscles of the lower back and the obliques.


The flexibility is important to ensure the movement of the whole body and avoid injuries when doing whitewater kayaking. Make sure you stretch every muscle well worked after each workout.

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