4 Paddle-Improving Exercises for Canoeing

As a canoeer, you will know how important it is to have a strong core; it is the central power system that connects and supports the upper and lower body parts that propel the canoe and keep it stabilised. With proper posture, the core muscles, abdominals, hips and back will provide all the power and rotation for those canoe strokes. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t the arms that paddle the canoe, it is the core muscles.

Obviously, there is no finer way to train the core for canoeing than actually getting out on the canoe and paddling. However, we will explain a few deep core exercises you can do while off the water to help maintain that physique.

Bodyweight exercises are a firm favourite here. They require nothing more than just your own body. They can be done in the lounge, the garden, the office, or the kitchen. Essentially, they can be done just about anywhere you can fit the length of your body.

Here is a collection of exercises you can do to improve your paddling:


Targets: Shoulders, chest, triceps and abs.

You will target more than just the core, but the press-up is an absolute perfect all-rounder.

Your hands should be shoulder width apart and directly underneath the shoulder; elbows stay close to the body as your arms bend and straighten. Your head and eyes should face forward at all times, and you should pivot from the heels to the lower back. Your body should remain stiff like a plank of wood, while keeping your feet and knees together.

The McGill

Targets: Abs

Dr Stuart McGill, one of the world’s top spinal doctors, invented this exercise as a way of healing your back and also strengthen the abs.

Laying on the floor, face up, keep the right leg straight and bend the left leg up, so your foot lays flush with the floor. Tuck your palms under the lower back arch. Lift your shoulders and head off the ground, but do not bend your back. Pause briefly then lower back slowly to the start position. Not only will you feel this isolating your abdominal muscles it will also heal any lower back pain.

Side Crunch

Targets: Core

An iron set of abs will help you deliver more power into each paddle stroke. As with all bodyweight exercises, it is important to remain consistent; quality is key and not quantity. The side crunch will also help maintain your spine.

Lay straight on your right-hand side, keep your feet together. Place the right hand on your chest and the left round the back of your head. Aligning your body ready for the next movement, crunch the torso sideways toward the hip to create a ‘V’ shape just above the waistline.


Targets: Core

Balance and putting the power down starts in the legs, then moves onto the hips as the body rotates for digging into the water and performing snappy turns. This exercise will toughen up the hips and abs.

Start by laying on your left side and prop your body up on your left forearm and elbow. Remember to keep your legs straight and feet together.

Raise your hips towards the ceiling; it’s important to keep your body aligned. Pause for three seconds and then slowly lower your body back down.

As with all exercise, it is important to feed yourself with real high-quality nutrition and stay well hydrated. Remember, before worrying about reps, take the time to perfect the techniques as quality exercise over quantity will make the big difference in improvement and will reduce injury. Good luck!

Take a look at the canoes and kayaks for sale we have online so you can have the best gear when heading out on the water.

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