Sea kayakers soon realize that one of the more efficient ways to paddle is from the core – that muscle group which includes the abs, obliques, hips, lower back and lats – in other words that muscle group which Olympic flatwater k-1 paddlers and wing-paddle users like Oskar Chalupsky and Brent Reitz use to propel their kayaks with smooth, graceful power. Strengthen your core and train yourself to use torso rotation when you paddle you’ll paddle faster and further and with increased power and control
First, think less about your arms and shoulders and more about your abs, hips, lats and glutes.
While separately these muscles may seem to have little to do with kayaking consider that, collectively, they create more power than your arms and shoulders alone.
Here’s how to strengthen your core, as demonstrated by Australia’s Mike Harb, an internationally-ranked athlete.
Seated Medicine Ball Twists
Start with seated medicine ball twists ( photos 1 and 2). Seated medicine ball twists strengthen and prepare the core (specifically the obliques (hips) and abs for more challenging drills to follow.
Seated on the floor, grasp the medicine ball and twist from side to side. Place the ball on the floor with each twist to create a range of motion which rotates your torso.
Do three sets of ten reps, and rogress to a heavier medicine ball when your core grows stronger. To make the drill more challenging, lift your feet off the floor.
If you don’t have a medicine ball a soup can or telephone book will do.
Then lats are the long and tapered, flaring cobra’s hood-like muscles that extend from behind the armpits to the lower back. They help deliver core muscle power to your stroke.
To strengthen your lats, use dumbbell lat rows.
Grasp a pair of ten or fifteen-pound dumbbells (heavier if you are stronger) and bend forward at the waist so that your chest is parallel to the floor. Pull straight up to lift the dumbbells towards your your rib cage. You should feel a distinct pinch below and behind your armpits with each lift.
Begin with three sets of ten reps. Increase the weight of the dumbbells once your lats become stronger.
Medicine ball twisting lunge
An advanced core muscle group drill, the medicine ball twisting lunge (photos 3, 4, 5) not only engages the core but used a dynamic range of motion that engages the legs as well – and that’s helpful, as the legs are an overlooked source of paddling power. Also the drill’s range of torso motion, and the lift and dip of the arms, mimics the lift and dip of a powerful paddle stroke.
First ,prepare your legs for the demands of the drill by strengthening your quads and hamstrings for a few weeks with squats and leg extensions and curls.
Start with three sets of five reps of twisting lunges. Increase the weight of the ball, or the number of reps, as you become stronger. Return to feet together, ball overhead, between each lunge and twist.
For lack of a medicine ball use a phone book or can of soup.
Next time you find yourself grinding down some lengthy shore, lactic acid pooling in your arms and shoulders, ask yourself whether you are paddling from your core. Chances are you are not paddling from the core. By strengthening your core, you’ll find you can paddle miles faster and with less fatigue, and with a greater sense of control, especially if you rotate your torso. Keep mind the deep reserves of strength and stamina that lie within your core. Use the above drills to deepen those reserves and to bring them to the surface.