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Arm Exercises for Paddlers

This exercise routine specifically targets the arms, and can be completed as part of a full body routine to be done three days a week. It's a great routine for athletes in almost any sport. For the paddler, it will build endurance, muscle, balance and coordination.

Perform each exercise by doing three sets of twenty reps. Rest only long enough, between each set, to catch your breath. No longer than two minutes between sets. If you feel out of breath and need a longer rest break, lower the weight used until you can do each set with a thirty second to one minute rest.

Last time we focused on the shoulders, and now, we'll focus on exercises to build up the arms.

Recommended Equipment

Tricep Pushdown - Isolation (strength, muscle tone)

Muscles Used: Triceps
Used In: Forward Strokes
Sets: 3
Reps: 20

The tricep pushdown will work the head of the triceps on the back of the upper arms. This exercise can also be done holding the elbow out from the body and with a narrow grip on the handle.
Doing pushdowns in this manner will work the outer head of the tricep. The outer head is the muscle that runs down the outside of the upper arm, from the shoulder to the elbow.

For our routine we will be working the main tricep brachii.

Start with the elbows down and tucked close to the body. Keep your hands on the bar about shoulder width apart.

Push the bar down by squeezing the triceps. As you bring the bar back up to the starting position, keep your triceps flexed. If you are using correct form, you will feel your arms swell slightly. This is the "pump" every body builder works for. It's the blood being pumped to the muscle. Go for that "pump"!

*This exercise can also be completed using resistance bands anchored to a door.

50 years of lightweight, maneuverable, high-performing kayaks.

Check out this interview with Tom Keane, Eddyline Kayaks Co-Owner, on their journey!

Tricep Dips - Isolation (strength, balance, muscle tone)

Muscles Used: Triceps
Used In: Forward Strokes, Entry and Exit from the kayak
Sets: 3
Reps: 20

This exercise will use only the weight of the upper body but is a great way to strengthen the triceps.

Begin by placing two benches or chairs about legs length apart. Sitting on one bench, place the hands next to the hips, fingers forward and palms down. Put the feet up on the next bench.

Lift yourself off the bench and lower your body until you are just above the floor. The upper arms should be just about horizontal to the floor.

Squeeze the triceps and push back up to the starting position. Keep the hips and your butt close to the bench as you do this exercise. Do not over extend!


Seated Bicep Curls - Isolation (strength, muscle tone)

Muscles Used: Biceps
Used In: Forward Strokes, loading & lifting.
Sets: 3
Reps: 20

The seated bicep curl using the "Preacher Seat", found in most health clubs, will help isolate the biceps and keep your form clean.
Doing biceps after tricep training keeps the blood flowing into the upper arms. This helps to get that "pump" we spoke of earlier.

Begin by adjusting the seat so the shoulders are just above the elbow pad. Keep the elbows shoulder width apart and straight on the pad.

Pull the handle to your forehead by flexing the biceps. Then, slowly lower the weight while keeping the biceps flexed.

Go for the pump!


Dumbbell Curls - Isolation (strength, muscle tone)

Muscles Used: Biceps
Used In: Forward Strokes, loading & lifting.
Sets: 3
Reps: 20

Dumbbell curls can be done standing (preferred) or seated.

Begin with the dumbbells down and arms at your side, palms in.

Curl the weight with one arm, flexing the bicep. As you curl the weight, rotate the forearm until the palms are facing the shoulder. Lower the dumbbell, keeping the bicep flexed.

Now, alternate arms keeping the same form. To keep the pump in your triceps, try flexing the triceps once the dumbbell has been lowered to the side and the arm is straight.


These great arm exercises, when added to your full body routine will help build muscle and stamina.



Tony Kramer is the founder of The Sea Kayaker which is a kayak-touring outfitter serving Atlanta, Georgia and Eastern Shore of the Mobile Bay area. They offer scheduled and custom, guided, sea kayak tours and instruction.
He is also known for his work with Walter Muellenhagen on their "How To" home improvement series: "Hands On" and "Remodeling and Decorating Today." Both shows air on HGTV and DIY. Tony takes this same "How To" approach to his kayak instruction and tours. As an instructor, his experience is based on over seventeen years of open ocean touring and BCU training.


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