How to Train for Kayaking

During this video we'll do a quick demo of 8 exercises and lay out a basic training plan for you to improve your kayak performance and minimize injury.

Hi I'm dr. Sam a PT here with REI co-op and with the help of Anna we're gonna go through some cross training exercises for kayaking with you. It's really important to cross train for kayaking to try and prevent injury and help you feel nice and strong while you're paddling out there for kayaking. 

The exercises we'll do are:

  • Open book 
  • Skater with uppercut 
  • Kneeling chop 
  • Kneeling lift 
  • Single leg squat and row 
  • Pull down 
  • Crunch and twist 
  • Book grab 

during this video we'll do a quick demo of each exercise and lay out a basic training plan for you. Remember before starting any exercise to consult your doctor or physical therapist as needed.

Open Book

Before we really get into these dynamic rotational movements it's a good idea to warm up that rotation. So here Anna's gonna lay on her side, knees bent to 90 and thinking about as she opens her arm up she's gonna turn her head with her. So really trying to get a nice stretch through your back. In that arm only go as far as you feel comfortable. A nice stretch is what you should feel nothing painful. Try to see if you can get 20 so that we feel nice and warmed up before all these other exercises.

Skater With Uppercut

A great full body workout to incorporate a little bit of cardio while you work on balance and some of that rotational power is the skater with uppercut. So as Anna gets ready she's really making sure that as she lands her knee are not wobbling or going too far over her toe. She's staying nice and tall as she really comes through with that uppercut. A great way to make it easier is that she comes over she's just going to do a step instead of a jump. Do your best to do 15 each direction.

Kneeling Chopped 

As you position yourself for the kneeling chop just think about having that knee, hip and foot all in a nice line, almost like making a box there with your front leg and your back leg, and then as you pull trying to not let that knee wobble and keeping those arms nice and straight. So Anna's doing a great job of turning through her trunk here and moving that resistance. Try to do 15 each side for one set and if you'd like to modify it you can make it a little bit harder by moving away from that point of anchor, choking up that band or by moving closer to it. As you do all these exercises don't forget to breathe.

Kneeling Lift 

As you set up for the kneeling lift, you want to think about keeping your hip, knee and ankle in a good line almost like you're making a box there with your front leg. And then as you start to do the motion really turning through your trunk and keeping that leg in front nice and still. Anna is doing a great job here. You're gonna shoot for doing 15 repetitions on each side for one set. As you go through it don't forget to breathe. To modify this exercise you can move away from that point of anchor to make that band a little bit tighter or you can move closer to the point of anchor to make it a little bit lighter shooting for a medium resistance.

Single Leg Squat And Row

To really start to work on that trunk control and build up that nice power that you need during a stroke, this exercise is a great way to work on both endurance of those lower body muscles the longer you're in that seat and then of course trying to generate that power and control through the trunk. As you see here Anna is not twisting and turning as she does that row and keeping that knee in a good position not extending too far over her toe. Try to do 15 on each side if you can. To make it a little bit easier Anna's gonna stay in this kickstand position to feel nice and stable. 


A great way to work on that endurance and strength of your lats is to do a pulldown exercise. Here Anna’s gonna make sure that as she's in that hip hinged position, she's keeping her back nice and straight, not wobbling trying to really generate that force through her lat as she pulls that band down. This is gonna be great to give you some power through that stroke. Anna’s only gonna do a few on each side for us but see if you can do about 15 on each side. To make it a little bit easier Anna might move closer to the point of anchor so that way the resistance is a bit lighter or to make it harder she might move back away from it to make that band tighter.

Crunch And Twist 

With the crunch and twist here we're just gonna really focus more on that endurance component of those abdominal muscles. As Anna crunches up she's doing a great job here to keep those inner neck muscles engaged and really leading the motion with her abs not yanking that neck forward. See if you can do about 15 to 20 each direction. To make it a little bit easier Anna's just gonna focus on more of the twist and not having to bring her body up so high. 

Book Grab

Okay here Anna is holding onto that book for 10 seconds before she switches to the other hand making sure that she's still staying nice and tall and thinking about her posture. If you wanted to make this easier I would say getting a smaller book or here Anna is gonna show you to do a little grip walk. If you're able to do about 15 holds of 10 seconds that would be great.

Now that you've gone through those exercises once take a little break, maybe a couple of minutes and run back through them two to three more times. When you're thinking about your week try to do these two to three times incorporating some rest days of course and some other cardio. The more that you do these exercises, the more confident you should feel out on the water to go longer and have less shoulder and back pain. Have fun out there!

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