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J-Leans: Strength & Balance Exercise

Tony Kramer continues the series of specific exercises for paddlers, but with a twist (or should we say ball). For the next exercise segments, you'll be encouraged to use the popular Pilates Ball to practice your balance.

When learning the art of sea kayaking, the main focus for beginners and novice paddlers is the ability to maintain balance while in the kayak. For most paddlers', just starting out in the sport, this can feel a lot like walking on a tight wire hundreds of feet off the ground. Even an advanced paddler, after a long season off the water, may feel a little "tippy" their first day back in the boat.

Previously, we looked at strengthening your Forward Stroke using the pilates ball. This exercise will train the abs for good form when doing J leans. While doing this routine, squeeze your abs to hold the position. Go for the burn!

Pilates Ball & J-Leans: Balance & Ab Training

Begin by sitting on top of the pilates ball (inflate the ball so it is very firm) with a paddle, broom stick or long dowel in hand.

  • Start the exercise with both feet about shoulder width apart for balance.
  • Place the paddle across the top chest just above the collar bone.
  • Place the paddle in a "high brace" position keeping the elbows tucked close to the body.
  • On your bracing side (where the paddle meets the water),make the letter J with your body. Raise the hip by using the oblique muscles of the abs. Keep the head upright and shoulders level.
  • Hold this position for five seconds.
  • Swap sides by switching your "high brace" and raising the hip.
  • While changing sides, try to keep your head and shoulders still.
  • Hold this position for five seconds and then go back to the other side.

Do this ten times, holding your J lean for five seconds on each turn.


Tony Kramer is the founder of The Sea Kayaker which was 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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