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Shoulder Exercises for Paddlers

This quick exercise routine targets the shoulder muscles, essential for all paddling maneuvers. It is recommended to do this three days a week alongside different exercises to target other muscle groups. This shoulder exercise routine is designed to 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.

Recommended Equipment

Front Raises - Isolation (strength, muscle tone)

Muscles Used: Front Deltoids
Used In: Forward Strokes, loading and lifting.
Sets: 3
Reps: 20

Stand with the feet about shoulder width apart and dumbbells down to the side.
The palms should be facing down through out the exercise.

Raise the weight to shoulder height.
Concentrate on form and don't throw the dumbbell into position by rocking the upper torso.

Lower the dumbbell, and then repeat with the other arm.
Alternate sides and count both sides as one full set.

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

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

Rotator Cuff- Islolation (overall shoulder protection)

Muscles Used: Rotator Cuff, Rear Deltoids
Used In: All paddling maneuvers
Sets: 3
Reps: 20

Rotator cuff damage is the main injury associated with the sport of kayaking. This exercise will help maintain strength and range of motion to protect the rotator cuff against damage.

Use a resistance band (as shown) or very lite weight using a pulley cross over machine!

Standing upright, place the band or pulley at elbow height. Alternate shoulders one at a time.
Keeping the elbow at the side, rotate the upper arm in toward the body.

Now pull the weight by rotating the upper arm out and away from the body.
Make an effort to keep the elbow from traveling up and out, away from the hip. Keep it tucked close to the torso.

Rotator Cuff- Isolation (overall shoulder protection)

Muscles Used: Rotator Cuff, Rear Deltoids
Used In: All paddling maneuvers
Sets: 3
Reps: 20

This is an alternate exercise to work the shoulders and rotator cuff. The elbow is held high with the upper arm horizontal and the rotation of the arm is up and back.

Attach the resistance band to a bench or solid, stable object, about six inches off the ground. You can also place the opposite handle under your foot.

Begin with the forearm down and forward. Keep the elbow bent at 90-degrees.

Now, rotate the upper arm back while pulling on the band. Throughout the exercise, be sure to keep the upper arm horizontal to the floor.


These great shoulder 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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