There are many ways to paddle through the water. You can paddle like a dog or with water wings. But there are three main sports that use an actual paddle -- you can canoe, kayak or stand-up paddle board, also known as SUP. There are plenty of ab exercises you can do, especially when weather keeps you indoors, to prepare to skim across the water faster and further. But participating in a paddle sport itself offers some of the best exercise for your abs. "For my money, it's the best total body workout you can get," SUP advocate and triathlete David Krause told the "Wall Street Journal." Paddling a canoe or kayak strengthens your abs as well.
Regular Ab Exercises
A variety of crunches and other standard ab and core exercises will prepare you for paddling season. Paddling.net recommends knee hangs and bench crunches as part of a full-body routine that should be done three days per week for maximum effectiveness. Holding a paddle overhead with feet slightly wider than shoulder level, raise one knee and hip and hold the position. This exercise strengthens the oblique muscles on the sides of the ab muscles. Bench crunches develop ab strength and tone as well as balance. Lie on a bench with your hips at the very end. With your knees and feet together, raise your shoulders and legs at the same time and crunch your chest toward your knees. The Harvard Health Publications recommend standard planks, squats and lunges for core and ab strength.
The Sea Kayak website offers a series of Pilates exercises to strengthen your abs and other core muscles. Other types of paddlers can benefit from these routines as well. They include a number of exercises with a ball, such as a shoulder bridge. Lie with your knees bent at 90 degrees and the soles of your feet on an exercise ball. Lift your hips into the air and place your hands on your back while keeping your neck, shoulders and upper arms on the ground without arching the spine. Raise one leg into the air at a time.
Seated Core Exercises
Since you paddle a kayak or canoe while seated -- unless you're a complete nonconformist or didn't read the instruction manual -- core exercises done in a sitting position operate as sport-specific. The Wilderness Sports Conditioning website offers four seated core exercises to strengthen the abs and core. These exercises can be done anywhere, whether you are in the office, waiting out a traffic jam or fidgeting in an airplane seat. For example, a reclining curl can be done by scooting forward so your butt and back are toward the edge of the seat. Slowly lean your shoulders and torso back as far as you can or until your head touches the back of the chair. Hold the crunch briefly and then return to the starting position.
All of these ab exercises are appropriate for both women and men. Although strong abs are essential, Harvard Health Publications stresses that core strength also requires strong bones, joints and muscles -- such as the obliques, glutes and back muscles -- in the trunk area that connects your upper and lower body. Core strength gives you stability, flexibility, power and balance whether you are surfing the waves on an SUP or playing soccer or tennis. Proper form is essential in deriving the optimal benefits from ab and core exercises, as well as in protecting yourself from injury. So you might want to consult with a physical therapist before you start an ab and core program.
- The Wall Street Journal: Surf's Up: The Rise of Stand-Up Paddleboards
- Paddling.net: Abdominal Workout for Paddlers
- Sea Kayak Chesapeake Bay: Core Exercises for Kayakers
- Harvard Health Publications: Strengthening Your Core: Right and Wrong Ways to Do Lunges, Squats and Planks
- Wilderness Sports Conditioning: Seated Core Exercises
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.