Learning to roll is an essential skill for any kayaker; unfortunately, most people find it tough to learn anything when they are suspended upside down in water. Luckily, there are exercises you can do on dry land that will strengthen the muscles involved in the kayak rolling maneuver.
Plank position, taught in both yoga and Pilates classes, strengthens the abdominal muscles, enabling you to develop the core body stability you need for a kayak roll. Start on all fours, then extend one leg at a time back behind you so both legs are straight and your toes curl into the floor. Keep your face pointed at the floor, so the crown of your head reaches toward one wall of the room while your legs and heels resist toward the opposite wall. Hold your body taut between feet and head so that your hips do not sag toward the floor or lift upward.
This yoga pose helps you develop the limberness needed for rolling your kayak. Begin by standing with feet hip distance apart, then step your left foot backward about the length of your inseam, keeping both legs straight and the hips facing forward. Inhale and raise your arms toward the ceiling, then exhale and fold forward and across the body, reaching your left arm to your right outer thigh or calf, and your right arm toward the ceiling. Gaze toward your right hand. See if you can comfortably remain in this position for five to 10 breaths, then inhale and slowly raise the upper body. Step the left foot back parallel to the right. Then step the right foot back and repeat the pose to this side.
Shoulder Stand and Plow Pose
Rest on the floor near a wall so your body forms an L shape, legs up and torso on the floor. Try to bring your buttocks in close to the wall. Bend your knees so your feet are on the wall and use your legs to help you lift your torso off the floor all the way to your shoulders. Bend your elbows, trying to point them to the wall rather than out to the sides, and use your palms to support your rib cage. Activate your abdominal muscles to help you lift your feet closer to the ceiling.
If you feel comfortable in this shoulder stand position, slowly lower your feet to the floor behind your head to come to Plow. Rest here for five to 10 breaths, then use your core strength to raise your legs back toward the ceiling. When you feel ready, return your feet to the wall and slowly lower your rib cage and buttocks to the floor. Roll slowly with bent knees to your right side and lift yourself very slowly to a seated position.
Exercise Ball Twist
For this exercise, you need an exercise ball and a dowel slightly wider than your shoulders. Sit on the ball directly in front of a wall so that with your legs bent your toes can easily curl against the lower edge of the wall, keeping your heels on the floor. Hold the dowel in both hands as you would hold your kayak paddle. Twist your body to one side of the ball and fold forward, using your feet to maintain stability. Keeping your chest against the ball, move so that your head points toward the opposite wall from where your feet continue to stabilize you. Then rotate your torso so that your side turns to the ball and one elbow is above your face. Inhale and come up to a seated position with your upper body turned sideways in relation to the wall you faced at the beginning, tilting slightly in to the wall. Repeat to the other side.