Getting out on the water in a dragon boat is a fun fitness option for anyone, but dragon boat racing often attracts elite athletes who are serious about winning races. According to a study published in the January 2013 issue of the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," a specialized upper body workout is the key to improving performance during dragon boat racing. Include in your workout routine exercises to develop your back, shoulders, chest and arms as a means of super charging each phase of your dragon boat stroke.
Pull Phase: Back Muscles
The muscles in your back -- the erector spinae and rhomboideus -- play a role in the pull phase of your dragon boat stroke, so incorporate exercises to strengthen these muscles. A good upper body workout for dragon boat racing might include the one arm dumbbell row, the bench row, wide grip front pull-downs, one arm cable rows, straight arm pull-downs and close grip chin-ups. This last exercise is done by positioning the hands -- knuckles pointed away from your body -- approximately six inches apart on a chin-up bar. Hang from the bar, arms straight, and cross your legs below you. Bend your elbows and contract the muscles of your back and arms to bring your chin to the bar. Lower yourself down. Repeat as many times as you can for a minute. Strong muscles in your upper back will allow you to move a maximum amount of water during the pull phase of your stroke.
Catch Phase: Shoulders
You need to grab as much water as possible with the blade of your dragon boat paddle during the catch phase of your stroke, and strong shoulders help you accomplish that. A good upper body workout for dragon boat racing targets the shoulder muscles -- the trapezius, as well as the anterior, middle and posterior deltoids -- with exercises such as the dumbbell overhead press, upright row, bent over lateral dumbbell raise, upright row, upright shrug and dumbbell shrug. To do the latter exercise, stand upright with feet positioned shoulder-width apart. Pick up a dumbbell in each hand, the weight of which depends on your current strength and strength goals. Slowly contract the muscles in your shoulders and raise your shoulders to your ears. Release and repeat for the appropriate number of repetitions.
Catch Phase: Chest
An open chest position provides good form for your dragon boat stroke at the catch position. Strong chest muscles, particularly the pectoralis major, allow you to properly execute the catch. Include the flat dumbbell flye, the flat dumbbell press and the incline dumbbell press in your upper body workout to improve dragon boat racing performance. To execute the incline dumbbell press, position a weight training bench at a 45-degree angle. With a dumbbell in each hand, lie on your back on the bench, head pointed up. Position the dumbbells shoulder-width apart, so that the side of each dumbbell touches your shoulder cap. Rotate your hands so that your palms point away from your head. Slowly contract your chest muscles and push the dumbbells toward the ceiling. Straighten your arms, pause, and return the dumbbells to your shoulders. Repeat for the appropriate number of repetitions.
Catch Phase: Arms
Your arms do not do a great deal of work during the dragon boat stroke, but your biceps and triceps are primarily involved in the catch phase. Strengthen these upper body muscles for best performance during dragon boat racing. A good workout for these muscles may include the alternating standing dumbbell curl, dumbbell kickback, preacher curl, reverse curl, cable press down, overhead dumbbell extension and dumbbell curl. The latter exercise is performed by standing upright with your feet positioned shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Allow your arms to fall to the side and rotate your hands so your palms are forward. The side of the dumbbells should touch each thigh. Bend your elbows and contract your biceps, bringing the dumbbells toward your shoulders. Pause at the top of the contraction and gently lower the dumbbells to your thighs. Repeat for the appropriate number of repetitions.
Nicki Wolf has been writing health and human interest articles since 1986. Her work has been published at various cooking and nutrition websites. Wolf has an extensive background in medical/nutrition writing and online content development in the nonprofit arena. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Temple University.