Gliding across the water in a kayak may sound like a fun way to tone the upper-body. So if you want to tone the arms or shoulders, go for it. But, if you want to exercise the breasts by kayaking, you may have a little problem. Exercising the breasts is dependent upon exercising one muscle in particular -- the pectoral muscles -- which kayaking doesn't work.
General Muscle Groups
A study published in the "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal” examined the muscles Olympic-caliber athletes used when kayaking. The results were that they mainly used the muscles in their arms, shoulders and back. The push action, which moves the paddle forward, was mainly accomplished by using the arms. The pull action, which moves the paddle backwards, used an elbow and wrist movement along with the shoulder and back muscles. No evidence of any usage of the chest muscles -- the pecs -- was evident.
Specific Muscles Used
Now, if you’re thinking “But, I’m not an Olympic-caliber athlete, so this doesn't apply to me;” actually, it does. You use the same large muscle groups as a pro-athlete to kayak, just as you would use the same leg muscles as a pro-athlete to run. The difference is that Olympic-caliber athletes use their muscles more efficiently. ABC Health and Wellbeing states that kayaking improves the strength of the arms, shoulders, back and even the legs. Gym Fitness Clubs.com specifically lists the muscles used as the rotator cuff -- the shoulder muscle -- the biceps, triceps, trapezius, and latissimus, or lats. The latter two are back muscles.
The pectoral muscles -- the chest muscles that lie beneath the breast tissue --actually need to be activated to exercise the breasts. The breasts themselves are mainly just connective tissue, ducts and fat. They don't have muscle tissue. So, the pecs are actually the only muscle that can be exercised to affect the breasts. Since kayaking doesn't works the pecs, however, it’s not an effective breast exercise. If you want to exercise the breasts in another way though, hope is not lost. Your best bet is to work the pectoral muscles from several different angles using several different movements.
Traditionally, the push-up has been a popular exercise for working the pecs because it’s really effective. As the body is lowered and raised during a pushup, it works the front of the pecs. Another effective exercise is the chest fly. Generally, any exercise that has the word "chest" or "press" in the name of the exercise will help you because it will work some part of the pectoral muscles. Chest presses, for example, work the front of the muscle. Chest flyes work the sides. The incline press, which is like a reverse pushup, works the front of the muscle as well. So, now you can exercise your breasts. You can use kayaking to exercise something else.
Based in Atlanta, Mya Passmore has been writing since 2010, covering health and business topics. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from George Washington University.