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Fitness for Paddlers

Physical fitness is one of the most important aspects of the performance of a canoer or kayaker. A skillful paddler will do OK, but without a good level of fitness they will not be a complete and successful paddler.

kayaker in actionkayaker in action

Paddlers need to be able to maintain a very high level of intensity throughout their race, requiring a good level of strength endurance, an aspect of anaerobic fitness, which relates to strength and power, and the ability to repeatedly exert a high force for the race duration. Core stability is important to help you maintain correct posture in the boat and to keep well balanced. Paddlers also need good flexibility, and it is advantageous to have a good arm reach. Finally, aerobic fitness is also an important physical fitness attribute for paddlers. See our discussion of the Fitness Components for paddling.

Training Fitness

Regular training is needed to maximize all areas of fitness. Here are some important factors to remember for an effective training program. Firstly you need a have a good plan. The training should be directed towards achieving specific goals and be individualized to maximize the physical capabilities of paddlers. In order to improve, the physical load needs to be increased over time as the paddlers get fitter and stronger. There is more information about training for sports.

Strength for Paddling

For paddlers, it is not the peak force that can be exerted that is most important, the best performances come from a smooth application of force over an extended time. Exercises in the weights gym such as the arm press and arm pull are suitable training exercises. These must be supplemented with training on a paddling ergo at high resistance settings and on the water with additional drag to increase strength in a sport-specific environment.

Endurance for Paddling

Endurance training is also important. It is important to supplement the on water training with gym training and other cross-training such as running and cycling. This will help maximize the training gains and also keep it interesting and maintain the motivation for the paddlers.

Core Strength and Balance for Paddlers

Core stability is important for kayakers and canoers to help maintain correct posture in the boat and to keep to body balanced. Core strength can be improved with abdominal curl exercises, and other exercises like the plank.

Assessing Fitness

Regular fitness assessments are required to monitor training improvements and to determine which areas are best to concentrate on. There are some good fitness tests that can target the specific attributes of a paddler, and other tests that are commonly used to assess overall fitness. Read more about fitness testing for paddling.

Event Differences

The physical demands will vary a little for paddlers in different disciplines (e.g. whitewater v flatwater sprint racing), and the training should reflect that. By using the result of fitness assessments, training can be targeted to the specific strengths and weaknesses of each athlete.

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