Paddle Healthy: Body Weight Workout

Riviera has teamed up with Ramsay Mead of Paddle Core Fitness to bring you a series of workouts to strengthen your paddle stroke. Ramsay is an exercise physiologist, master of fitness sciences, and a core trainer for 20 plus years. Ramsay is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as well as a registered yoga therapist and Holistic health practitioner. He brings his own unique style to the growing sport of standup. The sport of SUP, in Ramsay’s eyes, represents the ultimate core expression infusing posture, balance, endurance and stoke. Ramsay’s philosophy is to train smarter, not necessarily harder and get the results you seek; live in the balance and improve the glide.

Standup paddling offers an impressive fitness as well as a developed lean muscular physique. However, with any new sport, new angles are hit, dormant muscles are forced into a new role and the nervous system begins a whole new way of learning. A newcomer seeks preparation readiness and the novice looks to balance and overcome weakness while the elite map a define path to higher performance. All roads must lead to consistency, attaining personal satisfaction and the most rewarding and enjoyable process and few sports or activities offer such a rewarding experience as standup paddle boarding.

CORE Workout Level 1

Workout Notes:

  • Perform a minimum of 2x a week or every other day if you like
  • Perform exercises 1-6 in a circuit (one after another) up to 3x, starting with one circuit and build up
  • Rest period progression – start with a 45 second rest between; then when ready, drop to 30 seconds and then to 20 seconds, then none until the last exercise (#6) is done then rest 1 minute
  • Use a stop watch or timer such as the Gymboss
  • Stop if form deteriorates
  • Don’t forget to breathe
  • Take notes of your progress
  • Have fun and get fit!

Quadruped Core Exercise

The quadruped core exercise is a relatively simple, yet effective posture and balance exercise. It is often used as a diagnostic tool to determine whether someone has more balance on one side than the other. In the quadruped core exercise, you are simultaneously moving your opposite arm and leg. This technique is called cross-patterning, which is a popular movement pattern among many sports. As such, it is often used in athletic training and rehabilitation due to maintaining of a neutral spine. Here are steps in the exercise:

  1. Kneel on all fours.
  2. Inhale in preparation. As you exhale, activate your core by drawing your navel to your spine. Important: You should be able to do this without moving your spine.
  3. Check to see if your weight is evenly distributed. If possible, work in front of a mirror. Also, your shoulders should be relaxed.
  4. Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, simultaneously extend your right leg and your left arm. Inhale to return.
  5. Exhale, and extend your left leg and right arm. Inhale to return. Perform as many repetitions as you can without losing form.

Progression: Place a wooden dowel rod on the spine in line with head and perform without any movement of the dowel rod. As one progresses, add ankle weights to ankles and wrists.

Paddler Benefits:
SUP is heavy on the core and when looking to improve in paddle performance one needs to look at imbalances and compensations (often hidden) that leak energy. This is a ground level body balance learning movement exercise that emphasizes overcoming dysfunction to create optimal body core control.

Muscles Worked:
Spinal erectors, glutes/hamstrings, abs/delts

The PLANK/Abdominal Bridge

  1. Start by lying on your stomach on the floor and place your elbows directly underneath your shoulders with your forearms on the floor making parallel lines.
  2. Hold head carriage in neutral alignment, curl your toes under and press up into an elbow plank and start timing yourself
  3. Hold the plank for as long as you can
  4. Remember to breathe!

Strong – able to hold position for 60 seconds
Average – able to hold the position for 30-60 seconds
Needs Improvement – able to hold the position for less than 30 seconds means you need to strengthen your core

Plank Keys:

  • Pull your abs up toward the ceiling, but do not break at your hips
  • Really press through your elbows so you don’t collapse between your shoulder blades
  • Reach through your heels to activate the back of your legs and your booty (similar to weighting your heels when you do a squat)
  • Keep breathing throughout, never hold your breath, even when there is no movement

Paddler Benefits:
This isometric hold creates a stronger more stable core providing greater anchoring from the toes to the fingers that drive paddle force without loss of power and efficiency. It is a great exercise to activate deep core musclulature prior to exercise and long training paddles and helps protect the back by stabilizing the spine, preventing back injuries.

Muscle Groups Worked:
Primary Muscles:
ABS (Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Back Erector Spinae

Secondary Muscles:
Stabilizers, Trapezius, Rhomboids, Rotator Cuff, Anterior, medial and posterior delt pectorals, serratus, anterior, gluteus maximus, quadriceps, gastronemius

Side Plank

  1. Keep your waist lifted away from the floor, work those obliques
  2. Press down with your elbow to keep your shoulder away from your ear
  3. Reach through your top hand, this will make you feel lighter

Both exercises are fine to do if you have wrist problems since the weight is on your elbow, not your hands.

Try holding each plank for 30 seconds, and work up to holding them for one minute. If you feel any pain or discomfort just put something under your elbows to cushion them.

Paddler Benefits:
Just another great exercise conditioning the torso for heavy strokes, some therapist say the best exercise for back injury prevention

Muscles Worked:
Primary: Heavy on the transverse abdominis and obliques, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, abductors of the hip

Secondary: Gluteus maximus, quadriceps and hamstring group

Wall Posture Trainer

  1. Stand upright and straight with your back against a wall. Heels should make contact with the wall
  2. Next place arms in a 90 degree position, even with the shoulder line, as if you were doing a shoulder press(as displayed in the above image)
  3. Check in with your body alignment to make sure the heels, glutes and mid/upper back and shoulders all have contact with the wall. The arms and back of the hand as well as the back of the head should all be making contact with the wall
  4. While maintaining this position gently press the shoulders, elbows, forearms and back of the hand against the wall
  5. Stand and hold this position for as long as you can without pain
  6. When done, let arms relax at the side of the body and step away from the wall and feel the new upright alignment

Paddler Benefits:
Postural muscles enhance better endurance activities such as long paddles, requiring strong and stable posture. Energy is more readily distributed throughout the entire chain of the body

Muscles Worked:
The upper back, posterior chain, rear delt, rotator cuff, deep thoracic extensors

Wall Chair

  1. Stand against a wall, with your legs extended out. Your feet should be about 2 feet away from the wall. If you have knee pain or an injury, adjust your feet out so that when you bend and straighten, you feel no pain. You should not feel pain or discomfort in your knees at any time during this exercise.
  2. Inhale, then exhale and allow your abdomen to fall toward your back. Your gaze is straight in front of you, knees slightly bent and chin is slightly tucked. Try to keep the back of your head touching the wall.
  3. As you exhale, bend your knees to slide your back down the wall. Ideally, you will come to a level almost as low as sitting. But let the presence of any pain guide you as to how far down you go. Remain with comfortable knees! You will get a better workout for your seat muscles that way. Also, check to see that your knees do not come any more forward than your ankles. Try to line them up with the area between the big toe and the 2nd toe. This will protect them from injury.
  4. Check for knee pain again. If need be, adjust the distance between the wall and your feet to accommodate good knee alignment and the level of challenge to your muscles. In other words, it’s okay to take them more than 2 feet away from the wall, if it will help you accomplish the movement safely.
  5. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds. Breathe evenly. If this position feels challenging to your muscles, pay attention to your breath — that should help you get through your 5-10 seconds. Eventually, you can work up to holding the position for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Move slowly back to the start position. The workout for your seat muscles should intensify on the way back up.

Progression: Cross one leg over the other in the seated squat and hold

Paddler Benefit:
Standing up for a long distance requires strong muscular support around the joints and this isometric squat provides a direct effect without the harm and dysfunction of a leg press or other unnecessary equipment, in fact all you need is a wall. The only dual leg exercise I like that I like to train with. Safe and great for the health of the knee joint.

Muscles Worked:
Quads, glutes, hamstrings, muscles surrounding the knee, hip, and ankle


Targets the posterior core and lower back area.

  1. Lie down facing floor, extend arms so they are parallel to the floor.
  2. Lift arms, head, chest and legs off the floor. Avoid arching neck. Pause for three to five seconds.
  3. Return to starting position.
  4. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

Progression: Lift the alternate arm and leg while the other arm and leg keep contact on the floor and then switch

Paddler Benefits:
Even the SUPer is living in a spinal forward flexed spine society. The superman provides a means of balance and deep strengthening of the important postural alignment and this movement provides a deep reach in the catch

Muscles Worked:
Erector Spinae, Quadrelus Lumborum, Multifidi, transverse abdominis, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, deltoids

Single Leg Iso-Bridge

The single leg iso-bridge is considered an advanced Pilates exercise. It requires a lot of strength from the glutes, abdominals and hamstrings as they stabilize a lifted pelvis against the movement of a fully extended leg.

The skills and core strength to do single leg iso-bridge can be developed in stages. Start by practicing just the hip lift with both feet on the floor.

  1. Lie on your back in neutral spine, with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  2. Extend one leg straight up in the air and hold movement. Your arms are extended along your sides.
  3. Inhale: Press down through your feet to lengthen your spine and press your hips up.

You will come to a bridge position on your shoulders with your knees, hips and shoulders in one line. Your glutes, abs and hamstrings should be well engaged.

Progression: Start with 30 seconds and work to 60 seconds

Paddler Benefits:
The wave of the future in leg training is in single leg training. When a stroke is given the weight shifts from one leg to the other leg. Whether racing, surfing, or just paddling the result you’re seeking are found in functional single leg movements that have a high carry over to express the power throughout the whole body. This is a great glute developer and helps to shift the body weight transfer when paddling.

Muscles Worked:
Gluteus Maximus, hamstring group, as well as the abdominal and lower back area.

For more workouts and training tips check out previous Paddle Healthy features here.

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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