SUP Fitness; “An ambition to stray far from grey, disenchanting and monotonous indoor exercise”
Almost everyone who has ever heard of SUP has also heard that it’s good for your ‘core.’ Well, they are right and yes, it is. Very good in fact! It’s important though that if you are to use SUP for core fitness and really make the most of it, you are trained by an instructor how to properly engage your core whilst you paddle, or at the very least understand how to train yourself in order minimise the risk of injury, maintain your safety and maximise the amount of fun and productivity to your fitness session.
Almost every stand-up paddleboarder out there is either paddling on a basic introductory lesson or with no training at all. Those without any training are easily recognisable because they are often paddling bolt upright using almost entirely arm power. I call those people the 80:20’s. It’s not a derogatory term at all, it just refers to a person who uses 80% arm power to 20% core which by the way is totally fine for a leisurely paddle around the bay whilst reeling off your juicy gossip to your SUP buddy. However, I’m here now to enlighten those of you who perhaps do not know that there is a very specific mechanical action to your paddling that requires body rotation, leverage and total core stability.
When you paddle with the understanding that you use your entire body to transfer power down from the handle of your paddle, through the length of the paddle shaft, into the blade and finally into the water, your stand up paddleboarding experience will become revolutionised. Applying this knowledge to your stroke will enable you to paddle with at least 50% more power and will transform your 5km paddle trip around the bay into a 15km coastal adventure almost overnight. Everything will feel so much less stressful on your shoulders and arms as you finally gain the ability to engage your entire body of muscles which will initiate new found power as you propel yourself around your water way with grace and purpose.
I’m going to level with you though guys and girls… Realistically you would have to read an entire book on how to paddle if you are to try and digest the entire instruction by reading, mostly because there are of course so many variables that effect your ability to paddle. Everything from the type of equipment you are using, the environment in which you are paddling and of course your own physiology. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to write a book so I am going to just offer you the base understanding of the essential principles. In the end, teaching you how to paddle efficiently and with good skill and technique is a very personal thing. Like any other sport, if you want to be stronger, faster and improve your stamina, you will need some basic coaching to get you going. The basics are not difficult to master but as you progress your skills you will need to train and you will need to be focused. When it all clicks into place you’ll never look back and the traditional forms of gym based exercise will wither into a pale, unremarkable memory.
20:80, this is our primary objective as a core fitness paddler. That’s 20% arm power and 80% coming from the rest of your body. Even if you have arms like the Hulk, they are still much more efficient when supported by the larger muscles throughout the rest of your body. When paddling I like to think of my arms mostly as the vehicles to hold onto my paddle. The amount of exercise my arms do will rely on everything I do with the rest of my body once I have inserted my entire blade into the water and developed a solid catch or anchor point from which I can pull. To elaborate just a little, the blade is designed to ‘catch’ water in the pocket which is the area (or side) of the blade that you look at before committing it to the water. Once the blade is fully submerged, you may then begin to squeeze and compress the water that is caught in the pocket. That compression will then transfer into forward propulsion (movement under power). The more efficiently you catch and compress the water with the paddle, combined with the amount of power you can generate by driving load down though the paddle into that blade and finally pulling through the shaft as you deliver rotation to your stroke, the faster you will go and the more anaerobic your exercise will become.
Before you can deliver any power to your arms and torso, you must fully stabilise you body from the waist down. You should ensure that your feet are no more than shoulder width distance apart and are in a slightly engaged stance (one foot half way in front of the other) and stood right over the ‘sweet-spot’ of your board so that it maintains a nice flat waterline when you power up. Your toes should be griping into the deck pad and you should crunch your powerful leg muscles into action so that they become fully stabilised in time for the full power phase. Once stabilised, you will then power up your Glutes, Traps and Lats before simultaneously driving power down from your top hand using your Triceps, Deltoids and Abdominals before finally delivering a burst of progressive power through a body rotation that uses your Obliques, your Lats your Pectorals, your Glutes, Hamstrings and Calves.
Hopefully, this explanation sparks some clarity on the matter of the 80:20’s paddler. It is clear to see that in 10 of the most prevalent muscle groups we use whilst stand up paddleboarding, just 2 groups (your Triceps and Deltoids) deliver your arm power to paddle.
So what are your stats?
If you would like to improve your paddle stroke for SUP Fitness, Safety or just because you want to become a more efficient and accomplished paddler, why not take a look at WeSUP’s all new SUP Academy. You can purchase any number of our modular courses to get paddling exactly how you want to paddle. Courses start from as little as £25 for a 60minute introductory group lesson and £60 for the 90minute private lesson. All courses include a competency award certificate and inclusion into our national data base where you can prove to other centres across the country that you have the skills to paddle