How to Physically Train for Standup Paddleboarding

standup paddleboarding training

We’ve all been there; we try out a new sport or hobby and realize that our bodies aren’t as adapted to the activity as we had initially thought. For some activities, the physical toll on your body can be greater than what you anticipated. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should give up. Instead, take the time to master your skill with this helpful guide.

paddleboard balancing

Standup paddleboarding takes one of the strongest tolls on your body. You have to effectively balance yourself on the board as the water moves unpredictably underneath you. Meanwhile, your shoulders and core push against the resistance of water with each stroke. Standup paddleboarding requires intense focus and stability to be done effectively. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do it. Standup paddleboarding can be one of the most enjoyable and relaxing hobbies once you get yourself accustomed to its effects on your body.

Whether you’re new to the sport or an expert, exercising in-between sessions ensures that you are always ready for the next trip. We’ve compiled a list of 11 exercises to better prepare you for the journey ahead of you. For those looking for help getting started with the water sport, here is a helpful guide to get you started with extra tips that anyone could benefit from.

Table of Contents:

preparing for standup paddleboarding

How to Prepare for Standup Paddleboarding

Standup paddleboarding requires some preparation to make sure that you and the people around you are safe at all times. Even if you’ve been enjoying this sport for a while, these tips are great reminders. Over time, you become accustomed to your methods and practices that you may forget some of the most basic and important rules.

Use a Leash

Having a leash may seem like an odd accessory to have with you. However, it is a great way to keep yourself from serious injury.

paddleboard leash

A leash also keeps your board connected to you at all times to prevent it from drifting away. After all, it is a flotation device, and losing it to the current would not be ideal. Leashes also help you when you are lost, tired, far from shore or trapped in a current. They make sure you will never be without your essential equipment.

If there is ever a circumstance where a wave knocks you off your board, the leash assists you in finding the board without difficulties. Depending on the severity of the waves or the amount of energy you have left, the board keeps you afloat and allows you to safely rest.

Paddle Correctly

When you first start paddleboarding, you might be tempted to use your arms to pull the paddle through the water. We’ve all seen other rowing sports use their arms and the bend of their elbows to push through the water. For standup paddleboarding, you do not want to do that. You will tire yourself out much quicker than you would appreciate.

Instead, each stroke will be facilitated by your shoulders and core muscles.

holding the paddle

Your arms simply have to hold the paddle. With each stroke, you want to rotate your shoulder and abdominals. 

Horizon Ahead

Standup paddleboarding is very similar to driving a car. You should never look at what’s in front of you while paddling. You will overcorrect yourself constantly and find it much harder to control and balance on the board. Don’t be afraid to look out onto the horizon. You’ll find yourself being able to balance much more efficiently.

11 exercises for standup paddleboarding

11 Exercises to Train for Standup Paddleboarding

As with all physically strenuous activities and sports, exercise is vital in reducing injury and building strength and endurance. With standup paddleboarding, the right exercises will allow you to travel further without fatiguing yourself and remain afloat and balanced for longer.

Remember that your shoulder and core muscles help with your paddle movements. They provide you with enough force and power to pull the paddle through the water. If you use the right muscles, you will find yourself moving further with each stroke and traveling long distances without needing to stop as often. 

You will also want exercises that toughen your lower body, such as your lower back, legs and glutes. These muscles are just as important as your shoulders and core.

building lower body strength

By building up the strength in your lower body, you will become more stable and balanced on your paddleboard, which means fewer falls and risks of injury.

The more you stand up paddleboard, the more you will notice over time that your legs are just as tired as your shoulders and abdominal muscles. As you paddle, your legs push against the surface of the water. They have to resist the buoyancy of the paddleboard, the movement of the water and adapt to the change in current.

When you go out on the water, you’re essentially working out your entire body, so you will want to focus on exercises that increase your strength and stamina to better prepare yourself. More specifically, you will want to focus on exercises that strengthen your shoulders, core, lower back and legs. Here are some great exercises to try that will get you in better shape for standup paddleboarding:

  • Paddle Squat
  • Squat Jump
  • Wall Squat
  • Push-ups
  • Plank
  • T-Plank
  • Walkout Plank
  • Superman Plank
  • Jumping Lunges
  • Single-Leg Deadlift
  • Tuck Jumps

You are free to pick and choose which exercises appeal to you the most. If you find several, alternate between each one as you do the recommended reps. Always make sure you have adequate room around you and are a safe distance away from others when attempting certain exercises.

Paddle Squat

Since you’ll be spending most of your time holding a paddle, there’s no better way to prepare your body than with an exercise that forces you to become acclimated to the weight of it. Not only will you build up your tolerance for the paddle, but you’ll also strengthen your legs and improve your balance. You can get away with doing a traditional squat, but paddle squats work most of the same muscle groups that you’ll use while paddleboarding.

Muscle Groups: Shoulders, biceps, triceps, abdominal, upper back, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and claves

Reps: 10-20, 3-4x

  1. With feet shoulder-width apart, grip a paddle evenly between your hands. If you do not have a paddle, you can use a barbell without weights attached.
  2. Hold it at waist height. The narrower the grip, the harder the exercise will be.
  3. Looking forward, keep your back, shoulders and neck as straight as possible. Focus on working your shoulders, but refrain from moving your back and neck.
  4. Pull the paddle upwards, over your head.
  5. As you lift the paddle, bend your knees until they are just slightly over the tips of your toes.
  6. As you stand back up, lower the paddle gently back to waist height.

Alternate Methods:

  • Instead of lifting the weight, you can rest it behind your back, over your shoulders, with your arms held in an “L” shape. You won’t have to worry about tiring your arms as quickly, and you will work your shoulders slightly more.
  • As you feel more comfortable with the exercise, you can alternate with how far apart your grip or stance is. Start with a wider stance and your grip closer together. 
  • Afterward, try the opposite method. Put your feet close together and your grip further apart.
  • Finally, the most challenging alternative method is keeping your feet and grip close together. This method will also give you extra practice with your balance.

Squat Jump

Squat jumps take the benefits of the squat and give it more muscles to work to improve your balance.

  1. From a standing position, lower yourself in the squat position.
  2. As you come back up, jump and reach your arms upward.
  3. When you come back down, return to the squat position.
  4. Repeat the process for 10-20 reps.

Wall Sit

Rather than being in a constant state of motion, wall sits will force your body to acclimate to the same position for an extended period. When you’re on the paddleboard, your lower body will remain in one position for most of the journey. Wall sits will prepare you for that situation and increase your endurance. With this exercise, the main focus is not the length of time squatting but the position you are in as you sit.

Muscle Groups: Glutes, hamstrings, quads and abdominals

Reps: 10-90 seconds, 3-4x

  1. Place your back flat against the wall with your feet width apart and about two feet from the wall. Your body should be at an angle.
  2. Slide your back down the length of the wall until your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle. Your knees should be above your ankles. Your arms should be resting at your side and your shoulders should be relaxed.
  3. Your body should now be in a position similar to a squat. Hold this position for as long as you can. Use the wall as support. You should feel your core muscles straining to keep the position.
  4. Hold the position for as long as you would prefer. When first starting with this exercise, begin with a low sit time and gradually work your way up to longer times.

Alternate Methods:

  • Some people may find this exercise slightly difficult when holding the position at a 90-degree angle. Instead, lower your body less, making a 45-degree angle or smaller.
  • To work your arms more, hold a paddle or bell bar without weights as you sit. You can either hold it at arm’s length in front of you or hold it closer to your body.

Push-up

Despite being the most generic and common type of exercise, push-ups are fast and easy to do almost anywhere. This exercise fortifies the specific muscles that you will use to paddle through the water. 

Muscle Groups: Shoulders, triceps, abdominals and chest

Reps: 10-20, 3-4x

  1. Start with your body in a plank position. Keep your palms under your shoulders and your neck neutral.
  2. Keeping your back flat, lower your body by bending your elbows. Try to angle your elbows behind you rather than to the side. 
  3. Lower yourself until your chest almost touches the ground. Sometimes, counting to three as your lower can help.
  4. Push yourself back up into the starting position. Maintain the plank position for several seconds, then lower back down.

Alternate Methods:

  • Depending on your strength, you may find it difficult at first to start in the planking position. If so, start with your knees resting on the ground and give yourself a maximum back extension.
  • For an extra challenge, put your hands out wider than your shoulders. Your torso, arms, and elbows should make a “T” shape as you lower yourself down.
  • The further down you go, the more you work your muscles. To increase the distance and improve your stability, rest your feet on a bench, box or another sturdy object that lifts you higher.

Planks

Planks are extremely simple to perform and provide numerous benefits to your health, stability and strength. This exercise comes in a variety of different methods that work on other muscle groups.

Reps: 10-60 seconds, 3-4x

  1. Planks are more easily done with a mat or other stable and padded item underneath for extra comfort.
  2. Keep your body extended along the length of the floor.
  3. Prop yourself up on your arms or forearms, whichever you feel most comfortable with.
  4. Hold the position for 10 seconds. Clench your glutes and pull your stomach inwards.
  5. Slowly lower yourself back to the ground.
  6. Once you get acclimated to the 10 seconds, increase the time for up to 60 seconds.

Alternate Methods:

  • Alternate between your forearm and your palms in between each rep.
  • Once you are in your plank position, lift one leg off the ground. Alternate the leg between reps.

T-Plank

T-planks provide extra focus on your core muscles and balance. As you perform the t-plank, you should feel your abdominal muscles and lower back stretch with each movement.

  1. From the plank position with palms down, lift your right arm over your head as you turn your body in the direction of the arm you lifted.
  2. You should be balancing on your left hand and left foot. Your body should make a “T” as you rotate. 
  3. Hold the position for 1-60 seconds.
  4. Gradually return to the plank position.
  5. Repeat the steps alternating which side you support yourself with. Alternatively, you can do multiple reps on one side before doing the same on the other.

Plank Walkouts

Plank walkouts are just like they sound. Instead of starting on the ground and lifting yourself, you begin standing and “walk” into the plank position.

  1. From the standing position, bend down and touch the floor.
  2. Using your arms as support, walk forward until your body makes a triangular shape.
  3. From there, walk your feet backward until you are in the planking position.
  4. Hold the pose for 10-60 seconds.
  5. Walk your feet back until you make the triangle shape.
  6. Without falling, move your hands backward until you can freely stand up.
  7. Repeat 3-4x.

Superman Plank

Superman planks will give you the most benefit for your core and balance. You will have to hold the planking position using only one arm and one leg as support. You may find yourself wobbling more with this plank style than others, but it will be extremely beneficial for maintaining your balance while paddleboarding.

  1. From the plank position with your palms down, raise your right arm and left leg so that you are balancing on your left hand and right foot.
  2. Remain balanced and hold the position for 10-60 seconds.
  3. Alternate your leg and arm. Your left arm and right leg should now be in the air.

Jumping Lunges

Jumping lunges work very similarly to traditional lunges, but you jump between each leg instead of returning to the standing position. This exercise is another great one for balance. Since you are jumping, you need to be sure that you land safely without falling. Your focus may transition between the jump and lunge. Eventually, the jumping and balancing will become habitual.

Muscle Groups: Hamstrings, glutes, calves and quads.

Reps: 10-20, 3-4x

  1. Starting from a standing position, take a step forward with your left leg and bend both knees. Your left knee should be pointing up and out while your right knee aims downward.
  2. Keep your left knee extended no further than your toes.
  3. When you return to the standing position, jump upwards.
  4. Repeat the lunge on the opposite side, with your right leg forward.
  5. Return to the standing position and jump.

Single-Leg Deadlift

One of the best exercises for improving your endurance is the single-leg deadlift. Having your body stretched outward as you stand on one leg will test the limits of your stability. Single-leg deadlifts require your complete focus and concentration to ensure proper form and balance.

Muscle Groups: Hamstrings, glutes, ankles and core.

Reps: 10-20 reps, 3-4x

  1. From a standing position, shift your weight to your left leg. Your knee should slightly bend for better support.
  2. With your arms stretched out over your head, lean your upper body forward and your right leg backward.
  3. Your body should make a “T” shape and be almost parallel with the floor.
  4. Gradually return to the standing position.
  5. Switch legs.

Alternate Methods:

  • Instead of having your arms outward, make them perpendicular to the floor, almost as if you are trying to touch your toes.
  • If you feel more comfortable with your abilities, hold the pose for an extended period.
  • Incorporate weights for added resistance.

Tuck Jumps

This exercise might be the most simple one on this list because it is nothing more than just jumping upwards while bringing your knees as high as you can. Tuck jumps might seem ridiculous at first, but the idea is to focus on your balance and stability as you come back down. Each jump also provides an excellent cardio workout which helps to increase your overall stamina.

Muscle Groups: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves and abdominals.

Reps: 10-15 jumps, 3-4x

  1. From a standing position with your back straight and arms at your side, jump upwards.
  2. Bring your knees up until they are parallel with the floor. Move your arms out in front of you.
  3. As you come back down, try to land in the same spot.

EZ Dock Makes Standup PaddleBoarding Easier

Preparing your body and mind for the fun and thrill of standup paddleboarding is no easy task. Once you are out on the water, your body will be dealing with difficult challenges as you work to steady yourself and paddle through the water.

exercise for paddleboarding

Exercise can make your time on the water simpler and smoother. Placing importance on your fitness will let you travel further and spend more time enjoying your physical activities.

That being said, one of the more intimidating parts of standup paddleboarding is getting onto the board and beginning your journey. Until you find an easy technique for getting on your paddleboard, let EZ Dock make the process just a little more straightforward. We offer excellent slip-resistant, heat-resistant and splinter-free floating docks to make your boarding of the paddleboard all the easier.

EZ Dock Paddleboards

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