Exercises for Kayaking and Paddling – 10 Powerful Body Weight Exercises

Weight Lifter

Looking for off-season exercises for kayaking? Look no further. These 10 at home body weight exercises will help get you ready for the upcoming kayaking season.

Top 10 Body Weight Exercises for Kayaking and Paddling

Here are the top 10 Home Body Weight Exercises for Kayaking and Paddling. I tried to keep them simple and doable just about anywhere.

  • Plank
  • Weighted or Body Weight Crunches
  • Plank Push Up
  • Pike Push Up
  • Push Up
  • Decline Push Up
  • Dips
  • Farmers Walk
  • Squats
  • Lunges

So the weather is starting to turn for the better and the river or lake is calling your name, are you prepared? Let me guess, you’ve been hold up inside all winter just waiting for the cold to subside and the warmth to come. Sounds like me, and most of us living in the northern areas.

We’ll start off by talking about what muscle groups your body uses while kayaking. After we know which muscles we’re using, we can determine the best set of exercises that will benefit the body and make you a stronger, more efficient, paddler.

Check out this article describing the health benefits of kayaking or paddling.

Core / Abs

Your core, or abdominal, is key to giving you balance and strength. From sitting up, to laying down, your abdominal muscles are in constant use all day. Ab muscles are used significantly when kayaking, but building a strong core in general is a good idea.

The constant shift of the paddle to the left and right works your obliques and abs completely. The core is where you will generate the most power when kayaking or paddling.

Abdominal Muscles

Core Exercises for Kayaking

The simplest exercise you can do for building a strong core is definitely the plank. Simple enough to do, yet such a burn when done properly. Just the type of thing you need for good stability.


Weighted Crunches

It’s OK if you do these without weights but I find it builds the abs just a bit quicker and stronger when weighted. Experiment with incline or decline crunches too. I get bored quickly of the same routine so I typically switch it up every few weeks.

Shoulders / Back

Shoulder and Back Muscles

As you pull the paddle towards your body, your upper back and shoulder muscles are in full force.

Your lats or Latissimus Dorsi, are the largest muscles on your back. That means a lot of the heavy lifting is done with them. The lats will give you the torque needed to propel you forward while paddling.

Your traps, or Trapezius muscles stabilize and help provide movement to your shoulders and neck. Think shrugging.

Shoulder Exercises for Kayaking

Plank Push Up

Not only will this continue working your core, but your shoulders and arms will get a nice workout.

Pike Push Up

The Pike Push Up helps build chest and shoulder muscles.

Chest / Upper Body

Chest and Pectoral Muscles

Your pectoral muscles are responsible for pulling the paddle in towards you and helping provide you with some stability. I know whenever I’m paddling hard and I feel the slight burn in my pecs and I know I’m doing it right.

Having a strong chest not only looks good, but you’ll find kayaking a tad easier.

Chest Exercises for Kayaking

Push Ups

Probably the simplest thing you can do to keep your chest in shape are push ups. I believe even our founding fathers were fond of push ups.

Decline Push Up

Ha.. You thought that was the last of the push ups didn’t you? The decline push up is another great exercise to build the upper chest.

Forearms / Grip

Well, this one is pretty much a given. You can’t grip the paddle with no forearm strength. You’ll want to have a firm grip on your paddle, especially in rougher waters. Building up your forearms will improve your grip immensely.

Forearm Exercises for Kayaking


Dips are an amazing way to build forearms as well as triceps and biceps. Here’s a video with a few ways you can do them at home with things you may already have.

Farmers Walk

I know I said I’d keep them to body weight exercises, but the benefits of the farmers walk are worth it. If you don’t have dumbbells or kettlebells, get creative. Find some cinder blocks outside. Fill some buckets with sand or rocks.


You wouldn’t think legs play too much of a role while sitting. In a kayak. But, you’d be wrong.

Your legs and hips provide most of the stability you need while paddling. Think about the way your body moves while performing a stroke. The body leans forward slightly while your hips and legs keep you firmly in place.

Your feet should be firmly against your foot mounts and the power of your strokes start here.

Leg Exercises for Kayaking


Not only are squats a great leg workout, but when combined with other exercises like in a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout, they really get the blood pumping for some added cardio.


I know, I hate them too. Especially when they’re weighted lunges. But love them or hate them, they are essential to building strong powerful leg muscles.

Don’t forget to get your cardio in on top of these exercises. You’ll want to keep up your endurance and strength for more than a few minutes.

Unless you’re like my wife who prefers to float down the river, paddling as little as humanly possible.

I hope this guide on exercises for kayaking and paddling has helped guide you towards a workout plan that will keep you in shape and ready for the water! Happy paddling!

For more fitness information, check out our site at Surviving the Day for any and all nutrition, fitness and health tips to get you through the day!

Jamie Wilkinson

I'm a fervent lover of the great outdoors, having spent countless hours soaking in the tranquility and beauty that nature offers. My passion for kayaking and camping has led me to explore numerous waterways and campgrounds, each journey adding to my treasure trove of experiences. Through KayakCampingWorld.com, I aim to share these adventures and insights with you. My hope is to inspire fellow outdoor enthusiasts and provide valuable guidance, whether you're paddling your first kayak or setting up camp for the hundredth time. Dive into my articles, and let's embark on this outdoor journey together!

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