August 3, 2011

This has been a full summer of paddling for sure, whatever your style: downwinders, flat-water, waves or the Moto X of SUP: SUPCross. I’ve been getting lots of emails from you as you improve your SUP skills and increase your strength. That’s awesome! I’m glad the SUP-specific fitness tips I’ve designed for you are working and will continue to help you each and every session.

By now, your core, legs and upper body are getting stronger and you are learning the fine dynamics of building your strength specifically for stand up paddling. So it’s time to go to the level of power here. In these exercises, we’re not only going to engage our core to the highest degree, but I’m going to give you the power to learn how to get the most of each stroke so you can really turn on the juice! If you haven’t read my earlier series on combining balance with upper and lower body endurance, I recommend you add this article to your SUP training tools. Click here for the article:

UP your SUP Performance by Combining Upper Body Paddle Endurance with Balance and Core Training

I’d like to add a special thanks to my Naish teammate, Dave Kalama, for really hammering home the concept of reaching with everything you’ve got. Thank you Dave! He’s absolutely right. So now that we all have that ingrained in our minds, let’s see what it feels like to reach with more power.

Training Note: It’s your choice if you wear shoes or not, or if you train on an unstable surface such as the beach (which is more challenging). I try to train barefoot so that I can mimic the feel of the board. If working with weights, be careful not to drop them on your feet! Everyone’s training needs and experience will vary, so the number of sets/reps you perform is up to you. Typically, if you are just starting out, try 1-3 sets with 10-12 reps each, making sure you are always in perfect form.

Recommended Equipment: INDO Board Gigante Disc, INDO Board Pro Board or Ying & Yang (as pictured below), TRX Rip Trainer (I use the heavier chord in this training series).

Select a sturdy object to secure your TRX cord to the ground. For this series, I attached it to a stake in the sand. The combination of INDO Board Gigante Disc with the Ying & Yang board, in addition to the TRX Rip Trainer requires unique training, just like stand up paddling. This is a functional and dynamic workout to the highest degree. Since the core is what stabilizes us while paddling, we now have a power source delivered through the core and transferred directly to our stroke. Like Dave, I need to drive home the idea that there’s more to the “core” than just abs. It’s absolutely everything, and I mean everything,excluding your arms and legs – but not to say that your arms and legs don’t help to stabilize you as you paddle.

When I’m on the water or in the studio teaching people how to really engage their core, I take the time to break down their stroke as well. Then, when the light goes on and they have an “ah ha” moment, it’s cool. Connecting the dots from the top of your stroke, through your bottom shoulder, leading hip and finally passing through your core to the blade as you exit your feet, finally makes sense when you have more paddle power from the strength of your body. This comes from specific strength training for SUP and it’s what we’re going to do right now in these exercises.

power 1

Progression Variables: Floor to sand, traditional paddling stance to surf stance, discs under INDO board, less air (easier)-more air (faster action) in discs, light – medium TRX chord to heavier gauge TRX chord, speed of stroke, reach distance, slower-faster paced, number of strokes per side, change stance position during set.

Exercise 1: Power Strokes: Regular Stance, Feet on Ground

power 2

Click on the photo for a larger view.

Safety first: Place your hand in the bottom safety loop of the TRX Rip Trainer. While facing your secured structure, stand with your feet shoulder width apart (in “regular stance”), making sure that your knees are soft. Place your bottom hand on the lower part of the bar where the cord is attached (just as you would hold your paddle shaft). Now place your top hand on the bar, as if it is the handle of your paddle. The distance from your top hand to your bottom hand is your own personal preference and will depend on the speed and tempo at which you are paddling, or how you wish to emulate your stroke. You can easily adjust as you go. You can also decide how much tension from the cord you want to deliver to the stroke itself. Be careful, holding too much tension on the cord will wreck good consistent form. Nice and steady strokes is what you want.Imagine the nose of your board and begin to reach with that bottom leading shoulder, keeping your eyes always forward. Visualize yourself pulling your body to the shaft and just as you reach with that bottom shoulder, turn your leading hip as well. Take a couple of practice strokes to find the right tension, then you can manage a “timed” set or have either the goal of total number of strokes per side or total strokes combined. I like to perform this exercise interval-style. For example: full on, non-stop, short strokes in 3 sets of 30 seconds, on one side.

Progression 1: Regular Stance, Unstable Platform:

INDO Board Gigante Disc (inflated halfway), while standing on Ying & Yang Board. My reach here is a little further towards “the nose” and again, my core is fully engaged.

power 3

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Progression 2: Slightly Staggered Stance, Unstable Platform: (you can also practice this on the ground)

When you are on the water and the waves or wind chop gets bigger, or as you approach a turn, you may be shifting your weight and stance. Just like changing where you stand on your board to increase board speed or rail pressure, a slight change in your stance will affect your stroke power. Now try shifting your back foot (I’m regular, so my right foot goes back) slightly behind your front foot. This requires a bit more effort:

power 4

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Progression 3: Surf Stance:

Now you’re starting to get some nice glides, or you’re pumping faster to catch some waves, so let’s get into full surf stance and dig in! I love this. Again, visualization training (see my article here) really works. Load your iPod, crank it up and start training. Visualize yourself being incredibly powerful and catching every glide, every wave and maybe passing a competitor or two. Also, try shifting more of your weight onto your front foot and try quick, short strokes, matching your breathing to each stroke.

power 5

Click on the photo for a larger view.

I hope this series on paddling with power will take you many miles across the water. These tips will help you improve your endurance, increase your power, step into small and big waves and build your confidence as well as enhance your current level of fitness for SUP. Get out there and rip it up! Check out my recent article on Maliko Gulch: Know Before you Go I’d like to give a special photo credit to Simone Reddingius: downwind paddler, amazing surfer, and Maui photographer who has recently been published in Stand Up Journal Magazine. See more of Simone’s work here:

Aloha, Suzie

All the information presented in the SUP Fitness section of is for educational and resource purposes only. It is there to help you make informed decisions about your fitness training. It is not a substitute for, or an addition to, any advice given to you by your physician. Suzie Cooney, CPT, and Naish International strongly recommend that you consult your doctor and get medical approval before beginning any fitness and/or exercise program. You are solely responsible for the way information in SUP Fitness is perceived and utilized and you do so at your own risk. In no way will Suzie Cooney, Naish International or anyone associated with Naish International be held responsible for any injuries or problems that may occur due to the use of this website or the advice contained within.