Legs – As a paddler you just can’t ignore them

It’s a part of the body that is often overlooked for those in paddle sports, but you absolutely CANNOT ignore training those legs!

Here at PT HQ we’ve spent the last few years looking at the movements & the requirements for leg training as part of your strength & conditioning.  It’s vital for all aspects & disciplines of paddling.

SUP racing leg drive

You’re stood on them the entire time & all your energy is transferred through your legs to the board to give you drive. For distance races you need the endurance to keep stood but also keep putting energy through your legs.  You also need to be fresh enough to maintain balance.  In sprint racing  it requires real power transfer through your legs & can be clearly seen in the photos below


Travis Grant in the foreground really engaging his legs compared to Paul Jackson in the far lane


Eric Terrien in a split stance crouched deep to push / spring himself down the sprint lane

Eric Terrien in a split stance crouched deep to push / spring himself down the sprint lane

SUP surfing / prone surfing leg drive

Leg strength are a huge factor in SUP surfing.  It’s where all the power in turns comes from.  Top & bottom turns & all the down the line speed comes from leg drive.  Just look at the body positions of these surfers

Driving off the bottom

Driving off the bottom


smashing off the lip setting up a deep cut back

smashing off the lip setting up a deep cut back


Surf Ski / Outrigger / Sprint canoe leg drive

There are countless videos & articles about sprint canoe & surf ski paddling & leg drive.  The leg movement can be very pronounced take a look at the slow-mo footage here at the 1min mark:

In outrigger there is less talk & footage but just as much significance as your legs are one of the two connection points to the canoe to transfer energy from your blade to the canoe speed.  OC6 you can move your feet & a split stance like a C1 kneeling paddler opens the hips allowing great rotation and a strong drive down through to your feet to generate canoe speed.


What specific exersizes can I do?

There are stacks of great leg exersizes that we incorporate into our Strength & Conditioning sessions.  Some of the best are listed below:

  1. Kettle bell swings (single & Double) – Help with hip drive but also glute engagement and power
  2. Overhead lunges (kettle bell or bar) – Overhead weight helps shoulder stability & balance but the lunge is huge for strength in your legs working all muscle groups.  We like to work every angle, font, back, as well as side to side.  Exploding back to starting position. Without weights jumping alternate lunges are a killer!
  3. Squats – You just can’t ignore a good squat but again working all ranges of movement & styles, using kettle bells racked, a bar bell in the front or back position (front squats are amazing and often left out) but also a bar overhead using a much lighter weight also adds the bonus of shoulder stability work and flexibility. You can through in plyometiric jump squats to add a power element to your training with or without weight.
  4. Deadlifts – Performed using a bar / bag or kettlebell really help strengthen the posterior chain, with SUP particular it is a very similar movement to our hip hinge during the paddle stroke.
  5. Indoboard / balance board / Bosu – Any squat, single leg / double leg, lunge etc performed on a balance board or bosu is fantastic for all round leg strength & balance.  It will fire every single tiny muscle from your toes to the top of your hips.  The more you get used to it you can start to add weight too, but be careful!



In Summary

Don’t ignore your legs as a paddler.  They are a huge part of energy transfer to whatever craft you paddle.  Strong legs equal strong paddling.  Keep an equal mix of strength, endurance and power.

Our Paddle Training Programmes all have detailed strength & conditioning sessions, you only need about 20mins per session. Beginner & Intermediate programs feature just one session a week, advanced two sessions.  Sign up & help take your paddle training to a new level.