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Is Kayaking a Good Workout?

Q. Is kayaking a good workout? A. Yes, kayaking has the ability to strengthen and tone muscles throughout the upper body, including the chest, abdomen, hands, arms, shoulders, and back.

Workout with kayakingNaturally, the arms get a great benefit from kayaking, but a regular paddling session is certain to help provide long-term health benefits to other areas of the body with muscles worked constantly.

What muscles does kayaking work

Here are five of the muscle areas to benefit from a regular paddling session.


Every stroke of the kayak paddle helps to work the back muscles and similar in motion range to a single-arm row. Plus, this activity also helps to improve the strength of the Latissimi dorsi (or lats for short).

The extent of the workout will differ with the variation or tempo of the stroke (long sessions or sprints to narrow or wide grips).


The natural motion of the paddle stroke is certain to help strengthen and tone the bicep muscles. Plus, this also has a benefit on the triceps.

In addition to working the upper arms, the forearms and handgrip are naturally able to benefit from handling the paddle. Most of the arms are given a full workout and tested for the duration of the kayaking trip.

Also, avoid gripping the shaft too tight because this will tire the muscles in the forearms.


The chest, heart, and lungs are all tested throughout a kayaking session and given a good workout.

The pectoral muscles are in demand while completing the paddle movement and need to help with stabilizing the shoulders.

A regular kayak trips is certain to be a good workout in relation to cardio-respiratory conditioning.


Core muscle strength is a must-have need to progress through a demanding paddling session. Because of the rotational movements, the oblique and abdomen area is needed to provide a strong and reliable performance.

The torso (neck to pelvic area) is in constant action and makes a repeated rotation movement, which means great strength in this area is needed. A stabilized body helps to propel the kayak.

Proper strength in the core body parts (abdominals, back, and hips) is more important for a kayaker than the arms. Use exercises like the plank to help improve the abdomen and core area.


Most workouts or activities that impact the back muscles will also benefit the shoulders with this most noticed in the region of the deltoid.

The wide-ranging motion of the paddle stroke provides a highly beneficial workout for the shoulder muscles. The natural circular motion by using the paddle has a great impact on the anterior, lateral, and rear deltoid.

Similar to working the back, the width of the grip and the tempo of the kayaking session will directly impact the load and stress on the muscles.

Use a proper backrest while kayaking

Give the lower back proper support while kayaking. A long paddling session without an adjustable backrest can soon lead to a sore and aching back, which takes the fun out of the journey.

A proper backrest should be sized to cradle the back and give comfort to this area of the body.

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