What Muscles Does Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Work?


Man Without Shirt Paddle Boarding on a Lake

Any outdoor activity can be great fun in beautiful weather and amazing scenery. However, it is always a bonus if the activity is a great workout as well. Stand up paddleboarding is a great exercise, but precisely what muscles does it work?

The key muscles used during stand-up paddleboarding include your core, your back, and your shoulders. They are involved in getting a good stroke to propel yourself forwards. However, you also have to use your legs, including your hamstrings and quadriceps, to maintain your balance.

Now, let’s take a closer look at exactly which muscle groups are being worked while out having fun on a SUP.

The Muscles that You Use when Paddling

It goes without saying that paddling is the key component in paddleboarding. While paddling, the muscles keeping you upright are working even harder, but now you are also getting a good workout in your shoulders and arms.

Your shoulders contain the rotator cuff, which is the part that lets you pull, dip, and lift the paddle. They are an essential part of flexibility in the shoulder joint. This repeating movement can cause strain, especially if you are not usually exercising those muscles. Remember to stop if you feel any pain.

Alongside your shoulders, your arms are providing the actual force in your paddle stroke. This includes your triceps and biceps in your upper arms. While you won’t necessarily end up developing bulky muscles, strengthening these is an excellent benefit for all day-to-day activities like lifting and carrying objects.

Your core and back are already helping you stay upright. When paddling, your traps (trapezoid muscles) in your back are also helping you stabilize and strengthen your shoulders. Your latissimus dorsi, also known as the lats, are also helping you move your arms towards your body’s center. Your abs are also working harder while paddling as you are adding a twisting motion to the work they are already doing for your balance.

The Muscles that Maintain Your Balance

While standing up might sound simple on land, on a paddleboard, you need more than just your feet to stay upright. Even in the calmest water, paddleboarding will require you to use many muscles to keep your balance.

One of those is your hamstrings, which are the muscles running along the back of your thigh. These are particularly easy to injure, so any pain means you should consult a physician. However, paddleboarding alone is unlikely to cause injury due to the low impact nature of the sport.

The hamstrings are also joined by your quadriceps, also known as the quads. These are the muscles on the front of your thighs. Together with the hamstrings, these help you move your knees and strengthening them through paddleboarding is a great way to improve your overall strength and stability around your knees. Especially for those with low levels of overall activity, the knee joints can become a point of strain and strengthening these muscles can be hugely beneficial.

Your back and your core are also hard at work to keep you upright from the hip upwards. The back muscles, including your rhomboid muscles extending down the middle of your back and neck, are essential for keeping upright. Lower down, your abs are also getting a good workout. A strong core is vital for many daily activities, including keeping your balance and avoiding back pain, so these are particularly important to strengthen.

A Great Activity for Everyone

Overall, paddleboarding is a great low-stress, low-intensity full-body workout, suitable for anyone. The low impact means that it is an excellent activity for active recovery for those with good fitness, while still providing a healthy way of exercising for those with lower levels of fitness.

It can even be considered the ultimate workout while remaining a low-impact exercise that is easy on your joints and accessible to beginners. That is more work than you might think, and your core and legs are constantly working to balance you against even the tiniest movements of the water.

While you might initially experience some soreness, that will quickly fade as you become accustomed to the sport. Instead, the large number of muscles involved means that no part of your body is put under too much strain at any one time. This makes paddleboarding an excellent group activity, as it provides opportunities for all, and don’t forget – you can even take your dog!

Final Thoughts

Paddling a SUP is a great activity for the whole family. It is also a fantastic workout that allows you to have fun in the great outdoors while getting a full-body core workout. You can paddleboard in lakes, rivers, the ocean, or bays, so there is bound to be an opportunity near you that allows you to work out whatever your age, level of fitness, or body type.

So, if you are worried about only working one part of your body, you can rest assured that every single muscle group in your body is getting some love while enjoying yourself.

Thanks for reading!

Tom Walters

I have lived near the coast most of my life and I love all types of watersports. Stand up Paddleboarding is my favorite way to get out on the water, stay fit and have fun. I am the founder of FitFunSUP.com

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