SUP Fitness & Training the miraculous treatment no doctor has prescribed until now
Gone are the days of doctors prescribing pills and plenty of rest.
Over recent years in our screen-focused lives, the benefits of keeping an active lifestyle have become apparent. Nowadays, doctors realize that this is more than just good advice. Recent research, has lead to change in their approach.
So much so that you might start to see stand up paddle boarding (SUP) fitness and training cropping up on your prescription sometime soon.
Read the guide below to find out why SUP fitness and training is the best way to change your life for the better.
Feel free to pick and choose by topic from the Shortcut Menu. What matter is that you get a start.
Also please check out a few useful inflatable SUP guides I wrote:
What are the health benefits of SUP fitness?
SUP fitness and training offers a whole body workout, so it comes with countless health benefits.
At its simplest, all this sport requires is balance, helping you to strengthen your core and tone your muscles.
On top of this, stand up paddle boarding offers an intense cardio workout which increases bloodflow, helping to renew cells, fight infections and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. At the same time, there are many psychological benefits including reduced stress levels and boosted brain function.
Despite the fact that it offers such a good physical workout, paddle boarding is actually a very low impact sport. It’s gentle on joints, muscles and ligaments which makes it ideal for anyone recovering from a leg, back or hip injury.
Also, it’s rare to find a sport that can test your legs and abs for balance (as well as your arms and shoulders when paddling) for hours at a time. This type of exercise acts as a serious boost to stamina and endurance.
Is stand up paddle boarding really exercise?
The best forms of exercise are those that you enjoy. If you’re training hard but hating every minute of it, your body will release stress hormones which will have a negative impact on your health – ultimately defeating the purpose.
In many cases, it’s actually better exercise than a day at the gym. This is because traditional exercise machines tend to work small muscle groups or specific areas of the body. Luckily, stand up paddle boarding targets every area of the body, particularly your core muscles, your shoulders and your legs. This kind of whole-body workout is almost impossible to achieve in the gym or with many other intense forms of exercise.
Later we’ll take a closer look at the number of calories that you can burn, but for now the knowledge that you can burn more than with cycling should be all the evidence you need that SUPing is a highly effective form of exercise.
How intense are the workouts?
One of the most appealing things about stand up paddle boarding is that you can alter the intensity to suit your fitness and experience levels.
This isn’t a sport that your body will become accustomed to over time. A unique feature of stand up paddle boarding is that as you improve, the workouts become more intense. A recent study from the American Council on Exercise showed that as your SUP confidence grows, you will benefit from “an increasingly better workout”. This cycle of intensity-improvement-intensity gives your body a never-ending challenge.
インフレータブルツアー第６戦となるＳＵP festival in 猪苗代湖に参戦しました。 暑い中、North Shore SUP Clubのローカルの方々、準備など大変だったと思いますが、アットホームで温かいレースでした。 選手の皆さん、関係者の皆さん、お疲れ様でした。そしてありがとうございました！ 私の結果は4位。高嶋師匠は優勝。これは嬉しいです。私は悔しさをバネに練習頑張ります！ 皆さん、ありがとうございました！さぁ、6時間かけて帰りますか！(私は乗ってるだけだけど、、笑) @sawarna_sup @roxyjapan @hydroflask.jp #sawarna #sup #standuppaddle #instagood #tamaoyoga #oymgram
What muscles does paddle boarding work?
Providing an excellent all-round workout, SUP fitness and training works every muscle in your body.
You’ll need to keep a wide stance and a secure footing, both of which will work your calf and thigh muscles.
Paddling will provide a tough workout for your upper arms as well as the latissimus dorsi (upper back), leading to broad, strong shoulders.
Remember that you won’t just be working these areas individually – you’ll be doing all these activities at once, forcing you to work all your muscle groups together.
What does paddle boarding tone?
As it provides such an excellent whole body workout by using all your muscles at the same time, stand up paddle board training will tone your entire body.
While paddling, you can eliminate excess arm fat and tone those biceps. Aim for long, deep strokes, and keep your arms straight while paddling to tone your upper back. This will prevent too much strain from building up in your arms and pectoralis major muscles.
Elsewhere in the body, the twisting technique used with each stroke will tone your obliques and strengthen your core, giving you the perfect washboard stomach.
For more ideas, tips and detail on how to tone your arms, core and legs, take a look at our workout routine suggestions lower down the page.
How many calories does SUP burn?
There are many different factors which affect how many calories you burn with SUP fitness, including the intensity of the workout and how much time you spend on the water.
However, on average, an hour spent casual stand up paddle boarding can burn up to 430 calories – around twice the number of calories that you’d burn by going for a stroll.
Combine SUP with yoga and you could burn around 540 calories in an hour, or take up SUP racing and you could burn almost double this amount.
When you compare these figures to other sports, it becomes clear that a day spent doing SUP fitness and training can provide a much better workout than many other activities. Going for a run burns approximately 650 calories per hour, while spending an hour on your bike only uses up around 480 calories.
SUP workout routine – SUP training the smart way
Don’t be tempted to start out with a serious physical challenge or you’ll burn out too quickly: build up the intensity of your routine gently. Spend some time warming up on dry land, then get your sea legs on with some gentle exercises.
There are many SUP workout routines which you can try. If you’re stuck for ideas, do a quick internet search for videos and tutorials. Here are a few of our favorites:
B) This super sculpting workout targeting your arms, shoulders and chest
C) This SUP yoga workout routine which is great for stretching
D) This SUP yoga workout routine for beginners
E) This high intensity workout to get your heart racing
F) This quick and simple routine which contains just five moves
G) This six week training plan
Exercises to prep you for SUP workout
As with any kind of exercise, start with stretches. Anything to lengthen your muscles, open up your chest and get your blood flowing is a good thing. If you’re stuck for ideas, look to yoga for inspiration. Some simple poses and sun salutations will prepare your body for a day on the water.
Before you start, you need to prepare your whole body. Don’t just stretch your legs and forget about your upper body: try pushups, squats and twists to work all your muscles and even joints like your shoulders.
Aim for a medium intensity prep workout which lasts around five minutes. This will get your heart pumping without burning out before you even begin.
The benefits of preparing a few days ahead of your first SUP attempt
Getting your body used to some of the movements and strains that it might encounter while paddle boarding will help to reduce the shock once you’re actually out on the water.
By stretching or exercising for a few days before you start SUPing, you’ll increase your bloodflow to your muscles. Provided that you don’t overdo it, this will encourage your muscles to loosen up, making them comfortable, flexible and receptive to training.
In addition, the connection between your brain and your muscles recovers very easily. If you don’t prepare physically in the days before you try SUP boarding, these receptors won’t fire as quickly as they could. However, by getting in some quick and simple exercise before your first SUP attempt, you’ll warm up these connections, resulting in an efficient, co-ordinated workout.
It’s best to aim for a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise to prepare both your muscles and your cardiovascular system. These exercises should be equal and balanced, preparing your body in its entirety. In addition to choosing exercises to prepare your heart and muscles, you can start to strengthen your balance by standing on one leg, squatting and flexing those ankles. The exercise in the video below is for advanced SUPers but gives a great example of a targeted SUP prep workout.
So, now that is mativation 🙂
For your first SUP attempt, training for a day or two beforehand should be sufficient. However, if you’re training for a racing competition, you should start implementing a training program a few months in advance.
How to stand up paddle board – for beginners
Standing up is the first (but arguably the most difficult) step to stand up paddle boarding. Don’t run before you can walk by trying to stand up straight away. Instead, get your balance by starting on your knees, then gradually moving one foot up in a kneeling position before eventually trying to stand.
Once you’re upright, it’s important to get your stance right. Don’t be tempted to go for a surf style stance as this will create instability. Instead, stand in the middle of the board, keeping your feet parallel and shoulder width apart.
When you’re feeling steady on your feet, start with some twists and stretches, or even the plank pose. Rather than just paddling gently, adding these exercises has been shown to increase your heart rate, kick-starting all the health benefits of improved circulation.
As your confidence grows, you can throw in some more challenging elements. Even if you don’t specifically take up SUP yoga, some of the poses are fantastic for strengthening and toning. The boat pose is an excellent starting point, as are push ups and crunches.
Turning your stand up paddle board:
To change direction on the water, there are a few different techniques that you can use. The side stroke (paddling on the opposite side to the direction you want to turn) and the back paddle (placing your paddle firmly in the water once you’ve built up speed) are both easy methods for beginners to learn.
A more advanced SUP technique is called the pivot turn: for this, you might find it helps to take a step or two towards the rear of your board. You’ll want to get the nose of the board in the air while you paddle quickly, drawing the paddle towards the board’s tail. This is more of a surfing technique, so be prepared to get wet!
Alternatively, if you’re trying out a SUP board which is specifically designed for surfing, placing one foot above the fins will help you to control and direct the board more easily. The size, shape and number of fins on your board will have a big impact on your SUP surfing, so the movement of the board on the water is something that you should feel with your feet.
If you want to try a more intense routine while you SUP, do crunches while holding the paddle in both hands. As you sit up, twist to the side and place the paddle in the water to propel yourself forwards. The next time you sit up, paddle on the other side, then repeat the process.
Throughout the duration of your time on your SUP, choose exercises which reflect the natural movements that you’ll encounter with stand up paddle boarding. Whichever elements you include in your routine, keep at them for 30 to 60 seconds before moving onto the next step.
How to hold your SUP paddle:
Always hold your paddle in two hands, with one hand along the shaft and the other hand on the end of the paddle. This broad grip will give you control over your paddle, allowing you to drive it into the water with strength and efficiency. While holding your paddle in this way, you’ll be able to move in a straight line by doing a few strokes on one side of the board then repeating on the other side.
Setting the paddle to the correct length is simple. Take a look at this chart for guidance:
Learn to fall in the water correctly:
If you do happen to fall off your board, give it a little push as you go. Falling away from the board is likely to result in fewer injuries than if you fall onto it. Just make sure that you’ve used a leash to recover your board quickly.
If you can, fall flat and to the side of the board. Don’t dive or jump in feet-first (especially if you’re SUP surfing) as this is incredibly dangerous in shallow water. You should also avoid putting out an arm or leg to brace against the impact, as doing so can lead to sprains and other injuries.
Techniques and tips for stand up paddling
In order to move most efficiently, try not to put your paddle in the water then drag it back towards you. The water will be heavy, so pushing against it with your arms will become tiring very quickly. Instead, keep the paddle still in the water and push your body towards the paddle. This subtle difference will allow you to use the power from your body rather than just from your shoulders, creating a much more manageable workout.
Similarly, keep your top arm (the one gripping the end of the paddle) straight at all times. It’s tempting to bend your arm if it gets tired, but keeping it straight will give you continuously regular strokes. In turn, this will result in a smooth ride.
Although it’s tempting, don’t look down at your feet. Use your feet to feel the movement of the water – helping you to balance – but keep your eyes up. If you tilt your chin down, you’re more likely to lean backwards and fall in the water.
Finally, safety is a massive consideration with stand up paddle boarding, especially if you take your board out on the ocean. Pay attention to the direction of the wind, and don’t panic if you find yourself drifting in an unwanted direction. If this happens, just lie down on the board (on your stomach) and paddle using your hands. Just remember to tuck, tie or secure your SUP paddle somewhere safe so that you don’t lose it.
SUP fitness and training for beginners
Once you’ve learnt the basics, it’s all about developing your own SUP fitness and training routine, incorporating stretches, other activities, and whatever else you find fun and challenging.
If you’re struggling or looking for inspiration, there are plenty of videos online to help you out even more.
As well as being such good exercise, stand up paddle boarding is really easy to learn. You should start to understand the basics in your first lesson, and as your experience grows you will find that you’re able to stay out on the water for hours at a time.
If this guide has whet your appetite for this incredible sport, check out some of our inflatable SUP reviews to choose a board that’s cheap, portable and easy to store. Once you give SUP boarding a go, you’ll never look back!