Sun’s out, guns out! Let’s get to pumping those arms for stronger paddling.

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It’s that time again when Coach Jeffrey Morrison gives us fitness tips and tricks to become better, stronger paddlers! In this month’s article, Jeff shares his training advice on building up powerful arms to increase your strength and stamina both on and off the water.  ARM-ageddon: YES!  FINALLY, Coach Jeff is going to focus an article on arms and how they impact your paddling game. Sun’s out, guns out!

Coach Jeffrey Morrison stand up paddling fitness
Sun’s out, guns out! Let’s get to pumping those arms for stronger paddling.

Arm Strength for Stand Up Paddling:  It’s in Your Biceps & Triceps

All stand up paddlers want strong, well defined arms. Having stronger arms will definitely propel you or steer you through the water and waves faster with greater efficiency. So, let’s get out that sleeveless rash guard, that tank top or even the 1980’s Hulk Hogan sleeveless tuxedo and let’s get to pumping those arms up!

Strong arms are yet another tool in your paddling arsenal. The ability to push and pull the paddle with force and endurance depends on your arms working in conjunction with other muscle groups. In this article, I will be focusing primarily on upper arms as forearms and grip strength were covered in JUNE 2021.

Read Coach Jeff’s article on Grip Strength

Plant, Push & Pull to Paddle

Arms are made up of two major muscle groups: triceps and biceps. While the biceps are the universally flexed muscle when demonstrating your awesomeness, your triceps make up two-thirds of all arm mass and should never be neglected. The basic purpose of the bicep is to pull. And, the basic purpose of your tricep is to push. Therefore, it isn’t difficult to see the importance of their working in conjunction with relation to stand up paddling. In addition, the strength needed for paddlers to effectively plant their paddle in the water requires strength from your lats combined with the triceps, biceps and shoulders.

Read Coach Jeff’s article on Lat Strength

This article will include one exercise for each muscle group in the arms, as the biceps and triceps are greatly activated when working out other major muscle groups; therefore, they can easily be over trained, especially if you are paddling several days a week as well.

So, grab your dumbbells, kettlebells or hand weights and let’s fill those sleeves out!

Triceps Kickbacks stand up paddling fitness
Keep neck in line with spine, bend the elbows at 90 degrees and straighten arms behind you for this tricep kickback to make you a stronger paddler.

Arm Strength for SUP Exercise #1: Tricep Kickbacks  

Stand with knees bent and hinge at the waist keeping a slight arch in your lower back while holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand. Bend the arm holding the dumbbell or kettlebell to 90 degrees from the elbow so that your triceps are somewhat aligned with your back. It is important to keep your arm at a 90 degree angle throughout this entire exercise. Now, engage the core and your triceps and hinge at the elbow, lifting the dumbbell up and back as you slowly straighten your arm.

Your triceps should stay still and only your elbow joint moves. Guide the weight upward until your arm is straight. Pause. And then, lower back to 90 degrees. This exercise will fatigue the tricep quickly if done in a strict fashion. Therefore, be sure to start with weights that will allow you to complete all 3 sets using proper form. Start with 3 sets of 10 reps and work your way up to 3 sets of 15 reps before increasing the weight.

bicep curls stand up paddling fitness
Look more excited than this guy! Stand straight with arms by your side and slowly curl weights towards your shoulders. Minimize any extra movement to target those biceps clearly.

Arm Strength for SUP Exercise #2: Bicep Curls 

Stand with feet hip-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand. Kettlebells do not work well in this exercise because it is difficult to get proper flexion with the way the handles are gripped. You can also use a straight bar. Now, position your arms with palms facing forward and shoulder width apart. Keep a slight bend in the knees, and be sure not to swing your back. Start with arms extended at your sides and curl your arms up towards your shoulders until hands are just below the shoulders. Pause to hold at the top position for about a second. Then, at the same tempo, lower arms until they are at extension or your starting position.

You know by now my mantra is  “Use weights that allow you to use proper form!”  Don’t let your ego get in the way of good form!

Start with 3 sets of 10 and work your way up to 3 sets of 15 before increasing the  weights you use.

Sleep regulation and stand up paddling fitness
It’s all about the zzz’s. Good sleep is the stuff of recovery, redemption and triumph.

Recovery Strategy: SLEEP! If You Snooze, You Can’t Lose! 

Of all the recovery strategies that will refresh, re-energize and rejuvenate, Sleep is King. It may also be the least appreciated, but most necessary body function we  have. Sleep Well = Perform Well!

Sleep is THE foundation of the recovery process due to its importance for athletic and  cognitive performance as well as overall well being. Sleep deprivation has been shown to have negative effects on performance, mood states, metabolism, and immune or cognitive  function, none of which can be compromised if you are striving for excellent health and optimal athletic performance.

Regulate Sleeping Patterns for Optimal Health & Fitness Recovery

Research suggests that many people, especially athletes, have sleep quality and quantity issues, or both that are less than optimal. Stress, anxiety, health issues, poor diet and too little or too much exercise (a.k.a. overtraining) can seriously impact your sleeping habits. However, behavioral changes and strategies can minimize sleep disruption and lead to better quality sleep. Consequently, quality sleep will improve your performance across the board, physically, cognitively and even emotionally.

Most well rested people do not wake up on the wrong side of the bed wearing their cranky pants. Don’t forget: Smartphones and video games emit blue wavelength light which can decrease Melatonin release and may also be a source of stress, worry, or competition at a time of night when light and stimulation should be avoided!

Sleep behaviors stand up paddling recovery strategy
Create some regular habits around your sleep patters to make for deeper, more fulfilling sleep. It’s worth the work!

The image above describes and presents some recommendations for obtaining quality  sleep. Sweet Dreams and Stronger Paddling!

Creamy Chicken Stew stand up paddling nutrition
All we can say is: “Yummy in my tummy.” Yes, please!

SUP Nutrition: Fowl Play in the Kitchen & Chicken Stew

Where I live in New Hampshire, it is often said that it is winter for nine months out of the year and poor skiing for the other three months. This makes it necessary to develop hearty and warm meals to alleviate winter season hypothermia from the inside out.

All kidding aside, even in warmer climates, it’s a pleasure to look forward to a delicious and nutrient-dense post (or pre) session meal that’s packed with flavor! This recipe for creamy chicken stew is just the ticket. Substitutions are easy to make, as you can change out  the heavy cream for light, or half and half, and substitute plant based sausage for the chicken to make a creamy vegan sausage stew instead.

INGREDIENTS for Chicken Stew

2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs
2 cups baby carrots
1 cup small potatoes
1/2 cup Cremini mushrooms
1 can fresh green peas
1 tbsp. tomato paste
3 garlic cloves
1 onion
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
1 tsp granulated onion
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp paprika
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, mix paprika, Italian seasoning, granulated garlic, and  granulated onion.
  3. Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, and the spice mixture.
  4. Add about 3 tbsp. of oil to a large pot with high sides.
  5. Cook the chicken for about 4-5 minutes on each side over high heat.
  6. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
  7. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes or until translucent.
  8. Stir in the fresh garlic, tomato paste, carrots, and season with salt and pepper  and any leftover seasoning.
  9. Add the chicken stock, rosemary, thyme, and chicken.
  10. Bring to a boil then cover and bake for 40 minutes.
  11. Once the 40 minutes are up, uncover and add the mushrooms and potatoes.  Cover and bake for an additional 35 minutes.
  12. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water.
  13. Uncover the pot, remove chicken, add heavy cream and cornstarch mixture. Cook uncovered over high heat for about 5 minutes or until nicely thickened.
  14. Stir in the green peas, check for seasoning, and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  15. ENJOY!!

As always, Stay Safe, Stay Strong, and Stay Stoked!
–Coach Jeff

Questions? Contact me

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