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In the July article of “SUP Stoke, Strength and Stand Up Fitness” by coach Jeff Morrison, Jeff hones in on the importance of a stand up paddler’s upper back strength through the Latissimus Dorsi muscles a.k.a your “Lats”. Learn the exercises you can do to strengthen these important muscles for paddling as well as new post-session recovery stretches and nutrition tips from Coach Jeff!

Latissimus Dorsi paddle strength
When it comes to back strength and core stability, your Latissimus Dorsi muscles play a key role in overall strength and injury prevention. Focus on these simple tips to build your “Lats” for more power.

Upper Back Strength:  Latissimus Dorsi aka “Lats” & Paddling Power

Strong Latissimus Dorsi Muscles (a.k.a. “Lats”) are an important part of your paddling engine, even more so than your arms. Your lats are bigger and stronger than your arms; therefore, strengthening them will keep you on the water longer and help you paddle faster. The lats help pull your arms towards your body, either vertically, like doing a chin up, or horizontally, as in stand up paddling. While a horizontal paddle motion is our main focus here, it is important to work the lats in both the horizontal and vertical planes of motion. Here are two exercises that will help increase your lat strength and endurance.

* Doing this lats workout may give you a great V-shaped back, making you look great on the water, or the fashion runways of Milan. Be forewarned!

Lat Pulldowns
Lat pulldowns are easy to manage on your own and don’t require a spotter at the gym unless you are pulling big weights (not recommended). Sitting upright & a neutral spine is important here and drawing the bar down to your sternum for maximum benefit.

More Power for Paddling: Lats Pulldowns

1.  Grip the bar at approximately shoulder width with palms facing forward.

2. Slightly arch your back and pull the bar down to your upper chest in a smooth, controlled motion.

3. Let the weight pull the bar back up slowly to the starting position.*
* Be careful not to exaggerate the stretch at the top of the motion. Raise the bar until your arms have reached full extension.

Perform 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions, using a weight that allows for proper form throughout the exercise.

Kettlebell rows paddle strength
Kettlebell rows are important to do with a light enough weight that you can manage but building strength at the same time. Check for posture often. A neutral spine and long neck are important here.

Dumbbell/Kettle Bell Rows for Paddlers

  1.  Grasp the dumbbells/kettle bells with your palms facing the side of your body.
  2. Bend knees slightly to hinge at your waist while maintaining a slight arch to your back. ( Your upper body should be approximately at a 45 degree angle to the floor)
  3. Begin with arms fully extended, and slowly pull dumbbells/kettle bells upwards until they are even with your torso.
  4. Slowly lower them back down until arms are fully extended.

Perform 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions, using a weight that allows you to keep proper form and posture throughout the exercise.

While the dumbbell/kettle bell row more closely approximates the paddling motion of stand up paddling, doing both exercises will give you more complete back development, more strength and greater endurance.

What about Grip Strength for Paddlers?
Check it out HERE

The Paddle League Air France Paddle Festival Elite Race Tahiti
The importance of endurance and reserved power in paddling cannot be underestimated, whether we are racing or simply need to get back to shore on a windy day. The strength in your back and lats matter!

Recovery Strategy:  Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretches are active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion. Dynamic stretches have been used by athletes for years to help warm up before exercising,and have gained popularity in recent years to cool down after exercising.

As discussed in previous articles (like this one: Core Strength for Paddlers) simply sitting around after a strenuous – or not so strenuous – session is not an effective aid in recovery. Doing a few dynamic stretches can help you work out any post-session kinks and better prepare you for your next session!

Here are two simple yet super effective dynamic stretches to perform post session: One for your upper body, and one for your lower body.

arm circles
Arm circles are a great way to loosen up your shoulders and neck. Spiral one way, and then the other.

Upper Body Paddle Recovery: Arm Circles 

Perform this dynamic stretch in a controlled fashion. You aren’t trying to achieve lift-off!

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Extend arms parallel to the ground.
    2. Circle arms forward using small controlled motions, gradually making the circles larger until you feel a stretch in your triceps.
  2. Reverse direction of the circles after about 10 seconds.

Leg kicks

Lower Body Paddle Recovery: Leg Kicks 

As with arm circles, perform this dynamic stretch in a controlled fashion. You aren’t auditioning for a Vegas show (or, if you are, good luck)!

  1.  Kick one leg straight out in front of you, toes flexed toward the sky.
  2. Reach your opposite arm to the upturned toes (you don’t need to touch your toes).
  3. Lower your leg and arm at the same time.

4. Repeat with opposite limbs, 10 times on each side.

Perform this cycle 2 to 3 times.

While both dynamic stretches are easy to perform and take very little time, both post-stand up paddle exercises can really help to eliminate post session stiffness and soreness. This only makes YOU better prepared for your next session.

Fish Tacos
It doesn’t have to be Tuesdays to enjoy a good fish taco as part of your post-recovery meal. Full of nutrition and beneficial fats, this recipe will refuel your machine in no time flat!

Summertime Nutrition:  Tacos!

Post session food is important for stand up paddle athletes. Happily, tacos can be an excellent addition to your food plan and not just on Tuesdays! However, I’m not talking about fast food tacos, but tacos you make with fresh and healthy ingredients. Tacos, when done with a little care and preparation can not only satisfy your hunger, but also help fuel recovery and muscle repair. I love fish tacos, but you can use any type of protein source such as fish, chicken, tofu, beef along with fresh veggies, beans, salsa and cheese to create an amazing meal.

Here is a recipe for fish tacos that is tried and tested (and delicious). If you are plant-based, grilled Tofu is a great substitute for Haddock.

Taco Ingredients:

  • 1 cup finely sliced lettuce
  • 1/3 cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • ½ cup refried beans
  • 1 lb haddock fillet (or other firm white fish)
  • 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 8 4-inch corn tortillas
  • 1 cup diced pineapple
  • ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

Taco Preparation:

1. Preheat a greased grill or grill pan to medium-high.

2.. Brush haddock all over with oil; sprinkle with paprika, pepper and remaining one-quarter of salt.

3.  Grill fish, flipping once, until opaque and flakes easily, maybe 4 to 5 minutes per side.
TIP: If cooking fish on an outdoor grill, use a grilling basket for easy flipping.

4. Combine mayo, olive oil and paprika together.

5. Place tortillas on grill and cook, flipping once, until softened and lightly charred, 20 seconds per side. Transfer to a plate and wrap in a clean kitchen towel.
NOTE: Do not overcook tortillas or you’ll end up with chips.

6. Break fish into bite-size pieces and divide evenly among tortillas. Add mayo combination, refried beans, pineapple,lettuce and cheese (salsa if you like) and enjoy!

Jeff Morrison New Hampshire

As always, if you have any fitness questions, please reach out to me:

Written by: Jeff Morrison

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