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What is the best exercise for stand-up paddleboarding?

SUP can be a physically demanding activity. To master and maintain proper technique, it’s essential to have strength and balance in the right areas. The most important of these areas is the core. And the best exercise for building core stability on a SUP? The plank.

Planks are the best core exercise for SUP

When you’re paddleboarding, there is one muscle group that truly enables you to make powerful strokes and maintain balance on the board. It also allows for longer paddle sessions, since it doesn’t tire as quickly or as easily as your arms and legs. This is your core.

Paddling from the core

Notice when you are paddling, where can you draw the most power from? It’s true that the legs are very important in drawing power from your lower body and extending through your strokes. The legs are also constantly working to keep you balanced. But the core is where most of your strength and energy comes from.

Your core is what you rely on when you increase the cadence of your paddles, or when you need to execute powerful strokes for more speed and to maintain direction. The core is also essential in battling upwind conditions and staying the course on your SUP, or to balance and track on downwind runs.

Many people or paddleboard newbies assume that the arms play the biggest role. Don’t get me wrong, you will feel it in your arms, especially the triceps and forearms.

But proper paddling technique requires that your arms are there more to guide the paddle through the stroke, balance in waves and make precise turns, rather than to actually power the stroke. That’s what the core’s for.

The one exercise that is essential to proper SUP technique

Since we know how important the core is to stand-up paddleboarding, we should make sure we’re getting quality body weight exercises in during off-season training. The plank, and its many variations, is the most effective exercise for this purpose.

Why the plank should be the hallmark of your SUP training

Planks work isometrically to stabilize and strengthen the core muscles. They are safer for your back (especially when compared to sit-ups or crunches, which go against the natural lumbar curve), and work your hips, shoulders, quads, and glutes. This provides a full stabilizing and strengthening effect from one simple exercise.

The key benefit of a plank is that it allows you to do other exercises or activities that require core strength more efficiently (i.e. paddleboarding).

Don’t forget about the side plank

You will rely heavily on you’re deep, side muscles of your abs when paddleboarding. So don’t overlook the need for a full rotation of plank exercises, including front and side planks. The side plank is essential to strengthening and stabilizing your obliques and transverse abdominus.

Once you are ready, also try to include raised leg planks and swiss ball planks to add variety and effectiveness to the workouts (see below).

Resources: How to do a plank, plus plank routines to enhance your paddleboarding

Here are some resources to get you started on proper plank technique and routines:

  • Mark Sisson (Primal Blueprint): Proper Plank Technique
  • 30 Day Fitness Challenge: How to do a plank
  • Five-minute plank variation workout (includes full plank, forearm plank, side planks, and raised leg planks in circuit): Neila Rey Five Minute Plank Workout
  • Men’s Health: Swiss ball plank exercises

Try these out and find a routine that works best for you. The most important thing at first is maintaining proper form. The hold time is less important, at least until you’re strong enough to hold a plank in the correct position.

After doing these for a few weeks, you’ll notice a big improvement in your paddleboarding ability and endurance.

Overall, the stronger the core, the less muscle fatigue in paddling. You can rely less on your arms when your core is stronger. And this is a good thing, because the most power comes from the legs to core motion.

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SupBoardGuide Editorial Team

At we are a team who love the water, the outdoors, and are more than grateful that our full-time job allows us to review stand up paddle boards. We paddle year round (it helps that we are just about 2 hours outside of Las Vegas), and we bring in a wide range of paddlers with the goal of providing our readers with the best, most in-depth, and accurate stand up paddle board reviews.

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