August 03, 2022 8 min read

Try these stretches to get loosened up and ready to SUP

Man stretching before going to the waters

Whether you are paddling in the depths of winter or the height of summer, a pre-SUP stretch out is in your best interest. A warm-up isn’t just about getting your muscles ready, but it also gets your mind ready for some paddle boarding action. 

It’s no secret that there are countless health benefits to paddle boarding. SUPing is becoming one of the most popular recreational sports across the world as more and more people discover how awesome it is. And as with other sports, stretching out before you get started is always recommended. So why treat paddle boarding any different?

If you are keen to improve your SUP fitness and maximize your paddling, then you should start every session with a warm-up routine. It doesn't have to be long, just enough to get you ahead of the game. Here are some top tips from our crew here at GILI. We are going to cover both pre-SUP and post-SUP stretches, as well as exercises to improve your skills overall.

Why warm-up before paddle boarding?

Woman stretching on the beach

Warming up before any sporting activity is important, and paddle boarding is no different. It prepares you both physically and mentally. A lot of people talk about the importance of warming up without truly understanding the why’s:

  • Increase the heart rate and therefore blood flow
  • Enables more oxygen to reach your muscles
  • Ultimately gives you a better performance

All of these elements will help prevent injury. It will also get you in the zone ready for paddle boarding, regardless of whether you are paddling recreationally or competitively.

Preventing SUP-related injuries 

We are not going to hide the fact that injuries can occur while paddle boarding. Injury is a risk with most things in life, especially when it comes to fun and adrenaline-fuelled sports! 

Doing an all-body warm-up before heading out on your SUP is a good prevention of muscle strain. Paddling asks a lot from your shoulders, back, and core, so these areas are susceptible to injury if not properly warmed up.

Injuries can also be associated with lifting, carrying, dropping, and/or falling from the board in an unsafe manner. Typically this happens through:

  • improper technique;
  • or, lack of instruction.

Along with warm-up preparation, you should also be conscious of how you handle the SUP on land. Lift the board using your knees rather than your back and carry it with a buddy if needed. You should also learn how to fall from the SUP in the correct way to avoid injuries from a collision with your board – starfish and flop backwards is always the best method!

Getting in the zone

For some people, a warm-up is a pre-paddle ritual more than anything. Getting your head in the game is just as important as warming up your muscles. A simple overhead stretch and upper back twist can make all the difference to your mindset, and it’s a bonus that it loosens off any tension in your shoulders.

Here at GILI, we are strong believers in the mental wellbeing and therapeutic benefits of paddle boarding. You will be amazed at how great you feel after a SUP session if you are yet to discover it – but be warned, it’s addictive!

Muscle groups used to SUP

Paddle boarding is a great workout for the whole body. From paddle strokes to maintaining balance, a SUP session works for the following muscle groups:

  • Mid back muscles - latissimus dorsi
  • Shoulders - deltoids
  • Arms - triceps and biceps
  • Legs - quadriceps
  • Core - abdominals

So if you are hoping to burn calories, you have stumbled across the most fun way to do it!

Warm-up using your SUP equipment

Man inflating his GILI inflatable paddle board with a manual pump

Utilize your SUP equipment to stretch out and warm-up for the session!

While we love electric pumps, you can’t beat the workout and warmup from using a manual dual action pump to inflate your inflatable paddle boards. This is a perfect way to get your shoulders ready for paddling.

You can also use your paddle to stretch out your arms and shoulders. A paddle stretch is simple:

  1. Hold your paddle horizontally in front of you, with your hands gripped on the shaft just wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Raise the paddle above your head keeping your arms straight (with a slight bend in the elbow) and keeping your shoulders down.
  3. Pulse the stretch, but be sure not to overdo it. 

Pre-SUP warm-up and stretching exercises

Before you head out on your next paddle, try introducing a couple (or all) of these stretches to warm your body up and get prepped for paddling.

Overhead stretch

Targetted area: shoulders, upper back, side body, chest, arms.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, circle sweep your arms overhead. Interlace your fingers, turn your palms to the sky and push up trying to keep your shoulders down. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat as needed.

Arm circles

Targetted area: shoulders, biceps, triceps.

Similar to overhead stretch, except you move your arms in large circles. Begin with forwards to back, then reverse after 10-20 seconds. Alternate arms in each direction and feel free to go crazy as you warm up. Have fun with it!

Upper back twist

Targetted area: upper back, chest.

Take this stretch either standing, sitting, or kneeling. We prefer seated so you can utilize your knee to help pull yourself around. Take a deep breath in to expand your chest. As you breathe out, twist left with your right arm wrapped around your body to deepen the stretch. Repeat on the other side. 

Squats

Group of woman performing squats on their paddle boards

Targetted area: quads, glutes, hamstrings, core, and hips.

Squats are a dynamic exercise and stretch that you can build up gradually. They are great for improving balance and coordination. There are several variations of a squat, but just keep it simple when you’re warming up for a paddle board session. 

With your feet shoulder-width apart, begin to lower as if sitting in a chair while keeping your back straight and tall. Raise back to standing then repeat.  

Standing glute squeeze 

Targetted area: glutes.

Standing tall and comfortably, slight bend to your knees, and squeeze your trunk for 3 seconds before slowly releasing. Repeat a few times. This will help increase your strength and endurance in the legs, meaning you can paddle stronger and for longer.

Ankle rotation

​​Targetted area: ankles, calves.

You can either lie flat on your back and raise your leg or test your balance and do ankle rotations standing. Raise one leg straight just a few inches above the ground. Rotate your ankle in a clockwise motion for 15-30 seconds, then go in the other direction. Repeat on the other leg. 

Tip: If you are standing, you can hold your paddle horizontally out in front of you to help stay balanced.

Lunges

Targetted area: glutes, quads, calves, hip flexors.

There are many lunge variations you can do to help open your hips and warm up your legs ready for paddle boarding. Keep it simple, to begin with. 

  1. Forward lunge: Stand with your feet together, hips tucked, and core engaged. Take a big step forwards with your right foot. Bend into both knees as you lower the hips and push forward, keeping your back upright. Do this on both sides.
  2. Side lunge: Stand with your feet together, hips tucked, and core engaged. Take a big step to the right with your right foot. Bend into the right knee and shift the weight right, straightening the left leg and keeping your back straight. Switch sides.

Post-SUP stretches and cool down

It is equally as important to stretch out after you have had a hard session paddling. Here are some great stretches, inspired by yoga, you can add to your post-SUP routine:

  • Wide leg fold and shoulder stretch
  • Downward dog
  • Cobra 
  • Child’s pose

Best land exercises to improve your paddle boarding

Woman stretching

Hoping to get stronger and improve your paddling skills? These are the best land exercises you can do to improve your time on the SUP

  1. Squats – works your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
  2. Lunge variations – try side, jumping, pulsing, or twisting lunges to add variety. Good for building strength in your hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
  3. Plank variations – we are talking walkouts, T’s, superman, kick through’s, side planks, and good old-fashioned high plank holds. These engage the core muscles, upper and lower back, shoulder, quads… So pretty much everything!
  4. Press-ups – great for strengthening the chest, front of shoulders, entire core strength, and lower back.
  5. Yoga – increases your overall fitness and flexibility.

While having a targetted workout regime to follow will help, ultimately paddling more is the best way to develop your skills, strength, and technique. Put in the hours out on the water and you will soon see an improvement!

Wrap up: best paddle boarding warm-up and stretches

Now you know the why, when, and how to SUP warm-ups, add it into your routine to get the most out of your paddling power! You will be amazed at how much a simple stretch out can do for your paddle boarding. 

FAQ’S

🏆 Do I need to warm up every time I paddle?

Paddle boarding is still a sport, whether you are paddling just for fun or more competitively. As with any sport, you should warm up in some shape or form before starting. This does not need to be an intensive warm-up, but just enough to raise your heart rate slightly and get your muscles engaged.

Pumping up your inflatable SUP is a great pre-paddle exercise that most of us do anyway. A quick paddle stretch over your head and a twist through your back are basic and quick stretches you can do in any environment.


👍 Do I need to stretch after every paddle?

If you have had an intense session of paddling, a stretch out afterwards is recommended. This will give your muscles the needed attention to recover and reduce the risk of injury. We like to do a child’s pose stretch while deflating our iSUPs, as this kills two birds with one stone.


🏝️ Will strength training improve my paddling?

Strength training will definitely help improve your paddling. As paddle boarding is an overall body sport, it is best to keep your workouts varied and balanced. Ultimately, don’t go skipping leg day!


❓ What exercises help with paddle boarding?

Basic body-weight exercises are great in training for paddle boarding. Push-ups, sit-ups, and planks will work your abs which will improve your balance while on your SUP. These exercises will also strengthen your arms and shoulders, so you can paddle harder and longer.


📦 What muscles is paddle boarding good for?

Paddle boarding works just about every muscle in your body! It is an excellent core body workout while also requiring shoulder and arm strength to paddle. Ankles and feet get a workout as they are constantly finding balance. And then you are surely smiling the whole time, right? So that’s your face right there!


📦 Why do my legs hurt after paddle boarding?

Your legs may ache after paddle boarding as you are using muscles that you don’t often use in everyday life. Naturally maintaining balance on the water will take a lot out on your legs. 

If the soreness is not improving as you gain more experience, you could take a look at your posture and technique. Remember, you need a slight bend in the knees, and try to spread your weight evenly across both feet.

Jay Regan
Jay Regan

Chief Paddler - Jay has been surfing and paddling for over 5 years. When he's not dreaming up new stuff at GILI, he's writing articles about paddling, out paddling, or often traveling.


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