Kayaking is a lot of upper body and core strength, with an amount of lifting as well. Outside of the good weather kayaking season - winter months for Sit on Tops for example - what are good ways to train for the next good weather season?

Assume this means it's not possible to kayak easily over the winter, include gym equipment and alternatives to a gym.

  • 2
    In the UK, whitewater paddlers have the opposite problem. There's only water in the rivers in winter, and access is easier then anyway.
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 15:50
  • 1
    Winter was only an example, out of season for them would be high summer but I'd like to know how to train out of season regardless of when that is :) clarified title.
    – Aravona
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 17:00
  • What is this "out of season" you speak of?
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 17:06

3 Answers 3


Without spending a fortune on a kayak ergo there are still useful exercises. These will tend to use body weight and and/or minimal equipment.

A lot of the effort in kayaking comes from the core, so a good all round core routine will be an important part of any land-based training. Canoe and kayak magazine published a set of core exercises for paddlers a few years ago (part 1, part 2).

You also need a few strength exercises, such as bench rows (only needing a bench and a dumbbell). With access to a gym you may be able to do pulley rows; a pulley machine is also good for the very important rotator cuff. Or there may be a lats and traps machine. This is designed to be used with a chest pad; as a kayaker I prefer to use it without, but with lighter weight, and work the relevant bits of my lower back. Don't neglect your legs completely - they're an important part of your connection to the boat.

There are various guides online here's one that concentrates on body weight exercises. There are also several books dedicated to the topic.

Try to maintain or even improve your flexibility; at least stretch properly after a strength session.

General fitness of course has to be maintained by whatever means you like. Apart from usually being open all year round, swimming has the extra advantage that it's a necessary skill for water sports so worth practicing. It's also less biased to legs than running or cycling.

This is very close to being an all round strength and fitness programme, so if you're into training in company a circuits/core class plus some cardio and a few shoulder exercises should be very useful (but I have neither the time nor the personality for gym classes so can't be more specific).

  • I finally found the time to write my answer, but reckon it might need a little editing when I'm at a desk. As I commented before, my season is different to the question, but I think I've kept this general. In fact it's easier for me as I can, at least in theory, go out on flat water in summer, or visit a white water centre
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 7:11

There are canoe and kayak versions of the indoor rowing machine. Essentially, instead of sliding back and forth, pulling an oar, to simulate rowing, you are sitting/kneeling in place, pulling/pushing a stick, to simulate paddling.

Example product images and product pages:

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  • Can anyone comment who has used one of these trainers? Did you feel it was easy to maintain decent form without the feedback of a boat moving through water?
    – mmcc
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 0:31

When I first began kayaking I found a winter of swimming and rock climbing helped me get through the sore-arms stage, where I had felt stuck, to the plateau of leisurely paddling for hours at a level of exertion that felt more like backpacking.

That said I feel the best way to train is to find a thing you are excited to do, and will therefore actually do most consistently, rather than the thing which most perfectly resembles kayaking. Virtually anything that makes you move trains your core, and at the end of whatever session of whatever it is you’ve found you can always throw in some light bodyweight exercises while you’re already warmed up, wearing comfortable clothes, and needing a shower. If you’ve found a thing you love to do you’ll find yourself in that state more often.

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