Winter Training for SUP Athletes

With the Northern Hemisphere covered in snow, grey skies and long nights, stand-up paddle enthusiasts may find their time on the water is not what it used to be a few months back. Winter Training is important, so how do you go about keeping in shape? After all, stand-up paddling is a little unique compared to other sports. That “core workout” we never seem to be able to stop talking about, is inherently tied to standing up and, well, paddling hard.

But in the coldest season, we just can’t always do that. To make sure your training regimen doesn’t suffer, we spoke to two paddling enthusiasts who take their off-season training a little more serious than your average Joe. Vincent Guillaume is a professional trainer with almost two decades of coaching under his belt, and a dedicated SUP athlete. Vincent trains several of our International Racers, carefully making sure their training regimen is suited to the specific needs of their schedule, past performance and individual requirements. He also supports a variety of athletes online, and anyone interested in training more effectively should get in touch on “Training Week”. The combination exercise at the end of his reel should give you an idea of the creativity and diversity he likes to bring to his training:

Note: “plyometrics”, also known as jump training or plyos, are exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing power (speed-strength).

Ted Schatz is a borderline professional SUP racer who will insist that his paddling is “for recreational use only”. Meanwhile, he does seem to know an awful lot about cardio and training regimens for a self-proclaimed amateur.

Ted going through his own (winter) training - click the image to open his own website

Strength Training for the Average Paddler – by Ted Schatz
For a lot of us Winter equals a little less time on the water and a little more time indoors and at the gym. It’s time to “pump some iron”, “blow up the guns”, “get swole bro”… The sayings and the cliches are endless however, this is a great opportunity to improve our on the water paddling strength and make ourselves a little more injury-resilient for the prime paddling season. All we need is to make sure we understand and follow some very simple principles while in the gym so that our time is well spent.

Ted & training partners heading out for a session at Fred's Marina - Pic by Manny de Leon

The first principle I will discuss is an overlaying principle of all things training related. This principle is called the S.A.I.D principle. Specific Adaptation to the Imposed Demands. So what does this mean? Simply put, our bodies will adapt specifically to the demands which we impose upon them. Example: If I want to get stronger I must do activities that require me to be stronger on a consistent and regular basis. This is also why even though you may crush it at paddling if you do not run on a regular basis you may still not be a great runner. These adaptations are specific. Ultimately Paddling is where we will make our biggest paddling gains. This is not to say that having some good, general strength isn’t helpful. For the average Joe or Jane I do believe it is critical to maintaining a healthy body and as stated earlier, making us a little more injury-resilient.

If you take a look at the current top paddlers in the world you will realize that paddling is a sport where strength to weight ratio seems to matter. Split routines for more muscle isolation are typically used with a goal of building muscle mass. Just having bigger muscles does not benefit our paddling. We need stronger muscles that we are able to call upon and use. We want to be “Farmer Strong”. We all know that person whom for whatever reason is not very big and yet is freakishly strong. This is typically due to the fact that their muscles are just smarter. Their connection from their brain to their muscles is working better than ours, therefore they are better able to use all the muscle fibers they already have. Focusing on classic, whole-body movements with the proper sets and reps will be your best bet for developing this type of strength without the unneeded extra mass on our bodies.

Ty Judson in the background, with not an ounce too much, riding a partywave with Michael Booth and Georges Cronsteadt, two of the heavier (and powerful!) athletes on the tour.

If our goal is to focus on strength the current recommendation is 3-5 sets of 3-6 reps at 80-90% of your 1 rep max for each exercise. Does this mean you should just grab any weight and do 3 reps with it? NO! The goal should be that somewhere between 3-6 reps you reach technical failure while doing the exercise. Technical failure is a point where you can no longer complete another repetition and maintain proper form due to muscle fatigue.

No such thing as a too-strong core
Finally, you can never really have too strong of a core. This link between the power of our hips and lower body to the handle of the paddle is huge. If there is one muscle group to spend a little more time on and isolate this is where time will be well spent. Not only will it allow us to apply our power better, it can also help us to minimize our injury potential, specifically to our backs.

So now what? What exercises should I do? Where do I start? Well here is a basic workout routine to get you started. It is loaded with a few of my personal time tested favourite exercises for building a stronger paddler. I have tried to use names that are common and with a quick search of the internet you should find tutorials on each one of these.

Have Fun and Get Strong!


1. Goblet Squat
2. Kettlebell Single Arm Overhead Strict Press
3. Single Leg Deadlift
4. Pull up, Assisted Pull up or Inverted Row
5. Drop Step Lunge
6. Cable or Resistance Band Chops

Start at the top of the list and complete 3-6 reps of each exercise. If the exercise uses 1 side of the body the count is per side and you will complete both sides before moving to the next exercise. Once you have completed exercise 6 return to the top of the list and repeat 3-5 times.