Depending on where you are and what your opportunities are to get outside, you may or may not be using your core on a regular basis, but no doubt everyone wants to be in the best shape possible to take advantage of paddling as soon as it is possible. To that end, I want to share my special core routine and one thing I can promise is that it will get your core firing and firing properly if you can do this on a regular basis. I need to say a huge thank you to Dr. Heather Demirci at Superior Performance Physical Therapy, without whom I would never have learned the core of this core routine. I have added some parts to it to make it more – as Eric Stiller of Manhattan Kayak Company would say, “Special!!”

I like to use this routine almost every day – whether I am paddling or not as a warm up to literally get me and to also get my core firing properly. What do I mean by firing properly? I mean getting your intrinsic core muscles firing first and to support the rest of the overlying musculature. All of this serves to support your back and help your other groups of muscles fire properly and not just operate in compensation mode. Ultimately this helps prevent injury and allows us to feel better and play more! All steps in the core routine will be labeled in order of how I suggest doing them. As with all exercise you do, your form is very important not only to get the most out of the exercise but also to prevent injury! The initial core series reminds your homunculus of the proper firing for these muscles so it is positive reinforcement at the level of the brain!

1) The first section begins with you lying on your back, knees bent in table top position, feet flexed. From here you want to place straight arms with flat hands against your knees – fingers are straight – not grasping your knees. Push against your knees. This is an isometric hold and I suggest starting with a 20 second hold. Depending on how strong your core is to begin with, you can lift your head or not, but make sure you are not straining your neck! With each segment of this isometric core series, you want to start with 20 second holds for each and then work your way up to more time.


2) Next exercise is the same as the first, but your cross your arms and again hold for 20 seconds – this gets intrinsic oblique muscles – very important for paddling!

Core Fitness for Kayaking
3) Third exercise, you will be in table top position as before but with pointed toes and this time, your hands will grasp the top of your knees and try to pull your femur bones into the floor while at the same time you resist by pushing away with your knees, again hold for 20 seconds.

4) You will finish this part of the core series by going back to your original starting exercise and holding for 20 seconds and congratulations – you have just reminded your homunculus on proper firing for the intrinsic core muscles!

5) Reclining bicycle – start with 40 each side. On top of the fired up core this is going to make you nice and warm. Be sure not to do this exercise too quickly and pay attention to doing the full range of motion here. The more you can lift your upper body during rotation to the opposite side, the more you are going to feel this.

Core Fitness for Kayaking
6) Flip over into plank position and get ready for the push up plus – this is to strengthen the shoulder girdle and in particular work on the tracking of the scapula. If this puts too much strain on your lower back, do the plank from the bent knee position. You will start in the plank position pushing to almost to a rounded back and shoulder position and then you will let your chest sink and upper body sink into the shoulders while keeping the arms straight – the arms remain straight the entire time you do this. The movement is subtle. Do 20 repetitions.

Core Fitness for Kayaking
7) Forearm Plank. Just like the good old plank but done on your forearms. If you keep your hands relaxed, you can hold this pose longer and pay very close attention to your lower back – do not let your lower back arch too much – keep it slightly convex or neutral. Hold for 20-30 seconds to begin with and work on lengthening your hold.
8) Side Plank – This side plank is done as well on the forearm and rather than being a straight hold, it involves movement. Starting from the side hold position, keep the opposite arm pointing to the sky and drop your hips toward the ground without touching the ground and raise back to your starting position. Do this 20 times on each side.


9) Downward dog – finish your core warm up in downward dog for 5-10 breaths or whatever feels good.
10) Gentle cobra – this involves lying on your belly and gently raising your upper body and placing your forearms underneath your front body for a gentle stretch. You will feel this stretch in your core – exactly where you want to feel this. Take 6 long full breaths here and now you and your core should be fired up and ready to go!