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Strength training


Strength exercises

   Shoulder exercises
         4 point press
         Lateral raise
         Front raise
         Bent-over raise
   Chest exercises
         Chest fly
         Bench press
   Back exercises
         Bent-over row
         Good morning exercise
         Close grip raise
   Core exercises
         Leg throw-down
         Medicine ball twist
         Madi's ultimate frisbee core exercises and 'work-out'
   Arm exercises
         Biceps 21s
         Triceps extension
   Whole body exercises
         Power clean
   Stability ball exercises
         The pike
         Stability ball press-up

Flexibility exercises

Strength exercises [Back to top]

The stuff in the sections below is what I've picked up and may have misinterpreted, best is to talk to gym staff. I haven't crippled myself yet, so hopefully the exercises below are ok! If you think anything is wrong, please e-mail

Some rules, for the strict adherance of idiots and the guidance of the wise:

  • Good quality, smooth repetitions of the movement, exercising the full range of motion are the target.
  • Jerky movements that use momentum to help you lift heavy weights are less beneficial and might lead to injury. However! A sustained powerful 'explosive' movement can be used as a way of training explosive power. I guess replicating the way you'd use a movement for real is the aim of the game, so perhaps make your rowing and throwing type movements explosive.
  • Not lowering a weight all the way, because it is easier to lift back up again is again less beneficial than exercising the full range of movement.
  • When trying a new exercise, always start with a low weight with which you can comfortably achieve 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions of an exercise and build up. Trying to lift too much too soon will cause injury. When you can perform two repetitions on top of your target number in your final set, increase the weight in the next session.
I warm up with a short run/row/cycle to get the blood flowing, body warm etc, then do some stretches before I start doing weights. I think this is a good idea. I also try to do stretches or maybe go for a short swim as a warm-down and to stay flexible. There's no point being massively strong but so inflexible that you can barely move to do the strokes you are trying to get more power for!

Shoulder exercises [Back to top]

Four point press [Back to top]

Four point press

This exercise aims to exercise all the muscles in you shoulders. Use light weights, or no weights at all to start. Make your movements smooth and precise and keep a good posture, especially with your back. Either do this standing or sitting on a bench.

  1. Hold the weights at your sides, level with your shoulders, push up so the weights are above and either side of your head.
  2. Bring your elbows together so that that the weights are together above and slightly in front of your head.
  3. Lower the weights in front of your face until they are in front of your chest, level with your shoulders.
  4. Bring your elbows apart so that you return to the starting position.

Lateral raise [Back to top]

Lateral raise

This exercise aims to exercise the front and middle shoulder muscles.
  1. With your arms starting by your sides, raise the weights with straight arms until they are level with your head.
  2. Lower the weights smoothly back to your sides.

Front raise [Back to top]

Front raise

This exercise aim's to exercise the front shoulder muscles.

  1. With the weights starting in front of your thighs, raise one of the weights until it is level with your head.
  2. Lower the weight slowly to its starting position. Repeat with the other weight.

Bent-over raise [Back to top]


PGL's (that's nickname for a person, not the fine institution that provides holdiays for children) favourite. This exercise aims to exercise the rear shoulder muscles, just watch out for those glove-wearing-gym boys attacking from behind!

  1. Bent over, with the weights starting hanging down in front of you, raise the weights until they are back and to the side as far as you can.
  2. Slowly lower the weights back to their starting position.

Chest exercises [Back to top]

Chest fly [Back to top]

Chest fly

This is a chest exercise, which seems to exercise the muscles needed for a strong chest and arm during bow rudders and bow draws.
  1. Lying face up on a bench, hold the weights with slightly bent arms, straight above the chest. Lower the weights slowly out to the sides as far as is comfortable, trying to exercise the full range of movement.
  2. Lift the weights up again using the chest muscles to the starting position.

Bench press [Back to top]

Bench press

This should exercise mainly chest but also shoulders, perhaps benficial for a strong posture during a forward and other strokes. This can be done with dumbells or with a bar on a proper bench. Be careful if using a bar, have someone there to take the weight back onto the rack (on a proper bench) so you don't end up pinned to the bench! Don't try to lift too much, it hurts and you can't easily drop the bar without damaging yourself! I've recently been doing 5 sets of 5, which I like. 3 sets of 8-12 is another suggestion.
  1. Lying face up on a bench, hold the the bar straight above the chest with arms almost locked out. Lower the bar slowly until it is just above your sternum almost touching your chest. Do not rest the bar on your chest, or bounce the bar off your chest, this can cause injury.
  2. Lift the bar back to the starting position in a controlled manner. Do not arch your back, this can cause back injury!

Back exercises [Back to top]

Bent over row [Back to top]

Bent over row

This exercise aims to exercise the mid-upper back and arm muscles used as part of a powerful forward stroke. Some say keep the shoulders level and lift the weight using only the back and arm. I like to lower the weight to the floor by rotating the torso and lift it all the way up, including torso rotation as in a real stroke.

  1. With the left knee and left hand supported on the bench, the right foot on the floor and the weight held in the right hand with a straight arm, pull the weight up to chest level.
  2. Lower the weight back to the starting position in a controlled manner.

Good morning exercise [Back to top]

Good morning exercise

This exercise should strengthen the muscles used for straightening the back, the lower back muscles. This will help the transfer of power from the back, arm and shoulders into the boat without your body hunching into a poor posture. Again, be careful trying to lift to much to avoid injury. There are frames in the weights room that have a rack to hold the bar at shoulder level until it is required if a heavy weight is being used.
  1. With a bar balanced across the shoulders, keep a straight back and bend over at the hips until the back is near parallel to the floor.
  2. Raise the bar back to the starting position, keeping a straight back.

Close grip raise[Back to top]

Close grip raise

This exercise should strengthen the upper back muscles. I'm not sure how these relate to canoeing, but it's good to be balanced to prevent injuries!
  1. With the hands close together (hold thumbs along the bar, they should be touching), raise the bar to chin level.
  2. Lower the bar back to the starting position in a controlled manner.

Core stomach exercises [Back to top]

Leg throw-down [Back to top]

Leg throwdown

This exercise should strengthen the abdominal muscles, which are pretty important to canoeing.
  1. Holding on to the ankles of an assistant, keep the legs straight und lift them up towards the assistant's hands with the abdominal muscles.
  2. The assistant throws the feet away from them. Stop the legs just above the floor with the abdominal muscles, and repeat.

Medicine ball twist [Back to top]

Medicine ball twist

This exercise should strengthen the abdominal muscles including those used in rotation, very important for canoeing!
  1. An assistant is standing on the feet holding a medicine ball. Catch the medicine ball in both hands and sit up.
  2. Touch the ball on the floor by the left hip by rotating the torso, then by the right hip.
  3. Throw the ball back to the assistant and lower the torso to the starting position.
Repeat this exercise in a pyramid fashion, with the next repetition touching the ball on each side twice, the next three times, then four, then five, then back down: four, three, two, one, finish.

If this is too easy, either do more repetitions or sets, or try this: an exercise that seems to mimic the action of pulling a boat up and over the water, at 2:38,  it's hard!

Madi's ultimate frisbee core exercises and 'work-out'[Back to top]

Here are a series of exercises followed by a suggested work-out from Madi and the ultimate frisbee lot, they are the kind of thing that you can do at home, so if you fear the glove wearing, image concious comfort zoners in the gym, fear not, Madi is here to save you. It may sound like an antenatal class, but try it, and if you still think that, repeat the lot until you can't do any more.

Eccentric Sit-ups
  • Lie on your back, feet flat on the floor, knees bent, hands across chest or by head. This is the finishing position.
  • Perform a situp fast, then slowly lower yourself down to the finishing position over three seconds.
  • Repeat.

  • Adopt a press-up position.
  • Lift one arm and the opposite leg so that they are in line with your back so your body is in a straight line with one hand and one foot on the floor.
  • Hold this position.

  • Adopt a press-up type position, but with your forearms on the floor.
  • Hold this position.

    Leg Up Plank
  • Adopt a plank position.
  • Lift one foot, rotate the hip outwards and lift your knee to hip level, ie bent at 90o.
  • Hold this position with the knee and foot just off the floor.

    Rock Climbers
  • Lie on your front with your legs bent at the knee and feet in the air, as if you were at a sleep-over in front of the TV enjoying an episode of Sex and the City with your 'girlfriends'. Sorry, seriously now.
  • Lift your head and shoulders off the floor, reach out forwards as far as possible with one arm, then imagine grabbing hold of something and clawing it back towards you while you exchange hands, and repeat with the other arm.
  • Repeat. At no point should your arms shoulder hands etc touch the floor

    Side Leg Raises (it's getting really antenatal now)
  • Lie on your side, body completely straight.
  • Tighten the core, and lift the top leg as high as possible in a controlled manner.
  • Lower in the same manner
  • Repeat.

    Hip Opens
  • Lie on your side with your knees bent at 90 degrees.
  • Hinge your legs apart while keeping your feet together.
  • Return to the start position.
  • Repeat.

    Lying Back Extension
  • Lie on your front, arms and legs stretched out, so you are in a straight line.
  • Keep your feet together and lift your hands and feet as high as possible while keeping them together.
  • Return to the start position.
  • Repeat.

  • Lie on your front, spread-eagled like you are demonstrating an unnecessary joke about someone's mother.
  • Lift your arms and legs as high off the floor as you can. The only part of your body touching the ground should be your stomach.
  • Hold this position.
  • Leg Lowers
  • Lie on your back with hips bent at 90 and knees at 90 so your feet are off the floor
  • Keeping your lower back pressed into the floor, lower one foot to touch the floor, then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat with the other foot
  • If this is too easy, straighten your legs.

    Hamstring Lifts
  • Lie on the floor with your feet up on a sofa or stability ball, arse against your chosen object.
  • Push down through your heels to lift your hips into the air as high as possible, keeping your arse close to the object so your body is close to vertical.
  • Return to the starting position
  • Repeat.

    The whole 'work-out'
  • 10 Eccentric Sit-ups
  • Superman: 10 seconds each side, twice
  • Leg Up Plank: 10seconds each side, then 10seconds normal Plank for a total of 30 seconds
  • 30 Rock Climbers
  • 10 Side Leg Raises (each side)
  • 10 Hip Opens (each side)
  • Lying Back Extension: 10s
  • Skydivers: 10 seconds, twice
  • Leg Lowers: 20 each side
  • 10 Hamstring Lifts
  • Plank: 40seconds
  • If you are not ready for a natural, herb and meditation assisted birth after this, you never will be.

    Arm Exercises [Back to top]

    Biceps - 21s [Back to top]

    Bicep 21s

    This exercise should strengthen the biceps, probably involved in the last part of a forward stroke. It's quicker with a bar, instead of doing one side at a time.

    First 7:
    1. Starting with the bar held with the arms relaxed, lift the bar until the forearms are at right angles to the body. 
    2. Lower the bar to the starting position in a controlled manner. Repeat this seven times.
    Second 7:
    1. Starting with the bar held with the forearms at right angles to the body, lift the bar until the elbows are fully bent.
    2. Lower the bar to the starting position (forearms at right angles to body) in a controlled manner. Repeat this seven times.
    Final 7:
    1. Starting with the bar held with the arms relaxed, lift the bar until the elbows are fully bent.
    2. Lower the bar to the starting position in a controlled manner. Repeat this seven times.
    This should really burn!

    Triceps - extension [Back to top]

    Tricep extension

    This exercise should strengthen the triceps. It may help the 'punch' part of a forward stroke, and perhaps power in throwing. It can be done with a bar or a single dumbell held in both hands
    1. With a bar held above the head with arms straight, bend the arms at the elbow to lower the weight behind the head in a controlled manner.
    2. Lift the bar back to the starting position.

    Whole body exercises [Back to top]

    Power clean [Back to top]

    Power clean
    This exercises all sorts of muscles, is hard work, and is supposed to be good for coordination or muscles. The description here is brief. This exercise could be dangerous or cause injury if done wrong so like everything else here it is done at your own risk! Consult one of the posters in the weights room or one of the many youtube videos (power clean) for proper technique.
    1. Start with the knees bent, bent at the waist with a straight back. Hold the bar at about shoulder width. Smoothly drive the bar upwards with the legs and back, and as the bar reaches the top of its travel via the first movement, bend the knees to  bring the bar into the 'racked' position where it is supported on the chest in front of the shoulders and finish the lift by straightening the legs and body.
    2. Lower the bar in a controlled manner, keeping good posture.

    Stability ball exercises [Back to top]

    The exercises in this section use a swiss ball/gym ball/exercise ball/stability ball, whatever you call it. One of the big bouncy balls you get in gyms. They are suppose to be good because they train balance and coordination while using muscles. I've found of these exercises really good for core and lower back strengthening, and exercising away back stiffness.

    The Pike [Back to top]

    The pike

    This exercise aims to strengthen your upper body, core, torso and shoulders. It's a good one!
    1. Hold your body rigid, with your lower legs on top of the ball and your torso supported by your arms. Raise your body by bending at the waist and lifting your hips, keeping your spine straight, until your hips are directly above your shoulders.
    2. Pause, then lower your body back to the starting position.

    Stability ball press up [Back to top]

    Stability ball press-up

    This exercise aims to strengthen your upper body, core and shoulders again.
    1. This is just a press up with your feet supported by the ball. Keep your body straight at all times, starting with your arms straight, bend at the elbows to lower your nose to the floor.
    2. Push back up to the starting position.

    These exercises should be enough to get on with, but: [Back to top]

    There's a book called 'Fit to Paddle' by Rocky Snyder that has lots of paddling oriented strength, flexibility and endurance exercises in it if you are looking for more.

    I try to do exercises that mimic bits of canoeing, so a bent over row where you have one hand on a bench and one hand pulling a weight off the floor is similar to the lower arm part of a paddling action, for example.

    Ask the gym staff, they must know loads!

    Flexibility exercises [Back to top]

    Still to come! Do some stretches

    Some on one of the sheets in the Excel spreadsheet here: stretches for slalom