Tips from the Pros: Top 4 Paddling Exercises
Want to improve your performance in your favorite outdoor sports? This week, we're asking professional athletes to tell us their secrets.
Four Exercises for Paddlers
Today, Olympic whitewater slalom canoeist Casey Eichfeld shares four of his favorite training exercises.
The 23-year-old is currently recognized as the top whitewater single canoe paddler in the United States. A two-time Olympian, Eichfeld was the youngest solo competitor in the U.S Whitewater Slalom Nationals as an eight-year-old, and he was named by Paddler Magazine in 2000 as a "Paddler of the Next Century." He's hoping that third time's the (Golden) charm as he prepares for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
"I am particularly fond of the pull-up because it is a versatile exercise that doesn't necessarily require any equipment," Eichfeld writes via email. "If I can pull my body vertically through the air, then certainly I can pull it horizontally along the water."
No pull-up bar? An easy alternative is to drape a towel over a door to protect your hands and pull yourself up that way. The door's barrier will make it so you can't rock back and forth to swing yourself up, making it a killer for your biceps, your back, and your shoulders. Perform the movement in a controlled, steady motion. Eichfeld writes that you can challenge yourself by progressing to "L" pull-ups (simultaneously raising your legs parallel to the floor) as well as to weighted pull-ups.
2. Single-Leg Deadlifts
While you can certainly perform deadlifts with both legs, Eichfeld likes to work with one leg at a time to strengthen the stabilizing muscles for his balance and for his core/lower back.
Start with your feet together. Brace your abs and pull your shoulder blades down without arching your back. Lift your left leg off the ground, slowly bending forward while keeping your back straight. Take your left hand and try to lightly touch the ground; your body should look like a giant letter "T" at this point in the movement. Slowly straighten back up to a standing position. Repeat for 8 to 12 reps on your left foot before switching to your right. If that becomes too easy, you can hold some kind of weight — any weight will do, even if it's something simple like a milk jug or a textbook — and force your sense of balance to work even harder.
3. Shoulder Press
A balanced rowing program doesn't mean you should focus only on rowing exercises. "While paddling typically requires a pulling motion," Eichfeld writes,"I find that it is important to be well-rounded in muscular development so that my power output is high and efficient."
Grab an object that will allow you to place your hands about shoulder width-apart from each other (For those new to exercising, a light weight like a broomstick will do. For athletes, try to find an olympic barbell so you can steadily increase the weight as you become stronger). Keep your core tight and press the weight from your shoulders to above your head. Slowly bring the weight back down to your shoulders. Repeat the movement. More repetitions will improve your muscular endurance, while lower repetitions will improve your muscular strength.
4. Bench Press
The bench press gives Eichfeld a similar result as that from the shoulder press and ensures that he is balanced in his upper body. Always have other people watch you during this lift so they can safely help you out if you can't complete another repetition. Push-ups are also a great option if you don't have access to a gym.
It's not every day you get expert advice from an Olympian, huh? Well, this is your lucky week. Check back tomorrow for more training tips from the pros.
--Images by USKayak/Canoe
Davis Jones is an editorial intern at Sierra. His love for the outdoors began when he stepped on a fish hook as a 12-year-old and cried, in a burst of epiphanic clarity, "I'm too young to die." He attends the University of San Diego and enjoys camping, hiking, backpacking, and other activities that more or less benefit the mosquito population.