Updated: Jul 6, 2021
In Stand Up Paddling, we think about balance A LOT. However, we're thinking about physically balancing on our boards when its windy, in the ocean, or if a boat flies by. Many people don't think of the other kind of balance, the balance of strength in our bodies. Some of us start to realize that we may be stronger on the left or the right, and we start to consider being balanced in lateral strength. But, moreover, in order to paddle for long periods of time, or to push it hard in a short period of time, it is important for our strength to be balanced in such a way that it prevents injury.
Our push strength and pull strength in our legs, arms, and core should all be balanced in a specific ratio that I will not be sharing publicly in this post. When I have a new coaching client in SUP, I like to get a base line of their strengths. If they are in Wilmington, I will send them to Crossfit Carolina Beach to get a strength balance assessment from Jordan. (You could go get this test without me.) Regardless of where its done, I like to see a persons ability to do the back squat, front squat, dead lift, bench press, pendlay row, ring dip, pullup, upright row and overhead press. All of these need to be performed with perfect technique with a trained professional to get an idea of a person's maximum strength in each plane of movement. Once I have these numbers, I will take a look at the "magic ratio" and help develop an early season strength base that improves or enhances the athlete's body balance. In the absence of maximum numbers (which can be scary or intimidating, or downright dangerous for those with no lifting experience) we can use maximum numbers reached at a much lighter weight. In addition to these numbers, I also like to get a look at the balance between the left and the right side of the body.
Why do we want to be balanced in these planes of movement? Because it prevents injury! It turns out, for example, if your push strength is extremely developed but your pull strength is weak, when you go to sprint really hard the imbalance of the muscles in your body could cause a pull or strain. Most tweaks we feel after paddling for a very long distance, or after a sprint actually occur because of the imbalance within our bodies. A majority of injuries we experience as paddlers can be avoided by balancing our push and pull strength. This is, of course, synergistic with a properly periodized training plan that builds strength first and also builds your paddling base. After balancing your strength and building your base, you can start to convert that strength into on-water power and increase your paddling intensity safely.
It seems simple, but its often overlooked!
If you're interested in having me analyze your strength numbers and develop a plan for your paddling pre-season don't hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! If you're nearby, we can work together (Santa Barbara area)! If you're coming from a lifting background and are relatively balanced already, but are looking to put in a solid pre-season maximum strength phase for paddling, you can buy the pre-built plan here: https://bit.ly/2MOSiqp.
If you don't have any experience lifting weights, I recommend that you find a reputable Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach in your area to safely introduce you to the proper movements. Once you feel comfortable with the basic lifts (i.e. back squat, front squat, dead lift, bench press, pendlay row, ring dip, pullup, upright row and overhead press) give me a shout!! And we can optimize these basic movements for you and your paddling :-D