Exercise Spotlight: Kayaker

In summer, many of you likely enjoy being out on the water and paddling yourself around while enjoying beautiful weather and some spectacular Wisconsin scenery.


You don’t have to be in a boat or on the water to experience many of the benefits of a paddling – specifically, kayaking - movement pattern!


This month’s featured exercise videos present kayaking movements performed with a stick.


The kayaking movement develops core strength while increasing the flexibility/range of motion of your shoulders, neck, and back. Further, your balance is challenged in both the stationary and walking kayaking movements.




Find a open space with a high ceiling (or outdoors).




Use a four to six foot pole or stick that you can place your hands a variable distance apart. A broom or mop handle or a wooden dowel works well.


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Performing these variations will expand your ability to support your body weight in different planes of movement as well as challenge positions of strength and stability while developing upper body and lower body strength.


Video Examples


UW Health Fitness Center senior exercise physiologist Jude Sullivan demonstrates the exercises in the videos below.


Video 1: Kayaker


Video 2: Kayak Swing



Progression Ideas


Consider Video 1: Kayaker as the beginner and intermediate choices, and Video 2: Kayak Swing as the advanced choice. So, if these are new to you, try the beginner version first until mastered before proceeding to the intermediate and advanced versions.  


A training progression would likely occur over the course of weeks or months depending on your initial level of fitness and your ability to pick up some of the nuances of each movement. Start by doing one set of five to six repetitions of each exercise, as long as you can do them successfully. Be sure to evaluate your body's response and use that feedback as a guide to help you determine how aggressively you can advance.