Is SUP Paddling A Good Full Body Workout
Is SUP Paddling A Good Full Body Workout

Paddling through the open waters on a Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) has become a popular recreational activity for outdoor enthusiasts. But beyond its calming and serene appeal, have you ever wondered if SUP paddling offers more than a relaxing experience?

Well, we’re here to tell you that it might just surprise you as a fantastic full-body workout. With every stroke of the paddle, you engage many muscle groups, strengthening your core and arms, shoulders, and legs.

So, hop on your SUP board, grab your paddle, and get ready to embrace a workout that combines tranquility and a total-body burn.

Importance of Full Body Workouts

What is a full-body workout?

A full-body workout is a type of exercise that targets all major muscle groups in the body, including the upper body, lower body, and core, in a single session. Instead of focusing on specific muscle groups or body parts, a full body workout engages multiple muscles simultaneously, providing comprehensive fitness benefits. It is a highly efficient form of exercise as it maximizes calorie burn, increases strength and endurance, improves cardiovascular health, enhances balance and stability, and offers a low-impact option for individuals of all fitness levels.

Benefits of full-body workouts

  1. Efficient use of time: With a full-body workout, you can achieve significant results in less time than workouts that isolate specific muscle groups. By targeting multiple muscles at once, you can make the most out of your exercise session.
  2. Increased calorie burn: Full body workouts activate large muscle groups, resulting in a higher calorie expenditure during and after the workout. This can contribute to weight loss and maintenance, making it an effective fitness option.
  3. Improved overall strength and endurance: By engaging various muscle groups, full body workouts promote overall strength and endurance. This allows you to easily perform daily activities and reduces the risk of injury.
  4. Enhanced cardiovascular health: Full body workouts involve dynamic movements that elevate heart rate, improve circulation, and enhance respiratory function. Regular participation in total body workouts can contribute to a healthier cardiovascular system.
  5. Improved balance and stability: Many complete body exercises require proper balance and stability, which helps to develop and strengthen the postural muscles. This can improve overall body alignment and reduce the risk of falls and injuries.
  6. Low-impact option: Full body workouts can be modified to suit all fitness levels, including individuals with joint issues or those recovering from injuries. It offers a low-impact alternative that minimizes joint stress while providing numerous health benefits.
  7. Mental and emotional well-being: Full body workouts, like SUP paddling, can have a positive impact on mental and emotional well-being. Taking part in physical activities that challenge and engage the entire body can reduce stress, boost mood, and improve self-esteem.

Introduction to SUP Paddling

What is SUP paddling?

SUP, or Stand-Up Paddleboarding, paddling involves the use of a long and wide board which the participant stands on and uses a paddle to propel through water. It originated in Hawaii and has gained popularity worldwide due to its versatility and numerous health benefits. SUP paddling can be performed on various bodies of water, including lakes, rivers, and oceans, making it accessible to individuals in different geographical locations. It offers a unique combination of cardio, strength, balance, and stability training, making it an ideal total body workout.

Equipment needed for SUP paddling

A few critical pieces of equipment are required to participate in SUP paddling. These include:

  1. Paddleboard: The most essential piece of equipment is a paddleboard. These boards come in various sizes and shapes, catering to different skill levels and water conditions. Choosing a board that suits your weight, height, and skill level is essential for optimal performance.
  2. Paddle: A paddle is used to propel the board through the water. It consists of a long shaft and a blade that is angled for efficient paddling. Paddle length should be chosen based on the individual’s height and the type of paddling they intend to do.
  3. Personal flotation device (PFD): While not always required by law, wearing a PFD is highly recommended for safety. A PFD ensures buoyancy and can be a lifesaver in emergencies.
  4. Leash: A leash is attached to the ankle or leg and connects the paddler to the board. It prevents the board from drifting away in case the paddler falls off.

Basic techniques of SUP paddling

Before embarking on a SUP paddling adventure, it is essential to familiarize yourself with some basic techniques:

  1. Stance: Maintain a stable and balanced stance on the board, with feet shoulder-width apart and parallel to the stringer (centerline) of the board. Knees should be slightly bent to absorb shock and maintain stability.
  2. Grip: Hold the paddle with both hands approximately shoulder-width apart. One hand should grip the T-shaped handle, while the other hand holds the shaft.
  3. Paddling strokes: There are two primary paddling strokes in SUP paddling: the forward stroke and the reverse stroke. The forward stroke involves reaching forward with the paddle and pushing it backward, parallel to the board while maintaining a straight posture. The reverse stroke is performed in a similar manner but involves pulling the paddle towards the front of the board.
  4. Turning: To turn the board, use sweeping strokes on one side of the board. Paddling forward on one side will cause the board to turn in the opposite direction.
  5. Falling and remounting: Falling off the board is a natural part of SUP paddling. If that happens, it is essential to fall away from the board to avoid injuries from collisions. When remounting, get onto the board from the side and use the paddle for stability.

Muscles Engaged in SUP Paddling

Core muscles

SUP paddling is a highly effective workout for the core muscles. The constant balancing required to stay upright on the board engages the abdominal, obliques, and lower back muscles. These muscles work together to stabilize the body as it reacts to constantly changing water conditions.

Upper body muscles

The primary muscles utilized during SUP paddling in the upper body include the deltoids, trapezius, biceps, triceps, and pectoral muscles. These muscles are responsible for paddling and controlling the movement of the paddle through the water. They also play a crucial role in maintaining proper posture and stability.

Lower body muscles

In addition to the core and upper body muscles, SUP paddling engages several lower body muscles. The quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles are essential for maintaining balance and generating power during paddle strokes. These muscles are constantly working to keep the body stable on the board and to propel it through the water.

Cardiovascular Benefits of SUP Paddling

Increased heart rate

SUP paddling is an excellent way to elevate heart rate and improve cardiovascular fitness. The combination of continuous paddling and engaging multiple muscle groups simultaneously increases oxygen consumption and circulation throughout the body. This aerobic activity helps strengthen the heart, leading to improved cardiovascular health over time.

Improved circulation

The repetitive movements involved in SUP paddling facilitate blood flow to various parts of the body, improving circulation. Better circulation ensures the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles and organs, aiding in their proper functioning. This can enhance overall health and well-being.

Enhanced respiratory function

The increased demand for oxygen during SUP paddling also improves respiratory function. With each paddle stroke, the lungs have to work harder to supply oxygen to the body. Over time, consistent SUP paddling can increase lung capacity, making breathing more efficient and benefiting overall respiratory health.

Strength and Endurance Benefits

Building strength in the upper body

SUP paddling is a full body workout that specifically targets the muscles of the upper body. The repetitive paddling motion helps to strengthen the shoulders, arms, and back muscles. As these muscles continue to be engaged over time, they develop greater strength, which translates into improved performance in other physical activities.

Improving core stability

One of the critical benefits of SUP paddling is the activation of the core muscles. Balancing and stabilizing on the board engages the abdominal muscles, obliques, and lower back muscles. The continuous effort to maintain stability during paddling motions helps to strengthen and tone these muscles, leading to improved core stability and overall postural alignment.

Enhancing leg strength

SUP paddling requires constant leg engagement to maintain balance and generate power during paddle strokes. This effectively works the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles. As these muscles are consistently challenged and strengthened, individuals can develop greater leg strength and power, which can be beneficial in various daily activities and sports.

Balance and Stability Training

Challenging your balance

SUP paddling provides an excellent opportunity to test and improve balance skills. The fact that you’re standing on an unstable surface (the paddleboard) while navigating through water requires constant balance adjustments. This can help activate and strengthen the muscles responsible for maintaining balance, leading to improved stability overall.

Improving stability

SUP paddling not only challenges balance but also improves overall body stability. The constant adjustments needed to stay balanced on the board contribute to increased proprioception, which is the body’s awareness of its position in space. This heightened body awareness helps individuals become more stable and coordinated, both on and off the water.

Strengthening postural muscles

Good posture is essential for overall health and well-being. SUP paddling engages the postural muscles, including the muscles of the back and core, in order to maintain an upright position. Regular participation in SUP paddling can strengthen these muscles, leading to better posture and reducing the risk of postural imbalances and related discomfort.

Low-Impact Exercise Option

Reduced stress on joints

SUP paddling is a low-impact exercise option that minimizes stress on the joints. The buoyancy of the water reduces the pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and ankles, making it an excellent choice for individuals with joint issues or those recovering from injuries. The smooth gliding motion also reduces the risk of jarring impact, further protecting the joints.

Suitable for all fitness levels

One of the significant advantages of SUP paddling is its suitability for individuals of all fitness levels. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced athlete, the intensity and duration of the paddling session can be adjusted to meet individual needs. It allows individuals to start at a comfortable pace and gradually progress as their fitness level improves.

Rehabilitation and injury prevention

Due to its low-impact nature, SUP paddling is often recommended for rehabilitation or injury prevention. The controlled and fluid movements involved in paddling can aid in the recovery of specific injuries, such as those affecting the joints or soft tissues. SUP paddling can also help strengthen supporting muscles, reducing the risk of future injuries.

Caloric Expenditure in SUP Paddling

Factors influencing calorie burn

SUP paddling is a physically demanding activity that can contribute to significant calorie burn. The number of calories burned during a paddle session depends on several factors, including body weight, paddling intensity, session duration, and water conditions. On average, a person weighing approximately 155 pounds can burn around 500-700 calories per hour of SUP paddling.

Comparing SUP paddling to other activities

When compared to other activities, SUP paddling can be an excellent choice for calorie expenditure. It is estimated that SUP paddling burns more calories per hour than leisurely cycling or walking at a moderate pace. However, it may not be as intense as high-impact activities such as running or intense cycling.

Potential for weight loss

Consistent participation in SUP paddling, coupled with a balanced diet, can contribute to weight loss. The combination of aerobic exercise, muscle engagement, and overall calorie burn during SUP paddling can create a calorie deficit, which is necessary for weight loss. Additionally, the enjoyment and versatility of SUP paddling make it easier to incorporate into a regular fitness routine, increasing the likelihood of long-term weight management.

Mental and Emotional Well-being

Connecting with nature

One of the unique aspects of SUP paddling is the opportunity to connect with nature. Being out on the water, surrounded by nature’s beauty and tranquility, can profoundly impact mental and emotional well-being. It provides a sense of peace, relaxation, and an escape from the stresses of daily life.

Stress reduction and relaxation

Physical activities, such as SUP paddling, have been shown to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. The rhythmic movements, sound of water, and fresh air all contribute to a calming experience. SUP paddling allows individuals to disconnect from technology, engage in mindful movement, and recharge both physically and mentally.

Boosting mood and self-esteem

Participating in total body workouts, like SUP paddling, can positively impact mood and self-esteem. Exercise releases endorphins, also known as “feel-good” hormones, which can enhance overall mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. The sense of accomplishment and improved physical fitness that comes from regular participation in SUP paddling can also boost self-esteem and confidence.

Safety Considerations

Wearing a personal flotation device (PFD)

While SUP paddling may seem relatively safe, it is always important to prioritize safety. Wearing a personal flotation device (PFD), especially when paddling in open waters, is highly recommended. A PFD ensures buoyancy and can be a lifesaver in unexpected falls or accidents.

Monitoring weather conditions

Weather conditions play a significant role in the safety of SUP paddling. It is important to monitor weather forecasts before heading out on the water. Strong winds, thunderstorms, or rough water conditions can make paddling dangerous. Being aware of the weather conditions can help prevent potential accidents and ensure a safer paddling experience.

Avoiding hazardous water environments

Choosing suitable water environments for SUP paddling is crucial for safety. Avoiding areas with strong currents, heavy boat traffic, or dangerous underwater hazards is vital to minimize risks. Additionally, it is essential to be mindful of the depth and temperature of the water, as well as any potential wildlife or marine life that may pose a threat.

In conclusion, SUP paddling is indeed an excellent full-body workout. It offers numerous benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, enhanced strength and endurance, balance and stability training, low-impact exercise option, increased caloric expenditure, and mental and emotional well-being.

By engaging multiple muscle groups simultaneously, SUP paddling provides a comprehensive workout while allowing individuals to connect with nature and enjoy the water. However, it is essential to prioritize safety by wearing a PFD, monitoring weather conditions, and avoiding hazardous water environments.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler, SUP paddling can be a fun and effective way to stay fit and healthy.

Diana Hanson
Hi there! I'm Diana Hanson, a SUP enthusiast and paddler with over ten years of experience. I have a deep love for exploring new places and trying out new things on my SUP board. Whether it's gliding across a peaceful lake, navigating a fast-moving river, or riding the exhilarating waves of the ocean, I'm always up for an adventure. As the author of the website, I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and experience with others. My goal is to help beginners learn the skills needed to paddle safely and confidently. I understand the challenges that novices face when starting out, and I'm dedicated to providing them with valuable tips and advice. But my passion doesn't stop there. I also strive to assist experienced paddlers in taking their skills to the next level. Through, I constantly update the site with the latest SUP gear reviews, insider tips, and expert advice. My aim is to ensure that everyone, regardless of their skill level, can get the most out of their paddling experience. I take great pride in my work, and I have been fortunate to receive recognition in the form of prizes and rewards for my contributions to the SUP community. It's an honor to be able to share my passion for this incredible sport with others, and I hope that through, I can inspire and empower fellow SUP enthusiasts to embark on their own unforgettable journeys. Join me on, and let's dive into the exciting world of SUP together!