is sup paddling a good workout
is sup paddling a good workout

Looking to amp up your fitness routine while enjoying the great outdoors? Look no further than stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) paddling. This exhilarating water sport has gained popularity in recent years, but is it truly a good workout? In this article, we explore the physical benefits of SUP paddling and uncover why it has become a favorite among fitness enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. So, grab your paddle and get ready to discover the transformative power of SUP paddling.

Benefits of SUP Paddling

Cardiovascular Fitness

SUP paddling is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise that can help improve our heart and lung health. When we paddle, our heart rate increases, and over time, this repeated cardiovascular activity can strengthen our heart muscles. It also improves blood circulation throughout our body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to our muscles and organs more efficiently. By incorporating SUP paddling into our fitness routine, we can effectively boost our cardiovascular fitness levels.

Strength Training

One of the major benefits of SUP paddling is the opportunity for full-body strength training. As we paddle, we engage various muscle groups, primarily in our upper body, lower body, core, and back. The constant resistance of the water against our paddle strokes provides a challenging workout that targets and tones our muscles. Regular SUP paddling can improve our overall strength and enhance our functional fitness, making everyday activities easier.

Improved Balance and Core Stability

Maintaining balance is crucial when we’re out on the water, and SUP paddling helps us develop better balance and stability. Balancing on the board requires us to engage our core muscles, which play a significant role in maintaining our stability. As we paddle, the constant adjustments we make to keep ourselves afloat activate our core muscles, leading to improved core strength and stability. Additionally, the repetitive twisting and turning movements involved in paddling enhance our coordination and balance.

Low-Impact Exercise

Unlike high-impact activities such as running or jumping, SUP paddling is a low-impact exercise that puts minimal stress on our joints. The buoyancy provided by the water reduces the impact on our joints, making it a suitable workout for individuals with joint problems or those recovering from injuries. SUP paddling allows for a gentle yet effective workout that minimizes the risk of joint pain or long-term joint damage. It can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels.

Muscles Worked in SUP Paddling

Upper Body Muscles

SUP paddling primarily targets our upper body muscles, including our arms, shoulders, and back muscles. The repetitive paddling motion engages these muscles, providing an excellent workout for toning and strengthening them. Our triceps and biceps contract as we extend and flex our arms during each paddle stroke. The muscles in our shoulders, such as the deltoids and rotator cuffs, also contribute to the movement, building strength and endurance. Additionally, our back muscles, particularly the latissimus dorsi and rhomboids, work to stabilize our upper body and generate power during each stroke.

Lower Body Muscles

While SUP paddling may seem like an upper body workout, our lower body muscles also play an essential role in maintaining balance and generating power. Our leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, work to stabilize our body on the board. As we shift our weight and adjust our stance, these muscles engage to keep us upright. When we perform the forward stroke, our legs act as a solid base, transferring power from our core and upper body into the paddle stroke. This dynamic involvement of our lower body muscles helps improve overall leg strength and stability.

Core Muscles

SUP paddling is a fantastic way to engage and strengthen our core muscles. Our core, which includes the abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles, plays a vital role in maintaining balance and stability on the board. As we paddle, our core muscles are constantly engaged to stabilize our body and maintain an upright posture. The rotational movements involved in paddling also activate our oblique muscles, which contribute to our overall core strength and stability.

Back Muscles

Our back muscles, particularly the muscles along our spine and around our shoulder blades, are essential for maintaining proper posture and generating power during SUP paddling. The muscles in our upper and lower back, such as the erector spinae and trapezius muscles, help stabilize our spine and keep us upright on the board. As we perform each stroke, these muscles contract and relax to generate power and maintain a fluid paddling motion. Regular SUP paddling can lead to improved back strength and posture, reducing the risk of back pain and discomfort.

Calorie Burning Potential

Factors Affecting Calorie Burn

The number of calories burned during SUP paddling can vary based on several factors, including our weight, intensity of paddling, and duration of the workout. Generally, the more we weigh, the more calories we tend to burn while engaging in physical activities. The intensity of our paddling, such as paddling at a faster speed or against stronger currents, can also increase the number of calories burned. Finally, the duration of our SUP paddling session plays a role in calorie expenditure – the longer we paddle, the more calories we are likely to burn.

Typical Calorie Burn Rates

On average, SUP paddling can burn between 400 to 700 calories per hour, depending on the factors mentioned above. This calorie burn rate is comparable to activities such as moderate-intensity cycling, brisk walking, or swimming. While SUP paddling may not be the highest intensity workout in terms of calorie burn, it offers a fun and enjoyable way to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Plus, the added benefits of muscle toning, cardiovascular fitness, and improved balance make it a well-rounded exercise option.

SUP Paddling Techniques and Intensity Levels

Basic Paddling Technique

To get the most out of our SUP paddling workout, it’s important to learn the proper technique. The basic paddling technique involves using our entire upper body, from our shoulders to our fingertips, to generate power. As we paddle, we start with our feet hip-width apart, facing forward, and hold the paddle with a firm grip. We initiate the stroke with our top hand, engaging our core and transferring power through our back and arm muscles. The bottom hand acts as a pivot point, allowing us to rotate our torso and generate more power. By mastering the basic paddling technique, we can improve our efficiency and maximize the benefits of our workout.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

For those seeking a more intense workout, incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT) techniques into our SUP paddling routine can be highly effective. HIIT involves alternating between short bursts of high-intensity paddling and periods of active rest or low-intensity paddling. For example, we can paddle as fast as possible for 30 seconds, then paddle at a slower pace for 60 seconds to recover. This interval training method not only increases the overall calorie burn but also improves our cardiovascular fitness and enhances our body’s ability to recover quickly.

Race Training

SUP racing is a popular competitive sport that requires intense training and advanced paddling techniques. Engaging in race training can take our SUP paddling workout to the next level, as it involves higher speeds, longer distances, and strategic maneuvers. Race training focuses on building endurance, improving speed, and refining technique. This level of intensity and athleticism challenges our body and pushes our fitness limits. While not everyone may be interested in competitive racing, incorporating elements of race training into our workouts can add excitement and motivation to our SUP paddling routine.

Health and Wellness Benefits

Stress Reduction

One of the remarkable benefits of SUP paddling is its positive impact on our mental wellbeing. Being out on the water, surrounded by nature, can be incredibly calming and therapeutic. The rhythmic motion of paddling and the sound of water create a serene environment that helps reduce stress and promote relaxation. SUP paddling allows us to disconnect from our daily worries and immerse ourselves in the present moment. The combination of physical activity, serene surroundings, and tranquility contributes to a significant reduction in stress levels.

Improved Mental Health

In addition to stress reduction, SUP paddling offers several mental health benefits. Engaging in regular physical activity, such as SUP paddling, can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Exercise releases endorphins, often referred to as “feel-good hormones,” which can improve our mood and overall mental wellbeing. The tranquil nature of paddling on the water also provides a meditative experience, allowing us to clear our minds and focus on the present. Ultimately, SUP paddling can boost our mental resilience, improve our self-esteem, and enhance our overall quality of life.

Low-Risk Injury and Safe for Most People

SUP paddling is a low-risk activity with minimal chances of injury, especially when compared to other high-impact sports. The low-impact nature of SUP paddling, combined with the buoyancy of the water, reduces the strain on our joints and minimizes the risk of injury. It is a relatively safe exercise option for people of all ages and fitness levels. However, it is important to exercise caution and gradually increase the intensity and duration of our paddles to avoid overexertion. As with any physical activity, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise regimen.

Tips for an Effective SUP Paddle Workout

Warm-Up and Stretching

Before we begin our SUP paddling workout, it’s essential to warm up our muscles and prepare our body for the physical activity. A dynamic warm-up routine, including exercises such as arm circles, leg swings, and torso rotations, can help loosen up our muscles and increase our range of motion. Additionally, incorporating stretching exercises for our major muscle groups, such as the arms, shoulders, back, legs, and core, can further enhance our flexibility and prevent injuries.

Proper Technique and Posture

Maintaining proper paddling technique and posture is essential for an effective and safe SUP paddle workout. As mentioned earlier, mastering the basic paddling technique is crucial for maximizing our workout. It’s important to focus on using our entire upper body and engaging our core muscles to generate power during each stroke. Additionally, maintaining an upright posture, with our shoulders back and our core engaged, helps prevent strain on our back and ensures proper alignment. Regularly checking and adjusting our technique can improve our efficiency and prevent unnecessary muscle soreness.

Progressive Training

To continue challenging ourselves and reaping the benefits of SUP paddling, it’s important to incorporate progressive training into our routine. Gradually increasing the duration, intensity, and frequency of our workouts can help us achieve continuous improvements in our fitness levels. For instance, we can start with shorter paddling sessions and gradually increase the time on the water. Alternatively, we can incorporate interval training techniques mentioned earlier to gradually increase the intensity of our workouts. By progressively challenging ourselves, we can avoid plateauing and maintain our motivation throughout our SUP paddling journey.

Safety Precautions

While SUP paddling is generally safe, it’s important to take certain safety precautions to ensure an enjoyable and risk-free experience. Wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) is highly recommended, especially for beginners or when paddling in unfamiliar waters. It’s also advisable to check weather conditions, including wind and currents, before heading out to avoid potentially hazardous situations. Informing someone of our paddling plans and paddling in designated areas can provide an additional layer of safety. Lastly, staying hydrated, wearing sunscreen, and protecting ourselves from excessive sun exposure are essential for our overall wellbeing during our SUP paddling workouts.

Gear and Equipment for SUP Paddling Workout

SUP Board

The most crucial equipment for a SUP paddling workout is a suitable stand-up paddleboard (SUP board). There are various types and designs of SUP boards available, each catering to different preferences and skill levels. Beginners may opt for wider and more stable boards, while advanced paddlers may prefer narrower boards for increased speed and maneuverability. It’s important to choose a board that suits our needs and provides sufficient stability and buoyancy for our paddling workouts.


A high-quality paddle is essential for a comfortable and efficient SUP paddling workout. Paddles come in different materials, such as aluminum, fiberglass, and carbon fiber, each offering varying degrees of durability and weight. It’s crucial to select a paddle that is lightweight, properly sized for our height, and has an ergonomic handle for a comfortable grip. A suitable paddle can significantly reduce arm and shoulder fatigue and enhance the overall paddling experience.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

While not always required by law, wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) is strongly recommended during SUP paddling workouts. A PFD ensures our safety in case of an unexpected fall or fatigue. There are different types of PFDs available, such as traditional life jackets and inflatable waist belts. It’s important to choose a PFD that fits properly, is easy to wear and adjust, and provides adequate flotation without hindering our movements.

Appropriate Clothing and Footwear

Selecting appropriate clothing and footwear is essential for a comfortable and safe SUP paddling workout. We should dress according to the weather conditions, wearing breathable and quick-drying materials. A hat and sunglasses can provide protection from sun exposure, and a rash guard or wetsuit may be necessary in colder temperatures. It’s also important to wear water shoes or sandals with a good grip to protect our feet from sharp objects and provide stability on the board.

Optional Accessories

There are several optional accessories that can enhance our SUP paddling workouts. One such accessory is a leash, which attaches to our ankle or calf and secures the paddleboard to us. A leash can prevent us from getting separated from the board and aid in retrieval if we fall into the water. Another useful accessory is a waterproof phone case or bag, which allows us to carry our phone and other valuables without the risk of water damage. Additionally, a dry bag can be helpful for storing snacks, water, and extra clothing during longer paddling sessions.

Best Locations for SUP Paddling Workouts


Paddling in the ocean provides a unique and invigorating experience. It offers opportunities to explore the coastline, ride waves, and interact with marine life. However, it’s important to be cautious of the ocean’s unpredictable nature, including tides, currents, and swell. Before venturing into the ocean, it’s important to check local regulations and be aware of potential hazards and safety precautions. Paddling in calmer areas, away from busy surf breaks, can provide a safer and more enjoyable workout experience.

Lakes and Rivers

SUP paddling in lakes and rivers offers a tranquil and scenic environment for our workouts. The calm waters and serene surroundings allow for a peaceful and relaxing experience. Lakes and rivers often provide more predictable conditions than the ocean, making them suitable for beginners and those looking for a less challenging workout. However, it’s important to be mindful of any currents or obstacles in the water and to follow local regulations to ensure a safe and respectful paddling experience.


While not as common as paddling in natural bodies of water, indoor and outdoor pools can provide a convenient and controlled environment for SUP paddling workouts. Pool paddling is particularly beneficial for practicing technique, balance, and core stability. Although it may not provide the same experience as paddling in the open water, it allows us to fine-tune our skills in a controlled setting. Pools equipped with resistance jets can also provide an additional challenge for a more intense workout.

Additional Workouts to Supplement SUP Paddling

Strength Training

Although SUP paddling provides an excellent full-body workout, combining it with targeted strength training exercises can further enhance our fitness levels. Incorporating exercises that specifically target our upper body, lower body, and core muscles can help build strength and improve overall performance on the board. Activities such as weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, and resistance training can complement our SUP paddling routine and help us achieve well-rounded strength and muscular endurance.

Yoga and Pilates

Yoga and Pilates are two forms of exercise that can greatly benefit our SUP paddling workouts. Both practices focus on building core strength, flexibility, and balance – qualities that are essential for successful paddling. Yoga and Pilates movements can help improve our posture, increase our range of motion, and enhance our body awareness. Engaging in regular yoga or Pilates sessions alongside SUP paddling can contribute to better alignment, stability, and overall paddling performance.


Swimming is another fantastic workout that complements SUP paddling. It is a low-impact exercise that engages the entire body and provides excellent cardiovascular benefits. Incorporating swimming sessions into our fitness routine can help improve our stamina, lung capacity, and overall endurance, which in turn can enhance our SUP paddling performance. Whether swimming in a pool, lake, or ocean, this activity offers a refreshing and effective way to cross-train and improve our overall fitness.


SUP paddling offers a multitude of benefits for our physical and mental wellbeing. From cardiovascular fitness and strength training to improved balance and core stability, this enjoyable water-based activity provides a well-rounded workout for our entire body. With its low-impact nature and ability to burn calories, it is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. By incorporating proper technique, progressively challenging ourselves, and taking necessary safety precautions, we can make the most of our SUP paddling workouts. To further enhance our overall fitness, we can supplement our paddling routine with strength training, yoga, Pilates, or swimming. Whether we choose to paddle in the ocean, lakes, rivers, or even pools, the important thing is to get out on the water, have fun, and reap the numerous health and wellness benefits that SUP paddling provides. So grab a paddle, hop on a board, and let’s enjoy the fantastic workout that SUP paddling offers!

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!