Standup paddling is an effective strengthening and cardio workout known for its low impact on joints and use of the gamut of muscle groups. Many people look to SUP as a means for serious fitness without risking the injuries posed by running, surfing or weight lifting. But if you're not careful to stretch thoroughly before your workouts, SUP can still do plenty of damage to your body. Here are five stretches you can do from the beach specifically to enhance your SUP muscles and protect problematic areas for paddlers.  

1. PADDLE-ASSISTED LAT STRETCH

Target area: Upper and lateral back muscles (latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior)

Best for: Relieving soreness or tenseness in mid- to upper-back and lateral areas created by the power phase of SUP stroke (pulling body to planted paddle shaft).

How: Stand up tall with your back straight and feet side-by-side. Place hands on paddle shaft with thumbs pointed inward six to eight inches beyond shoulder width on either side. Raise your paddle above your head with your arms fully extended.

Hinging at the waist and careful not to bend at the lower back, lean your shoulders to the left side with your left hand pulling the shaft toward the sand and your right shoulder climbing toward the sky. You should feel a deep stretch in your right side and mid- to upper-back area. Sink into it for 10 to 30 seconds and breathe deeply. Repeat on other side.

2. PADDLE-ASSISTED CHEST EXTENSION

Target area: Chest and upper biceps (pectoralis major, biceps brachii)

Best for: Loosening chest and biceps caused by over-exertion and improper stroke technique.

How: Stand up tall with your back straight and feet side-by-side. With your palms rotated forward and thumbs pointed away from your body, grip your paddle in your right hand at eight to 10 inches up from the blade. Rotate your paddle behind you so the long end of the shaft stretches horizontally across your rear and grip the shaft on the opposite side of your body with your palm forward and thumb pointing away from your body.

Check to make sure your grip is about 10 inches past shoulder width on either side, then slowly lift your paddle behind you creating a backwards V between your extended arms and shoulder blades. You should feel a powerful stretch from the outer edges of your chest through the upper biceps. Breathe deeply in this position for 10 seconds then try raising your paddle shaft higher to intensify the stretch.

3. LOWER BACK TWIST

Target area: Lower back (latissimus dorsi, erector spinae, obliques)

Best for: Loosening tight or tense lower back muscles created with the hinging motion of intense and repetitive paddling.

How: Lay flat on your back with your chin tucked toward your chest to flatten your spine and press your tailbone into the ground. Place your arms out to either side in a T-position with palms up and shoulder blades pressed into the ground.

Lift the knees so your feet are off the ground and thighs are at a right angle with the flattened core, then drop knees to one side while twisting head to opposite side. You should feel a release of tension in the activated side of your lower back and stretching in the lateral glutes. Rest here and breathe deep for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.

4. IT BAND CROSS-LEGGED ARCH

Target area: IT bands, lateral core and thigh muscles (external obliques, vastus lateralis)

Best for: Preventing knee injuries by activating and stretching tight IT bands and outer thighs associated with stabilizing on water. Activating and stretching lateral core muscles.

How: Start by standing with your feet side-by-side, your back straight and your chin raised to elongate the spine. Standing on your left foot, lift your right foot and cross it in front of the left to rest on the opposite side, toes forward. Lift and straighten your arms overhead pointing fingers at the sky.

Without leaning forward or backward, lean to the right and arch your left arm over your head to your right, resting your body weight on your left foot. Move slow and gradually to avoid injury. You should feel a deep stretch through the lateral core and in the right side of your left thigh. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the right.

5. LEASH-ASSISTED HAMSTRING STRETCH

Target area: Hamstring and calf muscles (fibularis longus, tibialis posterior)

Best for: Loosening acute muscles surrounding posterior knee joint created by alternating bent knees in proper paddle stroke.

How: Lay flat on your back with your leash in one hand, tucking your chin toward your chest and pushing your tailbone toward the ground to flatten your spine. With both legs extended horizontally beneath you, loop your leash around the ball of your foot on one side and hold it with one hand on either side around knee length up from your foot.

Use your arms to pull the leash and raise your straightened leg off the ground, pointing your toes toward your face and extending your heel away from your body. If necessary, start with a slight bend in the knee and straighten it slowly as you stretch. You should feel an intense stretch in your calf and hamstring. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

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