Photo: Aaron Schmidt

Photo: Aaron Schmidt

Developing Rotational Strength

Part 1: The Problems with Single Plane Training

Even if you've progressed past the usual 'big box' gym mistake of sticking to a limited set of movements just designed to make you look good on the beach and your SUP (think bench press, curls and crunches for guys, triceps extensions and a million thigh and butt-focused gimmicks for girls), you're probably still just working in two directions: up and down and front to back. It's certainly important to develop strength and balance through these planes, with compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts and shoulder presses, and other 'up-and-down' movements and 'forward-and-back' ones such as lunges and split jumps. But life isn't restricted to these two planes of motion, and neither is your body when you hit the water.

Over the next two weeks, PaddleFit's Brody Welte is going to explore why you need to develop power through the rotational plane, and share a couple of videos with exercises that can help you do it.

The reason why rotational strength is complicated is because we use it in everything that we do, including standup paddling. Also complicating things is that fact that you cannot have an educated discussion about rotational strength without talking about core/trunk stability. So, for the sake of time, lets talk briefly about each topic.

Rotational strength can be defined as the strength required to facilitate multi-planar movement. This involves core stability, i.e. the body's ability to stabilize the spine and hips to allow for efficient movement patterns. The common thread in both definitions is that they're both focused on movement. Rotational strength and core stability play an important role, whether you're doing a downwinder, running on a trail, picking your kids up off the ground, or moving a piece of furniture. And yet, we often neglect training ourselves in the rotational plane because we're too set in our forward-and-back and up-and-down exercise comfort zone.

Rotational Strength for Paddling

Now let's take a look at how rotational strength applies to SUP. It comes into play during that first application of power after you put your blade in the water. When you maximize reach you have to rotate around your spine and hinge at the hips. Guess what this requires. Rotational strength! So, in theory, if we increase our rotational strength and core stability, we will be able to increase power in our paddle stroke (i.e go faster), get into more waves, and get a better workout.

A word of caution before we get into the movements: These exercises are for those who have solid core/trunk stability, meaning no injuries or persistent lower back issues etc. This article might be a better place to start if you do have back issues. Anytime you are working in a multi-planar fashion you have to be careful not to injure yourself. Things like good posture, always maintaining an athletic position, and starting off slow are key to effectively implementing these exercises. Remember, if it feels wrong, it most likely is wrong. Have a workout buddy watch your form to make sure you're performing each movement correctly and don't overdo it.

Keep in mind that the number of repetitions for each exercise is a recommendation. We suggest starting with an amount that challenges you, yet enables you to retain correct form, and then to progress from there. Also make sure that you perform an equal number of exercises and reps on both sides.

Check back next week for more on the importance of rotational strength and a new video with more exercises.

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