Mobility for sprint kayaking

We started our technical blog 11 weeks ago and since then we have discussed a sprint kayaking related topic with you every Friday. In the first few weeks we covered some basics like performance evaluation, intensity zones, dry land training exercise types and session construction.
In May, we will start discussing paddling technique. But right now we are in the middle between training theory and the practical aspects of training technique: weve covered rhythm and balance so far, we will discuss mobility today and coordination next week. These are the 4 pillars on which you should build your technique!
Mobility is defined as the ability to dynamically move freely through an optimal range of motion. Mobility includes tissue length, neural control/stability and joint architecture. Whereas, flexibility refers to the pliability or extensibility of structures/tissues and is a component of mobility. Mobility has a huge impact on your paddling performance.
There are different reasons why working on mobility is important for a paddler:
  • Specific mobility is connected with paddling efficiency (by moving freely you use less energy, your movements are more accurate and it is easier for you to stick to good form).
  • Specific mobility exercises can prevent muscle imbalances connected to paddling training (tight shoulders, poor thoracic spine mobility, tight hip flexors etc.).
  • Certain general mobility exercises are important for almost every athlete to keep a good posture and general athleticism despite long hours sitting in the boat, sitting in the office/school, heavy strength programs etc.
  • Working on mobility can increase recovery times.
Balance and Mobility are two areas most paddlers need to work on more than they actually do. Most of us have enough of both to be quite stable in the boat and are able to use an acceptable level of paddling technique. But all could do better than that.
What if along with being stable in the boat even when really tired at the end of the race, you could also:
  • Fully rotate forward from your hips,
  • Rotate forward and keep an upright posture, with chest up and both shoulder blades nicely packed close together,
  • Feel your traps, deltoid muscle, the biceps and forearms relaxed when reaching far forward for the catch,
  • Your hamstrings would not feel tight when using your legs in the boat and your hips and pelvis would allow you to store a lot of elastic energy when stretching them forward during the set up phase of the stroke.
In paddling, you rarely need more power. Instead, you need more control of your body, more freedom of movement. You need better breathing. You need to feel better in the key positions of the stroke and you need to be supple and use the full ranges of motion easily. All this is built on being more mobile!
Quality movement is a prerequisite for anything we want to do regardless of your goals. Creating relative stiffness in the right areas and mobility in others is crucial.
A few good ways to work on mobility are:
  • Foam rolling
  • Stretching (possibly dynamic)
  • General mobility exercises
  • Specific kayaking mobility exercises on land (as part of warm up, recovery session or cool down)
  • Specific kayaking mobility exercises in the boat (these combine mobility, body awareness and balance)
  • The so called body flows, yoga, swimming
Try some of these exercises and use them either:
  • As part of your daily routine to improve movement,
  • In your warm ups,
  • As fillers in between exercises to get extra reps of what you need.
Even if you add just 510 minutes of these exercises on a daily basis, you will see improvements with your hips, thoracic spine, neck, shoulders, etc.
The key is consistency and adding enough to the point when it is not overwhelming.

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