Paddling resistors

A good example of sports specific strength training in paddling is the use of a resistor. These are excellent tools to link gym strength to paddling and are simply a device that adds drag to your boat, such as a simple piece of rope around the hull to monsters with tennis balls threaded through them.

However, as a coach I would caution people against going out and using three tennis balls to their boat on day 1. The increased load can easily damage your shoulders, elbows and wrists.

I would suggest that you first try a 1 cm or 1/4″ diameter rope or bungee around the hull. Narrower will also work quite well. You’ll feel the added drag right away.
I would also caution you to treat this like strength training at first;

    2-3 sets of 8-12 reps per side with adequate recovery between efforts. If you go out and paddle for a long period like this you’ll get very good at paddling slow, but might not make the transition backto regular rates or hull resistance very well.

After you can handle the thin resistor (i.e. you can get the hull up to near race pace) slowly increase the resistance. Some common ways to do this;

    add a second wrap of cord or bungee
    add a 20-30 cm bit of garden hose or pressure hose around the cord/bungee,
    add 1 tennis ball or wiffle ball (those plastic balls with holes in them)

Older paddlers need to be especially cautious of using resistors for the first time as do very young paddlers who are still growing.

When you paddle into the wind and current you get similar results. However, where many paddlers truggle is in asssited situations (applying pressure on the blade when the hull goes faster than race pace- high speed surfing, with the current or wind, etc.).

Please stay aware of undue stress on your shoulders and remember that “no pain, no gain” is better rephrased as “no pain, no brain”. Do lots of stretching, flexibility work and maintaining your range of motion as well as normal paddling feel.

Alan Carlsson
Engineered Athlete Services


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