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All Aboard: SUP Workouts Build Strength, Balance & Stamina

If the summer months lead you to the water, then stand-up paddleboard fitness may just be the drink you need. Stand-up paddle board – or SUP workouts – are guaranteed to work your core and nearly every other body part, if done properly.

Stand-up paddleboarding has gone mainstream in the last 10 years, despite the sport’s ancient roots in surfing. With growing popularity, it’s highly likely you can find SUP shops, classes, coaches and races in your community. These boards need only water to make a workout complete.

SUP Workouts are Fun & Challenging

SUP Workouts

Suzi Parmentier demonstrates SUP fitness is a great alternative to land-based workouts.

“SUP fitness is an excellent way to get a fresh, new perspective on exercise, especially in the summertime when you are looking for something cool and fun to do,” says Suzi Parmentier, a stand-up paddleboard instructor, certified personal trainer and post-rehabilitation specialist.

“SUPFit, as I like to call it, is done any time of the year and offers a great alternative to land-based workouts.”

With stand-up paddling, the fitness benefits are enormous. Research published last year by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) measured the calories a person can burn while doing a variety of SUP fitness activities.

On average, researchers found women burn 500 to 700 calories per hour, while men can burn upwards of 800 to 1,000 calories per hour.

Balance Benefits

“Because the human body has over 600 muscles, using them on an unstable surface (a paddleboard in water) while exercising provides an added effect for stabilizer muscles that are not used on solid ground,” Parmentier says.

“The easy thing about exercising on your paddleboard is you can perform nearly any bodyweight strength or flexibility move that you would normally do in the gym, without the dumbbells.” She suggests bringing along some resistance bands for added training.

Perhaps the best part of SUP workouts is the fun factor, even for beginners. “I have taught all levels and all ages of paddlers, from beginners to advanced, and everyone can enjoy the benefit of being in this type of exercise environment,” says Parmentier.

“Even when things get challenging, it’s reassuring to know you can just get down on your knees or have a seat on the board and continue with modified exercises as you adapt.”

She goes on to describe the feeling of stepping onto a board for the first time. “The moment you are standing on a board, your feet and toes start gripping. That then will transfer to the rest of the kinetic chain, through your knees, hips, abdominals, back, arms and lastly your face, because you will be smiling from all the fun and enjoyment. With SUP fitness, all your load-bearing joints are being used in a non-impact manner.”

For All Levels

SUP exercises are easily modified for skill and intensity levels. “When I teach a class or individuals, my approach is SUPFit interval training. We begin with a warm-up, then strength moves, and finally cardiovascular sprints or intervals to a point on the water and back. We repeat for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on students’ abilities and fitness.”

Here are four of Parmentier’s favorite SUPFit exercises for all levels. For an added balance and awareness benefit, try any of these with your eyes closed. Start with 10 repetitions for two to four sets and build.

(Note: SUP fitness instruction should be done with the supervision of a qualified instructor in order to ensure the safety of participants. A personal flotation device (PFD) was nearby for this demo done in shallow water.)

SUP Squats

Start by standing on the board with feet hip-width apart. Grip paddle with both hands and hold horizontally in front of the body, as you would a barbell. With eyes forward, slowly lower to a squat position and return.

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SUP Excursions

From a push-up position on knees and hands, position hands on the outer edges of the paddleboard. Rock or push the paddleboard from side to side. Make some waves for more intensity.

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SUPerman Paddle Pass

Start by laying on your stomach on the board with the paddle extended forward in both hands. Lift your legs and arms off the board in a “Superman” position. Keep head and neck straight, gazing downward. Slowly pass the paddle behind your body, gripping the paddle with the opposite hand and returning the paddle to the forward position. Repeat on other side.

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Hamstring Curls

Lay on your back with arms to the sides, or hold onto the rails. Place feet on the shaft of your paddle. Slowly pull the paddle with the feet toward the glutes. Return to the starting position.

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