Stand Up Paddle Board Warm-Ups & Stretches

How To Prevent A SUP-Related Injury

Stand up paddle boarding is one of those rare forms of exercise that benefits the mind, body, and soul. Which is probably why it’s the fastest growing water sport in America. But according to ISLE Ambassador January Newland — our resident certified holistic nutritionist, personal trainer, and all-around wellness maven — if you push yourself too hard in the water, you could set yourself up for an injury. So what’s the solution to avoid potential aches and pains? Some easy paddle board stretching exercises to increase mobility.

Like any physical activity with repetitive movements, paddle boarding can put some strain on your muscles and joints. While injuries from paddle boarding are few and far between, it’s still important to prepare your muscle groups and joints before your paddling session. But it’s even more important to spend the time to take care of your body after your paddle with some post-surf stretching, especially if you’re new to paddle boarding. Follow January’s easy-to-do routine and you’ll be able to push yourself in the water with confidence.

Pre-Paddle Board Warm-Up

When you participated in physical education in school, stretching before any exercise was an absolute must. But recent expert opinion on the subject is pointing to the importance of a gradual and active “warm-up” period before exercise. 

Researchers are finding that stretching healthy muscles before you exercise does not prevent injury. In fact, clinical research published in the Journal of Athletic Training in 2005 found that “pre-exercise stretching of the major lower extremity musculature using a specific stretching protocol does not result in a meaningful reduction of lower extremity injury risk.”

Instead, you’ll want to focus on getting your blood flowing to the right muscle groups and loosening your joints. Here are five dynamic stretches and warm-up exercises you should add to your pre-paddle routine.

squats

Squats

Basic bodyweight squats are a great way to warm-up the lower body for standing on a SUP. 

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Turn your feet about 15-30 degrees outward
  • Keep your abs tense throughout the entire movement
  • Look straight ahead and maintain great posture for 8-12 reps

Standing Glute Squeeze & Ankle Rotation

This quick routine is great for warming up the muscles and joints needed to balance on your board.

  • Stand and balance as you bring one knee up toward your chest
  • Engage the standing leg glute muscles as strongly as you can to brace and balance
  • Rotate the elevated ankle a few times in each direction
  • Alternate between legs for 8-12 reps
paddle board warm-ups

Lunge To Lean

The lunge to lean warm-up includes lateral movement for your spine while also strengthening your core and obliques to prepare your body for paddling.

  • From standing, lunge back onto one leg, bending the knee deeply
  • With that same side arm, reach up and overhead, and lean away from the back leg side 
  • Alternate sides of the body for 8-12 reps

Plank To Down Dog

Some easy plank to Down Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) will help warm-up your core and shoulders, essential areas of the body for paddling power.

  • Place your hands directly under your shoulders and keep your back straight — as if you’re preparing for a push-up
  • From a hands-plank position, lift your hips up and allow your head to drop between the arms until you are looking back at your toes 
  • Keep the knees bent in Down Dog as needed to be gentle on your hamstrings
  • Shift back into plank, keeping your core firm
  • Hold each pose for a full cycle of breath and repeat 10 times
paddle board stretches

Wide-Leg Twist

The wide-leg twist will increase blood flow and flexibility to help get your shoulders, lats, and core prepped for paddling.

  • Standing with wide legs and parallel feet, bend at the waist to touch the ground with both hands, bending the knees as much as you need to maintain a flat back
  • Twisting to the right, lift your right arm up as high as you can until you feel the stretch in your oblique, shoulder, and chest
  • Return to standing and repeat on the other side 4-6 times
  • You can do this with some tempo and a bit of a swing to the arms after you do a few slowly
best inflatable sups

Post-Paddle Boarding Stretching

You probably didn’t do much stretching at the end of your physical education class in school. But truth be told, the best time to stretch is when your muscles are loose and warm. That’s why so many people enjoy practicing types of yoga, like Bikram, where the studio is heated to 105 degrees. So, before you pack up your gear after a nice long stand up paddle board adventure, you’ll want to take some time to address the muscle groups you used during your workout.

paddle board warm-ups

Lunge & Lean Hold

This is the same basic movement from your pre-paddle warm-up, but now with a hold to release your hip flexors and obliques.

  • From standing, lunge back onto one leg, bending the knee deeply
  • With that same side arm, reach up and overhead, and lean away from the back leg side 
  • Hold your pose for 5-10 breaths
  • Alternate sides of the body and repeat 3-4 times

Wide Leg Fold With Shoulder Stretch

Help your back, forearms, and shoulder muscles and joints after a good paddling workout.

  • From a wide leg stance, clasp your hands (or a towel) behind you and tip forward at the waist, letting the arms elevate away from the body as much as you can to feel the stretch in your shoulders. 
  • Keep your knees slightly bent and try to keep your back as flat as possible.
paddle board stretching

Puppy Pose

Known as Uttana Shishosana to yoga practitioners around the world, the puppy pose is a great paddle board stretching exercise for your lats and lower back. It’s an excellent way to make sure your back feels relaxed on the ride home after a long day of paddling.

  • From your hands and knees, walk your hands forward until they stretch all the way out in front of you while your forehead comes down to the ground
  • Keep your hips directly over your knees 
  • Hold your pose for 5-10 breaths
paddle board stretching paddle stretch

Paddle Stretch

The paddle stretch is an excellent way to help delicate shoulder joints and muscles recuperate.

  • Hold your paddle with your hands positioned at least a few inches wider than your hips
  • Lift the paddle up and overhead, bringing it behind your head just until you feel a deep stretch in your shoulders — but make sure you don’t force this too far
  • Circle over and back a few times to feel a comfortable stretch

Toe Sit With Triceps Stretch

Your feet have so many muscles that work hard when barefoot and balancing — this one can get intense!

  • Kneel down and tuck your toes under as you sit hips close to your heels
  • Hold this position for as long as you can, while adding an overhead tricep stretch on each side
  • Remember to breathe!
cobra pose

Cobra

The cobra stretch will feel amazing in your stomach and entire core after a few hours on the water. This type of paddle board stretching feels more like a reward than an exercise.

  • From your belly, elevate onto your elbows like a sphinx
  • Image dragging your chest up and forward through the arms as you take a few breaths
  • Repeat until your muscles feel nice and relaxed

Wrapping Up

Injuries from paddle boarding are rare. That being stated, listening to your body is the easiest way to prevent an injury on the water. You can help prepare your body by getting the blood flowing to the right muscles before you exert them too much with some easy paddle board warm-ups. Finally, performing post-surf stretches after your muscles are warm will help improve your joint range of motion, mobility, and athletic performance while reducing your risk of chronic injury.

A very special thanks to January Newland for inviting us to Wild Island Collective for our photo demonstration.

get fit on your paddle board
Posted in Fitness, Paddle Board Lifestyle
Jeff Hale - Jeff is the Content Manager at ISLE Surf and SUP. He's been an avid surfer and paddler for over 20 years, and he's always looking for an excuse to spend more time in the water. Jeff grew up in Southern California where he earned his Bachelor's in English at UC Irvine and his MBA at Chapman University. You can find him in the water after work and on weekends in San Diego.