Kayak Fitness – Core Strength and Stability

by Nancy Soares on August 3, 2015

Editor’s note: Thanks to Robert Kendall for the photos and Medford Judo Academy for sharing the mat.

TR Dandy Don Kiesling demonstrates extreme core stability on retreat at Cape Flattery. TR Mark Hutson cheers him on.

TR Dandy Don Kiesling demonstrates extreme core stability on retreat at Cape Flattery. TR Mark Hutson cheers him on.

Core stability is crucial to kayaking. We use our core muscles to stay upright in the boat, to flex forward when surfing, to keep our backs pain-free during extended time in the cockpit, and perhaps most importantly, to stabilize. While hardly rocket science, training for core strength and stability is still somewhat misunderstood.

Piking on a stability ball

Piking on a stability ball

We hear a lot about core fitness but what do you really know about your core? Abdominal muscles are actually superficial to the deep core muscles and while they are certainly crucial to keeping us upright they really don’t constitute the core per se. Core is deeper. In fact, core muscles include those of the pelvic floor (all you women out there think Kegels) as well as the adductors or inner thigh muscles. Forget crunches – they target the superficial ab muscles and when done conventionally, as in the bent-knee sit up, can actually use the big hip flexor muscles of the thigh to a greater extent than the abs.

Isometric contraction is an ideal way to target the muscles of the core. Here are some great exercises to help you to optimal core strength:

Planking

Planking

Planking is one of the best ways to activate core muscles for strength and stability. Above is a forearm plank. You can also do conventional planks in a push-up position, or side lying planks as illustrated below.

Side lying plank

Side lying plank

Side lying planks can be done on the forearm as shown above or on the palm with a straight lower arm. If the plank version here is too difficult, you can try the easier version  below:

Place your top foot in front of you on the floor for better support.

Place your top foot in front of you on the floor for better support.

A great way to develop core strength is to use stability balls. You can use them for planking by placing your knees on the ball and then rolling out to take a push up position. As you get stronger, you can roll out farther and farther until only your feet are on the ball. You can also do a pike from a plank by engaging your core muscles to pull the ball toward your hands (see the second photo in this post). This movement can only be accomplished by using the core – hip flexors will not engage. You can work from one to ten pikes, rolling out till you are in push up position and then piking till your body is vertical.

Planking on a stability ball.

Planking on a stability ball.

There is also the reverse plank shown below. Planking will not only strengthen the core but will strengthen the arms and chest as well. Planks should be held for around five to seven breaths. Rest and repeat. Three to five repetitions should do it.

Reverse plank

Reverse plank

And yeah, a headstand works too. We hope you find these exercises helpful. Please share your favorite core strengtheners by clicking below!

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Tsunami Rangers Go Inflatable

by Nancy Soares on July 13, 2015

by Tsunami Ranger Commander Michael Powers

Editor’s note: Thanks to photographers Rob Cala and Dave Norket, as well as our own Michael Powers, for the photos!

TRs Steve and Tim breaking the wave barrier
TRs Steve “El Rey” King and Tim Sullivan breaking the wave barrier

On a day with moderate winter surf conditions, three of the senior Rangers – Steven King, Tim Sullivan and Michael Powers – and long-time friends of the Rangers Rob Cala and Davey Norket, converged at Moss Beach in northern California to test out a new inflatable Advanced Elements double kayak. The boat was one of AE’s “advanced frame expedition” boats that come with a unique zip-in deck with inflatable cowlings and spray skirts. Michael was considering using the inflatables for his upcoming multi-day paddling expeditions along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, and along the remote southern coast of Cuba.

Landing in rocks and surf: check!
Landing in rocks and surf: check!

Rangers King and Sullivan launched the boat from a little beach surrounded by the rugged and rocky coastline of Moss Beach, a favorite haunt of the Rangers for past paddling escapades. A short distance north of here was where Powers photographed Eric Soares, Jim Kakuk and Misha Dynnikov punching through surf and rocks for the cover of their book EXTREME SEA KAYAKING. Just to the south was infamous “Sniveler’s Slit”, where Kakuk crashed face-first into the rocks while attempting to surf into the Slit during the making of the Rangers’ first serious film effort, THE ADVENTURES OF THE TSUNAMI RANGERS – viewable now on VIMEO at:    https://vimeo.com/39383078 .

Surfing: check!

Surfing: check!

During this latest Tsunami adventure the Advanced Elements inflatable kayak performed surprisingly well, even though AE designer/owner Clay Haller probably never envisioned his boats being subjected  the punishing conditions of surf zone paddling for which the Rangers are well known. Even with repeated punching through breaking waves, capsizes, and surf landings over rocks, the AE boat and the Rangers survived without a scratch – which was much better than many hard-shell boats have fared at the hands of the Rangers.

Kodak moment: check!

Kodak moment: check!

Bring us you hard shell, your inflatable, your whatever and we’ll try it out! We’ll surf it, crash it, and maybe you’ll get it back intact. Or maybe not…

Questions? Comments? Click below and share!

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Ocean Survival Swimming – Part 2

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