Editor’s note: Thanks once again to Barbara Kossy for her patience and helpfulness as a model!
Here’s another post on kayak fitness, this time for shoulders. Shoulders take a beating when we kayak. These simple exercises will help warm up your shoulders prior to paddling and release tension when you’re done.
This stretch stretches the posterior, (or rear) deltoids, upper back generally, and the triceps, forearms, and inner wrists. First, interlace your fingers. Turn your palms so they face away from your chest. Expand the space between your arms by pressing your palms away from you while slightly rounding your back and hollowing your chest. Repeat this stretch after interlacing your fingers in the non-habitual pattern.
The next stretch is for the medial deltoid and tricep.
For this stretch, take one arm across your chest. Hook your other arm as deeply as you can under your crossed-over arm. Try to get above the elbow of the crossed arm if you can. This will depend on your level of flexibility. In the above photo, Barbara has her lower arm hooked just on top of her crossed over elbow.
Bend the elbow of the lower arm. Gently but firmly draw your arm across and in toward your body using the lower arm. Be sure to keep your shoulders square! One shoulder will tend to rise and the waist will bend – this will undermine the usefulness of this stretch.
The third stretch in this series stretches the anterior (front) deltoid and the pectorals. First interlace your fingers behind your back. It sometimes helps to do this with bent elbows and then extend them. With your palms facing upwards, press your knuckles down and away from you, expanding the space between your arms and your back. Lift your chest and inhale deeply, then exhale. This will facilitate the stretch. Always repeat after interlacing your fingers in the non-habitual pattern.
This fourth stretch opens up the chest, shoulders, and ribs. Take your paddle in a wide grip. You can play with the width of your grip to see which hand position works best for you. Raise your paddle up high over your head. Keeping your feet flat on the ground, stretch from your feet to your fingers with a slight backbend. You can also do sidebends or twist from side to side in this position. Keep your ribcage lifted regardless of your position.
The last stretch in the shoulder series is pretty intense, so go carefully and respect your individual needs. Holding your paddle in a wide grip, lower it behind your shoulders. Let your arms slide along the shaft until you can grip the shaft with your hands or drape your arms over it. Again, you can try various hand positions to achieve different results.
All of these stretches should be done at least once and for at least 10 seconds each time. It’s very helpful to notice your breathing and breathe deeply in and out a few times while holding a position. This will help your muscles relax and the stretch can go deeper.
Please go through these stretches carefully! Always respect your limitations and remember that you may be more or less flexible on any given day. If it hurts, don’t do it. However, it’s often interesting and useful to play around with the stretch to see what you CAN do without pain. Discomfort is okay, but not pain. Know the difference.
We hope these stretches are useful and will contribute to your paddling health and pleasure!
Do you find these shoulder stretches useful? Please comment below!