Whether you’re new to the sport of stand up paddling or preparing for an exciting Maui Maliko downwinder, having upper body paddling endurance and excellent balance will get you through the deepest troughs, maybe help you pass a competitor or help you enter bigger waves and swells with extra confidence and success!

I like to be as efficient as possible when training, so combining the two is perfect. The following exercise is just a sample of what you can do to get stronger, develop faster reflexes, increase the rapid firing of your finite muscles that stabilizes your larger muscles, improve your timed runs and possibly reduce fatigue and/or risk of overuse injuries.

It’s well known that SUP requires the entire body to perform and respond in unison. You’re never isolating one muscle group at any given moment. As you paddle, your entire shoulder complex, upper/lower back, feet, ankles, knees, hips and core (everything excluding your extremities) are executing each short or long stroke in a smooth, connected motion. Conditions can and do change, so adding some balance work is also a huge plus. I totally can tell that when I balance train, my reactions are sharp and quick.

Based on your current level of fitness, ease into some of these more advanced moves and change the variables accordingly. You can simply start with your own paddle or select one of the suggested weights. I usually start light and advance to heavy, to fatigue.

The Exercise: Balance/Weighted Paddle Stroke Repeats


A weight (4-10 lb medicine ball, 9-12 lb body bar or regular dumbbell); A balance platform (a small 12” inflatable disc or BOSU, INDO Board 24” Gigante inflatable disc, INDO Board or your own SUP).

*Caution: if using an SUP board on a Gigante, you may want to remove the fins.

bosu medicine1 gigante paddle1 gigante medicine1 gigante bodybar1

Progression Variables:

floor to sand
2 legs to one
discs to SUP board
less air to more air in discs
light to heavy medicine balls
tempo of movement: slower to faster
number of repetitions: low to high
change stance position

Variation 1. Using a medicine ball (board on a Gigante disc) with a faster tempo

IMG 7648 IMG 7657 IMG 7676 IMG 7682

Variation 2. Using a body bar (board on a Gigante disc) with a slower tempo

IMG 7713 IMG 7719 IMG 7720 IMG 7722

In Variation 1, I’m standing on my Naish Mana 9’0” with one Gigante disc lightly inflated and an 8 lb medicine ball, then I advance to 12 lb weight body bar in Variation 2. You can also add another disc or more air for more action. My stance is a surf stance and my ratio of paddle stroke is 2:2 (2 strokes per side) with a fast tempo.

Be sure to have good posture, look at the horizon, engage the muscles of your core (draw your navel in to the front of your spine) and mimic the movement of the appropriate paddle stroke of your choice. For example, a short stroke for wave practice or extend a little further towards the nose if you’re training for long distance. Stop the action and exit at your feet.

You will feel EVERYTHING engage and maybe burn a little. This is good! If you feel any low back discomfort, pinching at the top of your shoulder, reduce the weight of medicine ball or body bar and/or keep the weight closer to the center of your body. Don’t sacrifice good form. If you’re goofy foot (right foot forward), switch for fun to regular (left foot forward) and vice versa.

Time yourself instead of counting reps. First start at 15 seconds, then 30, 45 and for hardcore folks, 1 minute! Be sure to rest appropriately between sets or timed bouts. Change the ratio to 3:4 same side strokes, switch to opposite side OR alternate side to side continuously. ALWAYS mix it up.

Until next time, paddle hard, stay hydrated and fuel your body well for extra time on the water.


All the information presented in the SUP Fitness section of naishsurfing.com is for educational and resource purposes only. It is there to help you make informed decisions about your fitness training. It is not a substitute for, or an addition to, any advice given to you by your physician.
Suzie Cooney, CPT, and Naish International strongly recommend that you consult your doctor and get medical approval before beginning any fitness and/or exercise program. You are solely responsible for the way information in SUP Fitness is perceived and utilized and you do so at your own risk.
In no way will Suzie Cooney, Naish International or anyone associated with Naish International be held responsible for any injuries or problems that may occur due to the use of this website or the advice contained within.

Stay in the loop

Exclusive deals, new product info, and all Naish updates. Directly to your inbox.