What Muscles Do Paddle Boarding Work? [2023]

Do you want to know exactly what muscles do paddle boarding work ? The main muscle groups that are often activated during paddleboarding are your mid-back muscles(latissimus Dorsi), shoulders(deltoids), arms(biceps and triceps) and abs. 

Stand-up paddleboarding and SUP exercise is a great muscle workout! 

If you love paddle boarding, you will agree that this water sport activity is an effective workout.

You will know because of the pleasant soreness you feel after a hard workout. The soreness sometimes even lasts for a week!

Read on to find out what muscles do paddle boarding work so you can have a workout plan. In fact, you can tailor your workout routine to tone specific areas of your body.


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What Muscles Does Paddle Boarding Work?

There are a total of 11 muscles that paddleboarding works:

  • Abs
  • Lats
  • Rhomboid
  • Hamstring
  • Traps 
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Quadriceps
  • Rotator cuffs
  • Heart
  • Lungs

Paddleboarding is an all-body workout that uses all kinds of muscles from small to large.

Different ways of paddleboarding will use certain muscles more often.

However, the main muscle groups that are often activated during paddleboarding are your mid-back muscles(latissimus Dorsi), shoulders(deltoids), arms(biceps and triceps) and abs. 

I will break down some basics of paddle boarding and the muscles you will use in different positions on your paddleboard following from standing, kneeling then prone.

What Muscles Do Paddle Boarding Work? : Muscles Used When Standing Up On Paddle Board 

Let us begin with the body muscles that are activated when you are doing stand up paddleboarding. Standing up on the board is not an easy task. Not only do you have to get used to stroking forward, but you also need to learn to balance yourself on the board. 

These are the muscles used in paddle boarding that are often activated while keeping yourself afloat:


What Muscles Do Paddle Boarding Work

In order to stay afloat, it is important to engage your core. The main muscle in the core is the abdominal muscle or abs. People often think that only those who actively work out will only have abs. This is wrong! 

Everyone has abs, it is just a matter of fact if you have a visible 6 pack

Practice having a strong core. This way, you will be secure on the paddleboard.


What Muscles Do Paddle Boarding Work

Your footing on the board is very important in paddleboarding. With that being said, the muscles that are actively working are the hamstrings and quadriceps for allowing you to stand and do much more.

What is hamstring?

 Hamstrings are basically the posterior muscles in the back of your thighs. To be more specific, there are three names that make up the hamstrings – semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris.

Using your hamstrings provides you with the mobility of your hip joints and knee joints.

Hamstrings are the strongest muscles in your body, but it is also easy to injure. In the event of paddleboarding, it is best to pause when you feel a sudden pain in your thighs. Seek more medical assistance if the pain is excruciating. 

Let us talk about another leg muscle, which is your quadriceps. 

The quadriceps or known as the quad is the front part of your thighs. There are 4 types of muscles here – rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis and vastus lateralis.

Both quads and hamstrings work hand-in-hand to give you the flexibility to move your knee joint. 


To maintain your balance while standing on the paddleboard, your back must stay upright and straight. The particular muscle that is in use is the rhomboid muscle.

The rhomboid muscle is the upper back muscle that is shaped like a rhombus, basically a four-sided parallelogram. These muscles go along your shoulder blades and near your sides.  

There are both rhomboid major and rhomboid minor muscles. 

What Muscles Do Paddle Boarding Work: Paddling

Once you are more comfortable with standing up on a paddleboard, you can begin using your paddleboard. 

Now you are new to paddling. Would you be wondering which muscles you will use? Not only will you be targeting the same muscles used in paddle boarding when standing, but you will also target new muscles now. 


What Muscles Do Paddle Boarding Work

You have something called the rotator cuff in your shoulders. It serves two purposes. The glenoid cavity and humerus in your shoulders allow the shoulder joints to work properly and provide for greater stability. 

The rotator cuff has four muscles – subscapularis, teres minor, infraspinatus and supraspinatus. 

The shoulders allow the upper half of the body to move and maneuver around if needed. 

As you learn to paddle, you are doing a great shoulder workout. This may be tough to do initially but as you build the strength in your shoulders, it will get easier. 


Under this section, you will still use the rhomboid muscles to help you balance. However, there are some other back muscles used in paddle boarding.

The first muscle is the trapezius or known as the trap located around the shoulder blade. These muscles allow you to twist and move your arms to maintain the shoulder position. In addition, you can also move your neck and head with these muscles. 

The second muscle is one of the back’s bigger muscles called latissimus dorsi or lat muscles. They are attached to your vertebral column to the body’s upper extremities, allowing you to do adductions. Adduction is basically raising a limb towards the midline of the body.


Without being said, the core is crucial for paddling on the board. The correct way is to twist your body higher up towards your chest when you paddle. This should be a gentle motion without much effort.


There are a few arm muscles that are in use when you paddle such as the triceps and biceps. Triceps are around the back of your upper arm. You would usually exert force on the triceps when you straighten your arm. 

The biceps are the arm muscles on the opposite side of the triceps. It connects your elbow to your shoulder.

You do not need to have big or bulky arms to be effective in paddleboarding. It is a full-body experience that you should be enjoying.

What Muscles Do Paddle Boarding Work in Prone Position?

For the prone paddleboarding position, there are two positions. They are the kneel-down or prone paddleboarding. Let us dive right in to see which muscles are involved.


Now when you are on your stomach, your arms will be used to paddle. As discussed, there are two arm muscles – triceps and biceps. Thus, you will help to strengthen these two muscles if you paddle in the position frequently. 


You will use your shoulders more often in the prone position than when you are standing. In this position, you have to keep your head up constantly. I recommend you start with 5 to 10 minutes per session and slowly increase the time once you are more comfortable. 


Your back muscles will be activated as well as your paddleboard on your stomach. As with the core muscles, the back muscles also help to stabilize you. Thus, maintaining your position.

FAQ: What Muscles Do Paddle Boarding Work

Does Paddle Boarding Tone Your Body?

Yes. Paddleboarding increases core strength by engaging and activating in the core muscles. This allows you to tone the muscles after you have been consistently paddle boarding. It also strengthens your legs, back, and upper body.

Does Paddle Boarding Give Abs?

Yes, one of the muscles used in paddle boarding is the abs. But how?

1. Proper Posture To Work Your Abs

Ensure that your torso is straight with your knees slightly bent. Place your body in the middle of the board and body weight distributed well so that you have a good balance.

Keep your arms straight and paddle with the same intensity from one movement to the next. Follow these steps to ensure your exercise pays off.

2. Perform Strength Training On The Board

Start with a series of core training such as press-ups and crunches. You will burn more calories on the water than on the ground because there is an extra effort needed to balance yourself on the water.

Is Paddle boarding Good Exercise?

A stand-up paddle board workout is a good choice. It is a low impact full-body workout that uses the core, arms, back and leg muscles. To succeed in this, you will need a combination of balance, strength, and endurance. 

Paddleboarding is a simple workout that allows you to burn tons of calories and a bonding session in nature with your friends.

Is Paddle Boarding Cardio Or Strength?

Paddleboarding is not only a cardio exercise. It is also strength training. You should definitely add paddle board fitness into your routine.

The Health Benefits Of Paddle Boarding

Paddleboarding is a fun watersport that is greatly beneficial to your overall physical and mental health. Let’s find out more about the health benefits of paddleboarding.

1. Reduces Stress And Boost Mental Health

Unless you are someone who is afraid of the water, paddleboarding can be a stress relief because of how calm the water is around you. You might be too focused on paddling and not falling off from the board, that it takes away all your worries at that moment.

2. Enhances Joint Stability

We all know that it is not easy to balance on the paddleboard. Having to balance yourself on the paddleboard activates the muscles in the foot and lower leg.

3. Boost Cardiovascular Health

Paddleboarding helps to lower the risk of heart attack or developing a stroke. Similarly to aerobic exercises, it is a low impact workout that is suitable for those who prefer a more relaxing and easy exercise.

4. Increases Core Strength

Stand up paddle board workout uses most muscles focusing on the core. Thus, paddle boarding helps to build abdominal strength and tone your muscles. Simultaneously, you are also working on your legs, arms and shoulders. 

How Many Calories Does Paddle Boarding Burn?

On average, you can burn approximately 305-460 calories per hour by just leisurely paddling in calm waters. If you are surfing using paddle boarding, then you will burn almost 620 to 745 calories per hour. Surfing is more of a cardio exercise, thus the more intense the waves are, the higher calorie you will burn.

If you are doing yoga paddleboarding, you will not burn as much as surfing. 

You should expect to burn 410 to 530 calories in an hour of performing yoga. Yoga helps you to strengthen your core and flexibility. By performing yoga on the paddleboard, it gives you an extra challenge. 

Are You A Beginner? Here Are Some Common Beginner Mistakes To Avoid

I will cover some mistakes made by beginners, so you do not have to repeat these mistakes.

1. Not Centering Your Weigh In the Middle Of The Board

In paddleboarding, having a balance is the key. The best position is at the centre of the board. If you are struggling initially, don’t worry. 

It happens to all newbies. 

Start by kneeling on the board and paddle until you are ready to stand up. Don’t forget to keep your core engaged as you are mainly using your torso and legs rather than your arms.

2. Looking Down At The Board

If you look at your feet or at the board, you are most likely going to lose control of your stability. I suggest you look at your surroundings such as your friends, the shore etc. Then slowly paddle towards them.

3. Let The Wind Take You In Its Direction

It is best to avoid windy days altogether for a beginner. In addition to that, the windy condition will cause choppier waters which makes it more difficult for you to remain stable on the board.

However, if you found yourself stuck in this situation, there are a few things you can do to safeguard yourself:

Get on your knees – This reduces your centre of gravity which allows you to have more power to fully control the direction of your board. A good idea is to lower down your hand to the shaft.

Lay down – If you find it difficult to kneel down on the board, you should tuck the paddle under your chest and lay down as soon as possible. Then, paddle with your arms like how you see surfers do in the movies.

4. Your Paddle Is Facing The Wrong Way

When you are paddling, the blade of the paddle should bend away from you. This gives you optimal tracking and speed. 

5. Gripping Both Hands At The Middle Of The Paddle

A common mistake is done by beginners – not gripping your hand on top of the paddle. If you are paddling on the left side of the board, your right hand should be gripping on the top and vice versa.

6. Forgetting To Bring Snacks And Water

Something that might not occur to you as a beginner is that you will get dehydrated and hungry after a good session of paddleboarding. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of water and some healthy snacks to munch on.

7. Not Inflating Your Board To PSI 12

You would want your inflatable paddleboard to be inflated to PSI 12 so that it won’t lose its rigidity and keep you afloat. See how to properly inflate and deflate your paddleboard.

8. Paddling At An Angle

You can easily notice a beginner and an expert by just looking at the way they stroke the paddle. Always remember to paddle perpendicular to the board when it enters the waters. If you can master this technique correctly, you will get more power in each stroke you make.

Tips To Enjoy A Pain-Free Paddling Experience

What Muscles Do Paddle Boarding Work

After every workout, you will most definitely experience body soreness the next day. Who likes the pain anyways? Here are some basics of paddle boarding that you should know to reduce the soreness. Let me show you some tips!

1. Get  Lighter Gear. 

A heavier aluminium paddle will tire you out easily as you will be needing extra force to stroke forward. Try using a lighter paddle that is made out of carbon such as Werner Trance 95.

2. Use Your Torso Instead Of Your Arm

When you are stroking forward, use your torso for most of your power. Avoid using your arm by keeping your lower arm straight.  Using this technique correctly, you will see an improvement in your stroke power.

3. When Making Turns, Get Low

If you are paddleboarding and want to change your direction, it is not a good idea to remain in your standing position and try to turn. It probably takes an extra two times as long to successfully make a turn. This means more strains on your body – more soreness the next day. 

I suggest you squat low instead and step back behind the handle. This will help you to spin the board faster.

4. Do Stretches and Warm-Up 

Paddleboarding is a low impact workout. However, it does not mean you should not do the necessary warm-up, especially if you have pre-existing injuries. 

If you do not have injuries, then try to do some yoga poses to stretch your arms, legs and shoulders for 10-15minutes.

After reading this, I hope you have a clear understanding of what muscles do paddle boarding work. 

Is paddle boarding a good exercise? Yes and with this knowledge, you can plan your workout routine to target the specific areas of your body. Whether you wish to tone your thighs or abs, you will start noticing significant positive results as long as you persevere. 

What are you waiting for? Invite a few of your friends and start a paddleboarding group!

It is such an easy and fun water sport activity. Not only does it provide an effective workout for most of the muscle groups in the body, but it is also great for a bonding session.

What Muscles Do Paddle Boarding Work?


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