Four Lifting Strategies to Make You a (More) Badass Kayaker

We’ve already exam­ined some great, func­tion­al lifts that will make you a bet­ter hik­er in “Four Lift­ing Strate­gies to Make You a (More) Badass Hik­er,” so it’s only fair that we cov­er all of the wave-cut­ting, rapid-bat­tling, pad­dle-snap­ping kayak­ers out there.

As with any sport, the goal (hope­ful­ly) is to get bet­ter. A manda­to­ry part of that is train­ing, both in the water and in the gym. The goal is to be stronger and more capa­ble at your pas­time, and the ripped bod look will come nat­u­ral­ly with time. As a gen­er­al basic strat­e­gy, one should try to focus more on the func­tion­al lifts that tar­get a greater num­ber of mus­cles. With that in mind, kayak­ing is more of an upper-body and core tar­get­ed sport, so you’re obvi­ous­ly going to want to pay much more atten­tion there. As the say­ing goes, “friends don’t let friends skip leg day,” so don’t slack on the squats (they’ll give you a tight core, any­how). How­ev­er, since you’re work­ing toward being big­ger up top, here are four lifts that will get you big­ger gains in terms of your adven­ture (and those pecs).four-lifting-strategies-kayaker-featured

Bench Press
This is a pret­ty obvi­ous one. Beloved by meat­heads, ath­letes, and peo­ple with “lit­tle man syn­drome” the world ‘round, the bench press is prob­a­bly the most rec­og­niz­able lift, even to those who have nev­er stepped foot inside a gym. It exudes machis­mo, pain, and the ever-present threat of drop­ping the bar on your tra­chea. Done cor­rect­ly, the bench press is a vital upper-body lift. Done incor­rect­ly, it can cause major dam­age to your shoul­ders. As with all big lifts, prop­er form is a must. When bench press­ing, grip the bar shoul­der length apart, and try your best to keep your elbows tucked in close to your sides. You can grip the bar with a clos­er grip if you are look­ing to tar­get your tri­ceps, but nev­er grip it wider than shoul­der length, as doing so is just ask­ing for a shoul­der injury. Flar­ing your elbows out will usu­al­ly allow you to lift a bit more, but it is also pret­ty rough on your shoul­ders. Before tak­ing the bar off of the rack, arch your back while tak­ing care to not lift your butt up off the bench. This will make your body work almost like a coiled spring ready to force the bar back up. It also often helps to try to “grip” the floor with your feet and imag­ine your­self almost squat press­ing the bar back up to the top of the lift. The bench press will work your shoul­ders, pec­torals, biceps, tri­ceps, and if done cor­rect­ly, even your core a bit.

Over­head (or Mil­i­tary) Press
Anoth­er sta­ple of upper-body work­outs is the over­head (often called a “mil­i­tary”) press. Mil­i­tary press­es will tar­get your shoul­ders, pec­torals, back, tri­ceps, and core. It can also be a dan­ger­ous lift, as it involves tak­ing some­thing very heavy and lift­ing it up over your head from a stand­ing posi­tion. Stand with your feet togeth­er as if you’re stand­ing at atten­tion (hence the nick­name the “mil­i­tary” press), and lift the bar­bell from your upper chest up above your head. At the bot­tom of the lift, you’re obvi­ous­ly going to have your head cocked back a bit so that the bar doesn’t hit you in the chin on the way up. Keep­ing your back as rigid­ly straight as pos­si­ble and with a tight core, lift the bar above your head until your arms are ful­ly extend­ed. Once the bar pass­es above your head, make sure to bring your head back into a nor­mal stand­ing posi­tion beneath the bar. This lift can be one of the more frus­trat­ing ones when it comes to see­ing gains, as it often takes longer to devel­op the shoul­der mus­cles involved. As with the bench press, it is a good idea to have a spot­ter near­by. There are few scari­er things that can hap­pen in a gym than hav­ing a lot of weight pressed up over your head and real­iz­ing that your arms are about to give out.

Bent Over Rows
Sure, you’ll look kind of sil­ly doing them, but bent over rows are extreme­ly ben­e­fi­cial for your shoul­ders and back. Load about 1.5 times the weight that you can com­fort­ably and safe­ly over­head press onto a bar­bell. Keep­ing your back as rigid and straight as pos­si­ble, pick up the bar­bell with the same stance as you would for a dead­lift. Once you’ve lift­ed the bar to your waist, bend about 25 degrees for­ward, remem­ber­ing to keep your back straight, core engaged, and butt stick­ing out (we said you’d look sil­ly, remem­ber). Pull the bar­bell up toward your ster­num and try to make your shoul­der blades touch at the top of the lift. As afore­men­tioned, this will work your shoul­ders, back, and core most­ly. Because every good lift­ing rou­tine includes a pull to go with a push, this is a great part­ner to the bench press. If you have the facil­i­ties avail­able, doing the two as a super­set would be ideal.

Some may argue that this isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly a “lift” because it doesn’t include a bar­bell, ket­tle bell, or dumb­bell, but you’re lift­ing your own weight in the pull-up, and it can be one of the more hum­bling things you can do at the gym. Pull-ups (and chin-ups, for that mat­ter) can be a pret­ty good lit­mus test for your over­all body strength, because they force you to…well, pull your body up. Pull-ups can be frus­trat­ing and some­times embar­rass­ing when you start, because they are pret­ty dif­fi­cult. They are, how­ev­er, extreme­ly basic. Sim­ply grasp an over­head bar with an over­hand grip (palms face away from you) just slight­ly wider than shoul­der width, and pull your­self up, try­ing to get your chin above the bar. Then come back down, rinse and repeat. Chances are, if you’re a new­bie to strength train­ing (or if you’re just weak), there will not be much “rins­ing and repeat­ing.” Do them to fail­ure (mean­ing you can’t do any more), wait a bit or go do some­thing else, and then do them to fail­ure again. Pull-ups can even be a worth­while tool to keep your heart rate up between sets of anoth­er exer­cise or as a part of a circuit.