What Muscles Does Kayaking Work? [Need To Know]

Kayaking does lots of wonders to the muscles. You may think that it only works the arms and the back region. However, there is more to that. It targets the muscles in different regions of the body. From the back region to the sole of your feet, you can never feel the same after kayaking. So, what muscles do kayaking work out? Do you want to find out? Let’s kick in for the surprises.

What Muscles Do Kayaking Work?

Kayaking is a relaxing and exhilarating experience that is suitable for outdoor activities. Whether you are paddling in calm still water or you are in a full sprint, the sport allows you to engage the core part of your muscles. Here, we shall examine the muscles that kayaking does work out.

What Muscles Do Kayaking Work

1. The Back Region

Kayaking works the upper part of the body. By swinging the paddles and engaging in other rowing actions, you work out the three muscles located in the back region. These muscles include:

The Lats (Latissimus Dorsi)

The Lats, also known as the Latissimus Dorsi is the largest muscle located in your back. They are at work with every forward stroke you perform during doing actions. During this process, they contract and expand to transfer power from the lower body into the paddling movement. To make your lats stronger and enhance paddling movement, you can perform exercises such as pull-ups, lat pulldowns, chin-ups, and more. Besides, you can consult your fitness coach to give you more tips.

The Rhomboid Muscles

Located at the upper part of your back, the rhomboid muscles support the movement at the end of each stroke (scapular retraction). In other words, the muscles draw your shoulder’s blade towards the middle of your spine. These small muscles maintain a balanced posture during kayaking. Hence, stretching them regularly can avoid stiffness and maintain a healthy posture.

The Trapezius

Also known as the traps, these large muscles are located in the back region. They are not only located at the upper back; they also extend to the middle and lower back region. They are responsible for moving the shoulder blades to provide motion to the spine and neck. If you use the upper traps regularly, then you should start training the middle/lower traps to create balance and maintain a good stance during kayaking.

Hints: Ensure that you maintain a good posture during kayaking. Use a kayak that is of the quality seat and supports the back to enjoy a relaxing and painless activity.

2. The Shoulder Muscles

The shoulder muscles perform a heavy job during kayaking. They work together with the muscles located at the arm and the back region. In most cases, the shoulders are the most commonly injured joint among kayakers. How? Well, that actual workload during kayaking isn’t distributed equally. The posterior deltoids (back of the shoulder) tends to get more work than the shoulders’ frontal part through a forward stroke. With this, the deltoid’s muscle rear head becomes overworked thereby causing a muscular imbalance that increases the risk of shoulders’ injury.

Regardless of this, you can reduce the risk by creating a balance between the frontal and rear deltoids. Train and stretch those parts with highlighted exercises. Besides, you can reduce the risk by observing a paddler’s box during motion. The paddler’s box is an imaginary rectangle that is created by utilizing the arms, chest, and paddles.

Rotator Cuffs

The rotator cuffs are associated with the shoulder muscles. It has four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) that stabilize the arm and shoulders. By performing some exercises on the rotator cuffs, you also create a balance between the frontal and posterior deltoids. Exercises such as face pull or power band rotations can make the rotator cuffs strong and healthy.

3. The Arms

Kayaking does not exclude working out the muscles on the arms. From the biceps to the forearms, the muscles develop to make the body more fit. Here are the muscles that get developed through kayaking.

Biceps and Triceps

If you want a nicely sculpted arm, then kayaking can help in that area. The biceps and triceps perform lots of work during paddling. The antagonistic muscle pairs (biceps and triceps) work in opposite directions. As one of the muscles contracts, the other can relax thereby creating a pull and push scenario. In other words, when the biceps pulls the paddle in one arm (contraction), the triceps pushes the paddle in the other arm (relaxation).

Grip and Forearms

The grip and forearms are the primary contacts of the paddles. As a result, the energy developed from the back, shoulder, and antagonistic pairs are transferred to the paddles through the grip and forearms. Having a proper grip on the paddles makes the process smooth but rigorous especially if you are doing it for the first time.

Meanwhile, the forearms muscles determine how you handle and rotate the paddles. If you want to have an enjoyable experience, then your forearms become engaged in intense paddling. Else, you may find it difficult to channel the energy properly. When doing this, ensure that you take the necessary precautions to avoid wrist injuries.

4. Chest and Core

Kayaking creates significant pressure on the chest and develops its muscles. They work in an opposite direction simultaneously to stabilize and control the movement of the paddles effectively.

Meanwhile, the core is the cause of the movement of all muscles. Many may think that the upper body does the job alone. But, that is not true. The engagement of core muscles (abdominals and obliques) is the preliminary stage that influences the kayak forward stroke. Thanks to the core, there is a creation of balance, maintenance of good posture, and stability of the body.

Other Essential Muscles

The legs and hearts are other muscles that kayaking works. They deliver the power that starts the whole operation and enjoys lots of benefits from them.


The back region, shoulders, arms, chest, and more are examples of muscles that kayaking works. Hence, try to engage in the sport and enjoy the benefits it has to offer.