What Muscles Does Kayaking Work?

Kayaking is one of the most challenging sports and comes with an array of unique challenges, from the physical exertion required to kayak successfully to the technique required to be efficient.

While kayaking is often seen as something a little more relaxed than other extreme sports, it’s actually incredibly physically demanding and can have a huge impact on your physique if done correctly as part of a healthy lifestyle.

What Muscles Does Kayaking Work?

In this guide we’re going to highlight what muscles kayaking benefits and look at some of the other amazing benefits kayaking provides to help you understand just how beneficial this sport can be to your health and physique.

Can Kayaking Build Muscle?

Yes! Kayaking can absolutely help you gain definition and even build muscle, especially in areas that are less likely to be targeted by traditional workouts and sports.

While kayaking isn’t going to help you build mass as you would at a gym doing an intensive weight training regime, kayaking can help build definition and strength as well as power and can help strengthen key muscles in the core and back as well as the arms and legs, due to the unique and challenging posture and movements required for kayaking.

This of course assumes that you’re kayaking with intent and purpose, as simply floating downstream with the current isn’t going to have too many benefits for your body.

Effort and exertion are required, and the repetitive movements of kayaking, as well as fighting currents and maintaining technique and posture, can be a massive boost to your overall muscular strength and definition, as well as your muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance.

All of this will have a huge impact on your health and your body and can lead to massive improvements across the board.

What Muscles Does Kayaking Use?

Kayaking uses an array of muscles due to its unique movements. The key muscles you use in kayaking are your abdominal and core muscles to help keep you stable and provide power to your paddle strokes, as well as muscles in your lats, arms, forearms, and your back and shoulders.

It’s a complete upper body workout thanks to the variety of techniques, and this can be a huge opportunity to develop your muscles and your time under tension, particularly for your core, back, and arms.

Your arms will be worked out totally by the different paddle strokes, while your back and shoulders help support your body and provide power to your paddle strokes, while your forearms help keep the paddle stable and secure, and can also help develop grip strength too.

In short, it uses almost all the muscles of the upper body in some capacity, and while it isn’t necessarily a great leg workout, it’s always possible to hop out for a swim if you want to give your legs a chance to take some of the burden.

Is Kayaking A Good Form Of Cardio?

Kayaking is a great form of cardio and as a continual form of exercise, it can massively develop your efficiency and endurance. It is also an excellent way to develop your cardiovascular endurance without putting strain on your lower body and is a great option for people suffering from joint pain in the knees or ankles, making it a great alternative to traditional cardio exercise.

As long as you are actively paddling and aren’t simply riding the current, kayaking can burn a lot of calories and help you to develop excellent muscular endurance of the upper body alongside your cardiovascular system, leading to a huge improvement in your overall fitness and endurance.

Is Kayaking Good For Losing Weight?

Kayaking is excellent for losing weight and is actually a great fat burner, as kayakers often report burning anywhere up to 400 calories per hour which puts it in league with many other demanding cardiovascular exercises.

The additional benefit of this is that kayaking also often requires bursts of intense power and strength, meaning that you are developing your anaerobic fitness as well as your aerobic fitness, and these both burn fat in different ways, making your overall fat loss and calorie burning much more efficient and dramatic while exercising, and can even lead to prolonged calorie burning after exercise has finished. 

Again, if you simply float with the current and don’t paddle much, you will struggle to burn 100 calories over the course of an hour, so kayaking is clearly a sport that rewards effort!

Is Kayaking Good For Back Pain?

It depends a lot on the type of back pain you are suffering from, but kayaking can be a great way to relieve pain and help build muscles to support your spine and reduce chronic pain.

Strengthening muscles in the core and back are key to helping solve back pain, and kayaking is a fun and relatively low impact way to develop these muscles, providing additional stability to tired or weak back muscles.

Before you consider using kayaking to solve your back pain or other issues, be sure to contact your doctor and seek professional medical advice, as back pain can be related to many different types of injury and illnesses, and it’s possible that exercise may exacerbate your pain and cause further issues instead of solving them, and running into these issues while floating downstream on a boat is much less than ideal.

Final Thoughts

Kayaking works a lot of muscles and is a very good form of exercise, as long as you put in the proper amount of effort and use the correct technique.

While it may not build mass, it provides a supreme upper body workout and is a particularly great option for building core strength and back strength, which are key for enabling other types of lifting and exercise.