What Muscles Should Be Sore After Kayaking?

What Muscles Should Be Sore After Kayaking?

If you’ve just finished a long kayaking session and your body is sore in ways you didn’t know you had, this article is for you. This blog post will explore the critical question of why the muscles around your core are feeling so sore after kayaking.

First, let’s walk through what happens when we sit on our paddleboard and paddle stroke forward:

• Your core stabilizes your body against the rocking of the water while paddling.

• Your core stabilizes your body again while sitting on the paddleboard.

• Your core stabilizes your body while standing up from the paddleboard.

• And your core stabilizes your body against the force of gravity while standing up from the paddleboard.

What Muscles Should Be Sore After Kayaking

The muscles that are most active when kayaking are the ones in your core. These muscle soreness are the ones that work the hardest to stabilize your body. Since the muscles on one side of your body help to balance out the muscle’s on the other side, kayaking will typically cause soreness on both sides of your core as you paddle. The most common areas of soreness for people who participate in kayaking include:

• The upper abdominals (the area just under your sternum).

• The lower abdominals (your lower back).

• The oblique muscles (sides of your torso).

• And the back muscles.

• If you’re using a paddleboard, the muscles in your core will also be sore from standing up from the board.

• The muscles surrounding your shoulders and hips may also be sore depending on your proper paddling technique.

How To Avoid Common Kayaking Aches And Pains

Back Pain:

After kayaking, the core muscles in your lower back are strengthened and improved. If you’re suffering from a back injury or if you have any chronic pain in that area, see your doctor before participating in any physical activity. Paddleboarding can be a great alternative for improving your core strength while avoiding the common aches that come with paddling sessions. If you’re suffering from a back injury, see your doctor before paddling.

Oblique Aches:

You may also experience aches in your obliques after kayaking. This happens when you carry an object that is not balanced on the deck of your kayak.

Sore Backside:

Either sitting in your kayak or standing up from it, the back muscles naturally strain as you stabilize your torso rotation. If this becomes too much for you, try sitting in a supportive sit-on-top kayak.

Sore Backside:

If you’re paddling with a traditional kayak, make sure to support your back and do not lean forward too far or excessive paddle strokes.

Sore Arms:

If your arms are sore after kayaking, you’re probably using your biceps (the muscles in the front of your arm) too much. To reduce the strain on these muscles, try to balance the amount of work you’re doing with your upper and lower arms while paddling.

Leg Pain:

If you’re paddling in a traditional kayak, make sure to keep your legs straight and avoid excessive stretching while holding the paddle.

After this article, you should better understand what muscles are working the hardest during a kayaking session. You should also know how to avoid common aches that come with kayaking and rowing. If you have any more questions about these topics, feel free to ask.

Preparation Before Hitting The Waters

*Consistent Workout: A great workout involves getting your heart rate up while doing a physical activity that lasts at least 20 seconds. Kayaking or paddleboarding is great for this. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, try playing a game of paddleboard volleyball or kayak tennis. If you prefer an easier workout, try paddling on flat water; most people find this to be less physically intense than whitewater kayaking, and it works your core muscles much less than standing up from your kayak.

*Stretching: If you don’t have time for a traditional stretching routine, there are a few essential stretches that are great to incorporate into your workout routine. The muscles you will need most for paddleboarding or kayaking are your back muscles and legs, focusing on these two areas.

*Drink Plenty Of Water: Before you go kayaking or paddleboarding, make sure to drink lots of water to replace the water you’ll lose during your workout and do not forget to bring your hydration pack always.

*Check Your Gear: Make sure that you’re not wearing anything too heavy for your kayaking or paddleboarding cardiovascular exercise. All-weather clothing is advisable to wear.

*Check The Weather: If there is any chance of rain or high winds, always check the forecast to ensure that it’s safe for you to go paddling or kayaking. Also, consider having a backup plan in case of bad weather.

Muscles And Body Parts Used In Kayaking

*Arms: paddling or standing up creates a lot of upper arm work, so it’s important to keep your forearms strong to prevent injury from hitting the rough waters.

*Shoulders: your shoulders are used when you paddle and hold the paddle while standing up; they also have to bear the brunt of any pull on the kayak or stand-up paddle.

*Chest: paddling and holding onto the paddle means that your chest muscles get a workout.

*Wrist: kayaking will give you a good arm workout, but it’ll also give your wrists a taxing workout as well.

*Back: bracing your body against the seat will give your back the workout that it needs to work well in conjunction with your body.

*Legs: paddling and standing up works your lower body almost as hard as paddling and leaning do.

*Core Muscles: the core muscles all work in unison with your arm muscles, shoulders muscles, and back muscles. These muscles are used when you paddle standing up and lean very far forward or backward.

*Hands & Forearms: the hands, forearms, and thumb are used mainly to brace the body against the seat. When paddling or standing up, these areas get a workout.

*Feet: paddling and standing up work your feet almost as hard as paddle work.

*Lower Body Muscles: any exercise you do in the water will work your legs almost as hard as working them on dry land. Kayaking is no exception; it works them hard while you lean far forward or far backward.

Common Kayaking Injuries

Back-related injuries are very common in kayaking. These can include:

  • Back Spasms: one of the most common injuries in kayaking is back spasms, which basically happen when your back muscles get too tired to keep supporting your body. 
  • Disks: if you’re not used to kayaking or paddleboarding, your disks can easily get strained from the stress that they put on your body.

Shoulders-related injuries are very common in kayaking. These can include:

  • Shoulder Separation: this happens when your shoulder blade pops out of place. It’s common in kayakers because the shoulders bear the brunt of the weight that your kayak or paddleboard puts on them.
  • Rotator Cuff-related Injures: these injuries are caused by the way that a kayaker’s shoulders move when paddling.  A great way to protect yourself from shoulder injuries while kayaking is by wearing a PFD (personal flotation device).

Neck-related injuries are very common in kayaking. These can include:

  • Whiplash: this injury, also known as “whiplash” or “cervical sprain,” is an injury to the neck that happens when you get hit from behind while you’re paddling.

Arms-related injuries:

It can be very dangerous in kayaking since the arms are used to hold on to the kayak, so they are required for safe paddling. Injuries caused by arm-related accidents include:

  • Fractures: fractures in your elbow(s) or wrists occur commonly when your kayak hits a rock or an object, such as another vessel. Tennis Elbow is caused by repetitive forces placed on the elbow’s tendons as you move your arm in a certain way, over time these forces cause damage to the connective tissue which causes inflammation within this tissue.
  • Sprains: these are injuries to one or both of your arms that happen when you’re using them improperly.

Biceps & Triceps-related injuries can happen in kayaking.

  • Tendinitis: tendinitis happens when your muscles become overused. The more you paddle, the more you tend to injure them.
  • Strain: strain happens when an injury is caused by overuse of a muscle.

Chest-related injuries in kayaking happen when you have to get out of your kayak and pull it yourself.

  • Rib Cage Injury: rib cage injuries are caused when a blow to the chest causes rib fractures. 

Core-muscle injuries are also common.

  • Ligament injuries: Ligaments are fibrous tissues that connect bone to bone or muscle to bone. 
  • Muscle Injuries: muscle injuries are caused by strains, sprains, or fatigue.
  • Nerve injury: nerve injuries are caused by missed nerve signals.

Legs & Hips-related injuries in kayaking also happen a lot.

While paddling, you can strain these muscles on impact and/or from leaning too far forward and backward.

  • Tenderness: Tenderness is a major issue in people who paddle frequently. This can be caused by overuse of the muscles or muscles that are not being used properly.
  • Groin injuries: Injuries can happen when you lean forward too far and have your legs hooked under you.

Heart / Cardio-related injuries in kayaking are very common.

This is due to the amount of energy that you put into paddling or standing up from your kayak.

  • Angina: Angina happens when your heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the needs of your body. 
  • Paddling/standing up: paddling/standing up can cause irregular heartbeats and eventually lead to angina.
  • Water: water can be very exerting on the heart, as it is the main element that your heart pumps with.

Paddling  Proper Technique

1. Olympic Style: In Olympic-style kayaking, the paddler keeps his knees and thighs locked and his torso mostly upright. The paddler’s lower abdomen stays flattened to the seat. 

2. Recreational Style: Recreational-style kayakers tend to slouch down in their seats, which can cause back pain and uncomfortable paddling.

3. Stand-Up Paddling: Stand-up paddlers who stand up while paddling put stress on their lower back and can lose paddle control due to a lack of support.

4. Endurance Paddling: Endurance paddlers usually carry a heavy load, which makes them lean far forward and creates excessive strain on their legs and back.

5. Beginner Paddling: Beginner paddlers tend to lean too far forward, which strains their back and causes back spasms. 


Kayaking and paddleboarding are very popular activities that people enjoy doing, both for recreation and competition. Become more experienced in either sport, you may notice that your muscles start to get sore and achy. This is normal, and a good way to prepare for this is to do a little research on exactly what muscles are used during certain activities.