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Paddling from the Core Article
« on: June 25, 2007, 03:03PM »

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Paddling from the Core

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

To the untrained eye, paddling a canoe swiftly across open water appears to start and finish with vein-streaked biceps.

But veteran canoe and kayak coach Robyn Singh believes that real power comes from the legs and from a hip-to-shoulder drive train that's often neglected.

Singh, the head coach for Hawai'i Canoe and Kayak Team, trains faster paddlers with thigh-quivering leg exercises designed to limit unnecessary motion and the wasted energy it produces.

"You have to control the movement or you lose power in the boat," she said. "You have to find every little ounce of power."

Her challenging routine is a perfect addition to the workouts Hawai'i's 10,000 outrigger canoe paddlers are stroking through as they prepare for the summer regatta season.

The idea behind Singh's routine is to learn how to transfer the strength of the body's largest muscles its legs to the paddle.

"The push comes through your legs," she said. "You coil your energy in your legs. Then you unleash. It uncoils from your core and bam! you push. Total connection."

Singh's idea of "core" includes muscle groups working together to support the paddler's range of motion: legs, hips, abdominals, the spine and the shoulders. They work together as the athlete moves the boat.

"The essence of what I teach in kayaking and canoeing is connection," she said. "You become one with the boat, and it all starts with your feet. I know that my leg strength is where it's at. I know my power is generated there."

The 38-year-old Singh, who last year moved from Australia to Hawai'i, has been an elite paddler for much of her life. She won national championships on Olympic-style flatwater boats the same type used by the Hawai'i Canoe and Kayak Team and was a member of two crews that won the Moloka'i to O'ahu outrigger canoe race. She's paddled outrigger canoes for 17 years and coached for the past seven.

Singh can't imagine a day without some form of activity, from pre-dawn workouts on the Ala Wai Canal with the teenage paddlers she is training, to hiking and yoga.

"Your body is happy when it's moving," she said. "And happy bodies make happy minds."

For paddlers who are not convinced by the power of her routine, Singh offered this simple demonstration.

Sit on a chair with your feet raised a foot or so off the floor and mimic your paddling motion. Then put your feet on the floor and repeat the motion. The second of the two will produce a more powerful stroke, Singh said.

And the boat will go faster. That's the point.

"Why not use all the body?" she said. "You're cheating yourself if you don't use all that power."


Trevor Spring, a personal trainer from Adapt Fitness who works with Singh and helps train her paddlers, suggested three basic exercises that can be done three times a week, preferably before you paddle: A squat with side bend, a forward lunge with a side bend, and a backward lunge with a high kick on the return.

Before you start, Spring recommends you loosen up with a brief warm-up. Easy trunk twists, side lunges and high kicks are a good start. You want to get the blood flowing.

# For the squat, stand with your feet apart, shoulder width, and your arms opened wide and parallel to the ground, palms open. Keep your back flat, not bent, shoulders back, chest out and your butt over your heels. Suck in your tummy when you squat, twisting to one side as you go down. The finished position for each repetition should find your lower hand near your foot and your upper hand reaching skyward. Aim for 10 repetitions on each side.

# The forward lunge begins with you standing in split stance one foot forward, the other at the back. You alternate for each side you train. Again, your arms should be outstretched, parallel to the ground, palms open. As you lunge, twist your trunk toward the side that's lunging, finishing with your lower hand near your foot and your upper hand reaching skyward. Aim for 10 to 20 repetitions per side.

# The backward lunge is a bit more dynamic. Stand with feet apart, step back in a reverse lunge, then step forward and kick your leg up as high as you can. Touch your foot with your opposite hand, then bring your leg backward into a lunge. Aim for 10 to 12 repetitions per side.

Reach Mike Gordon at
« Last Edit: June 26, 2007, 02:42PM by cho »
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