Spring into Strength

Over the years, I’ve had people come into the gym after a weekend outing on one of our great rivers and they can hardly move. Kayaking, rafting, or paddling a drift boat uses a great deal of upper body and core strength. And you can’t expect a season of downhill skiing to prepare you for spring/summer river outings—it’s an entirely different set of muscles. Not to mention that when it comes to one’s figure, ski clothes conceal, while swimsuits reveal. Which means there’s no better time to start a River Fit Program... so let's get to work. Be sure to employ 5-10 minutes of cardiovascular warm-up with a rowing machine or another full-body exercise.

Walking Knee Hugs
Step the left foot forward, then pull your right knee to your chest. Step forward on the right foot and pull your left knee to your chest. Repeat for 15 steps on each leg.

Trunk Rotations
Extend arms to the side, at shoulder height. Twist slowly all the way to your right and back to your left. Repeat 15 times.

Rotator Cuff
Keeping your elbows to the side of your body, rotate your arms outward for 15 reps.

Straight-Arm Lateral Pull-Downs
This is a great stabilizing exercise for the core/trunk. Stand with arms reaching forward, grasping the lat pull-down bar. Keeping arms and back straight and your core tight, pull all the way down to your thighs. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

High-to-Low Wood Chops
This exercise is awesome for rowing or paddling. Start with the cable crossover machine and make sure the handle is set in the highest position. Using 15-20 pounds to start, pull the weight downward across the body to the opposite hip, keeping the arms straight and hips stationary. Start with 2 sets of 10 and go from there. If you want a little more challenge, do this sitting on an exercise ball. 

Incline Chest Press, One Arm and Bilateral
The same goes for the chest. For your days on the river, you want to make sure you are working your muscles independently as well. Like the seated row, 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps should suffice.

Seated Row, One Arm and Bilateral
When strengthening the back for your days on the river, you want to make sure you’re working your muscles independently as well as together; when rowing, you never know when you’re going to need to use both arms or just one. Do 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps on each arm and bilateral.

Straight-Leg March
Holding your hands straight out from your chest, palms down, walk by lifting your legs swiftly toward your hands. Repeat for 15 steps on each leg.

Front and Lateral Raises
Besides the lower back, one’s deltoids seem to take the most abuse from repeatedly lifting the oar or paddling. Start with five- or eight-pound free weights and perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps. Being sure to keep your arms straight, lift outward until your arms are parallel with your shoulders.

Lower-Back Extensions
No one likes lower-back pain. Lie face down over a 55cm-65cm exercise ball, placing your feet against a wall. Put your hands behind your head and arch upward toward the ceiling. If this exercise bothers your lower back, lie flat on your back, lift your hips up off the floor, and hold for 20-30 seconds.

Farmer Walks
Gotta get that boat to the river! Carrying 20 or 30 pounds, walk 20 yards, set the weight down, pick the weight back up, and repeat the exercise 10 times.

Mike Murgatroy is the Fitness Director at Main Street Gym in downtown Bozeman. For more fitness news visit mainstreetfitness.net.