What Muscles Does Paddle Boarding Work?

What Muscles Does Paddle Boarding Work?
While it offers relaxation, paddle boarding is also an art that engages virtually every muscle group, delivering a holistic, gentle-on-the-body workout that torches calories, forms muscles, and elevates balance and coordination. As we delve into the heart of this article, we'll answer what muscles does paddle boarding work and cover the profound emotional and physical benefits that make this sport an adventure.

When it comes to stand up paddle boarding, you might be surprised to learn that it actively involves a total of 11 muscle groups in your body: 

  • Abs
  • Lats
  • Rhomboids
  • Hamstrings
  • Traps
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Quadriceps
  • Rotator cuffs
  • Heart
  • Lungs

Let's delve into the fascinating world of how each of these muscle groups contributes to the paddle boarding experience.


Paddle boarding, far more than just a physical workout, taps into a deeper, more adventurous aspect of our being. Engaging the paddle boarding core muscles – the abdominal muscles, lower back, and pelvic floor – is just the surface of paddle boarding benefits.


The American Council on Exercise once highlighted this activity as going beyond traditional exercises, offering a unique blend of challenge and serenity. The core muscles are activated to an extent (57% of maximal voluntary contraction) that surpasses common workouts, but this is just part of the story. Paddle boarding cultivates an adventurous spirit and a sense of connection with the vast, unpredictable waters. It's a pursuit that calls to our innate desire for exploration and balance – not just in our bodies, but in our minds.


Paddle boarding offers a unique workout for the feet, engaging muscles, tendons, and ligaments that are often underused in daily activities. The feet, comprising over 100 muscles, are the foundation of your body's stability and mobility on a paddle board. As you stand and maneuver on the board, your feet must constantly adapt to the shifting water beneath, gripping the board to maintain balance and control. This action gives the muscles in your feet a thorough workout, especially in rougher water conditions where greater grip and control are required.

This engagement strengthens the muscles in your feet and also improves overall foot health. Moreover, paddle boarding enhances proprioception – the awareness of body position and movement – which prevents falls and maintains balance, both on and off the water.


In the world of paddle boarding, your legs take center stage, collaborating with your feet and core to maintain your balance and upright posture on the board. These muscles combine a range of leg muscles, including the calves, shins, knees, thighs, and glutes. Their collective effort supports your body's weight, absorbs the water's impact, and propels the board forward.


Slight knee bends lower your center of gravity, enhancing your overall stability. Moreover, harnessing your leg muscles to propel the board through the water increases your speed and fortifies these leg muscles. This gives your legs better endurance, agility, and speed, delivering a complete lower-body workout.


Paddle boarding doesn't leave your back muscles behind; it gives them a significant workout. These muscles, including the upper back, middle back, lower back, and spinal erectors, serve as pillars for posture maintenance, spine support, and safeguarding your nervous system.

On the water during paddle boarding, the back muscles aid in maintaining a straight and aligned posture, thus preventing slouching and hunching. In the act of paddling, these muscles, especially the lats, rhomboids, and traps, are actively utilized.


Paddle boarding is a synergistic activity that involves your shoulders, along with your back and arms, to maneuver the paddle and board. The shoulder muscles, comprising the deltoids, rotator cuffs, and scapular stabilizers, help you make movements like lifting, lowering, and rotating your arms and shoulder blades.


While paddle boarding, these muscles are put to work as you extend your arms to place the paddle in the water, pull it back, and lift it out again. Additionally, they switch sides and alter direction. Regular paddle boarding strengthens these shoulder muscles, aiding in the prevention of shoulder pain, enhancing arm mobility, and boosting overall strength.


Paddle boarding muscles also involve working your arms. Within this muscle group lie your biceps, triceps, forearms, and wrists, all contributing significantly to your ability to grasp, clutch, and effectively manipulate the paddle. When you're paddle boarding, your arm muscles come into play as you bend and straighten your elbows to generate the force for each paddle stroke. Furthermore, you use these muscles to twist and turn your wrists, which adjusts the angle of the paddle blade. Engaging in paddle boarding can help you build strength in your arm muscles, enhancing your grip, coordination, and dexterity.

Where Adventure Meets Health and Fitness

The sport of paddle boarding, particularly with iROCKER boards, is an excellent way to engage and strengthen a wide range of muscles, which answers the question, “What muscles does paddle boarding work?” From core muscles that ensure stability and balance, to the arms and shoulders that drive the paddle through the water, and the legs that maintain posture and maneuver the board, paddle boarding offers a full-body workout in a fun and adventurous setting.

Where Adventure Meets Health and Fitness

Start your paddle boarding adventure now and embark on a path to better fitness, stronger muscles, and a deeper connection with the water. The world is your playground – make it your own with iROCKER.


Is Paddle Boarding Low-Impact?

Paddle boarding is a low-impact exercise, ideal for reducing stress on joints, bones, and muscles compared to high-impact activities like running. This makes it suitable for all ages and fitness levels, especially beneficial for injury recovery. It gently helps in rebuilding strength, flexibility, and range of motion, engaging a range of muscles used in paddle boarding, including core, arm, shoulder, and leg muscles, without exacerbating existing conditions.

Can Paddle Boarding Help Improve Balance?

Paddle boarding indeed contributes to improving your balance, and the capacity to maintain stability and equilibrium on a shifting surface. Balance enables you to remain upright and manage the board's movement. This improvement is attributed to paddle boarding's unique challenge to your core, foot, and leg muscles, stabilizing your body and adapting to the water and board's motion.

Does Paddle Boarding Work the Same Muscles When Kneeling?

Paddle boarding does not work the same muscles when kneeling as it does when standing. Kneeling mainly works out your upper body, like your arms and shoulders, because you're not using your legs as much. When you stand up, you use your whole body, including your legs, to balance and move.


American Council on Exercise. (2017). ACE - Certified™: Research Special Issue 2017 - ACE-SPONSORED RESEARCH: Can Stand-up Paddleboarding Stand Up to Scrutiny? Retrieved from https://www.acefitness.org

Vogel, A., Porcari, J. P., Cress, M. L., Camic, C., Kovacs, A., Radtke, K., & Foster, C. (2017). Core muscle activation during stand-up paddleboarding. American Council on Exercise. Retrieved from https://www.acefitness.org

Paddleboard Nation. (n.d.). What Muscles Does Paddle Boarding Work? Retrieved from https://www.paddleboardnation.com/what-muscles-does-paddle-boarding-work/

Paddleboard Athlete. (n.d.). Paddle Boarding on Your Knees. Retrieved from https://paddleboardathlete.com/paddle-boarding-on-your-knees/

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