What Muscles Does Kayaking Work?

Kayaking is a great workout for your whole body, and because you’re using your own body weight as resistance, it’s a great way to build muscle.

Ever wonder what muscles kayaking works specifically? In this blog post, we’ll break down which muscles are used when you’re out on the water kayaking.

Muscles worked from kayaking

The muscles that kayaking works depends on the type of kayaking you’re doing.

For example, if you’re doing whitewater kayaking, you’ll be using different muscles than if you’re doing flatwater kayaking.

However, there are some common muscles that all types of kayaking work.

The arms and shoulders are used to paddle the kayak through the water. The core muscles are also used to help keep the body upright and stable in the kayak. The legs and feet are used to provide power and stability when paddling.

Kayaking is a full-body workout that engages your arms, shoulders, core, and legs.

Here’s a closer look at some of the muscles used in kayaking and how they benefit your body:

1. Arms

2. Shoulders

3. Core

4. Legs


As you paddle, your arms are doing most of the work. You’re using your biceps to pull the paddle towards you and your triceps to push it away. This back-and-forth motion gives your arms a great workout. You’ll also feel it in your shoulders and upper back.


Your shoulders work together to provide the power needed to move the boat forward. Your rotator cuff muscles stabilize your shoulder joint as you move your arms back and forth. And the deltoids in your shoulder give you the strength to lift your arms overhead. This repetitive motion helps to strengthen your biceps, triceps, and deltoids.


Kayaking also requires you to engage your core muscles in order to maintain good posture and balance in the boat. A strong core helps you paddle with more efficiency and also protects your back from injury.

Unlike other sports that focus mainly on upper-body or lower-body strength, kayaking uses both equally.

That’s because when you paddle, you need to twist your torso from side to side. This movement strengthens the muscles in your core, including your obliques, which run along the sides of your abs.

It also works the rectus abdominis, or “six-pack” muscle, which runs down the center of your stomach.

Strong abs are important for paddlers because they help you maintain good posture and keep you stable in the kayak.


Your legs play an important role in kayaking as well, specifically your quads and glutes. When you’re paddling, your legs help to stabilize the boat and provide extra power when needed.

Although they don’t get as much of a workout as the other muscles groupings, kayaking does still use some leg muscle groups.

The quadriceps at the fronts of your thighs help extend your knees as you paddle. The hamstrings at the backs of your thighs work with your glutes to power each stroke.

Finally, the calves in your lower legs help keep your feet planted on the foot pegs inside the kayak cockpit.

Kayaking is a great full-body workout that uses mostly upper-body muscles with some lower-body muscles as well.

It’s a great way to build arm and core strength while also getting some cardio exercise.

So next time you’re looking for a new workout, consider dusting off that old kayak and heading out onto the water!

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