Robert Norman – Lower Body Mobility Drills

Robert Norman, our ambassador in Florida, is back again with another fully detailed workout aimed at improving the mobility of the body. This time he will focus on the lower body.


Robert Norman | Stand Up Paddle Workout:  Lower Body Mobility

Last article, the primary focus was understanding how to utilize the upper torso to rotate to extend the reach and catch portion of the paddle phase. This article will focus on how to utilize your lower body in loading the paddle during the power phase. Proper hip range of motion is needed to allow for that transfer of body-weight and energy to the top of the paddle in the middle of the stroke to maximize power output and increase glide. First let’s talk about what the stroke should feel like and how understanding what your body has to do.
The middle phase of the stroke is the real meat of the stroke. The blade is submerged and is in optimal position for torque and power transfer through the water.
One of the primary elements of a good power stroke, is transferring your weight from the board on to the top of the paddle. The more weight you transfer over to the paddle, the stronger you will pull the board forward. The sensation to think about is “climbing over the paddle.” You should feel like you can pull yourself on top of the paddle as you load your bodyweight on the handle. Proper hip hinging, and bending of the knees allow for the blade to completely submerge and for that weight transfer to occur. The sport is still evolving, and the current trend has changed from full hip hinging (minimal knee movement, maximal hip movement) to squatting during the stroke (moderate knee movement and moderate hip movement.) Each theory is technically sound and many proponents of each are incredibly fast, so I’ll show some exercises to increase mobility for both style of strokes. Having good hip mobility is never a bad thing to train, both on and off the water.


Hip hinging

robert norman 1 Lower Body stand up paddle workout

Knees slightly bent, back completely flat and have your paddle behind the neck. Keeping your back flat, bend at the hips and come forward as far as possible (or until the chest is parallel to the floor) while maintaining a neutral neck position. Repeat this motion up and down with an emphasis on feeling the hamstrings at the bottom.

Many youth level paddlers run this style of paddling. Kai Lenny used to be a major hip hinging machine, but has changed up his style slightly. From a side angle you can typically find him looking similar to this in a distance race.


Torso rotation at the hip hinge

robert norman 2 Lower Body stand up paddle workout

Find a hip hinge position that is comfortable to maintain, and rotate the hips while keeping the feet fully on the floor. Rotate to full motion and hold for 10 seconds then rotate to the other side. This helps with the initial pull phase of the stroke and making sure you can stay low to the water at the very start of the power phase.


Squat mobility

robert norman 3 Lower Body stand up paddle workout

Start with the paddle in the “A” frame position, and squat straight down maintaining a flat back and arms overhead. repeat for 5 reps then choke down on the paddle. This forces you to squat lower. Find the point where you are starting to squat a little out of your comfort zone WHILE maintaining good posture and repeat the drill on both sides for 5-10 reps. This is more of the new Connor Baxter stroke ideology,  using the legs as the primary movers in the power stroke in that up and down bobbing motion. From that bottom squat position, springing back up to standing and pushing the hips forward gives the board that extra leg drive.

Different strokes for different folks has always been the mantra, but understanding good macro mechanics and making use of how to make your body meet those demands is essential for improvement! Give these drills a try after your next paddle session or gym session and you’ll see how much easier it becomes getting closer and closer to the water during the power phase. Check out my Instagram page and try out my “Squat test” mobility challenge!

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Find his other articles here.

About the Author

Mathieu Astier

Mathieu is the hyper-active founder of TotalSUP and a multilingual online marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience working for top international internet companies. His love-at-first-sight for Stand Up Paddling in 2013 led him to build one of the leading online media dedicated to SUP in English and French and to turn his family lifestyle towards the ocean.

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