Robert Norman – Stand Up Paddle Mobility Drills

Often overlooked during training, is flexibility. Many people don’t want to invest time into limbering up, when they would rather just become stronger. But, just as important as being strong, is the ability to manipulate your body to generate more power. Robert Norman, our SUP ambassador in Florida, shares his ingenious mobility drills.


My favorite analogy to use in describing the importance of this is: high level youth golfers. You have kids ages 9-12 who can out drive most recreational golfers between the ages of 20-40. Why is that? They are on a smaller frame and definitely aren’t as strong but, can generate more power. It lies in their hip and torso mobility, they wind up 5-8 inches further back and follow through further… so they generate more power per swing because of the extra distance. Same exact idea for SUP, if you can properly extend at the reach and catch and have good enough mobility to load the paddle, you will generate more power throughout the stroke regardless of muscular strength.
robert norman sup drills

Now before I get too off track with anecdotal advice let’s look at what parts of the upper body we are using in the paddle stroke. The top hand we are stretching the lats (lattissimus dorsi) and the obliques while the shaft hand is rotating the hips and engaging our rotational core muscles. The goal is to be able to keep the top hand relatively straight overhead, while rotating the hips and while lowering your level closer to the water. Doing each as an individual may be simple, but combining each component takes some effort. Pictured here is an exaggerated reach to kind of highlight the body movements.

robert norman mobility drills 1

Let’s start with some drills to increase mobility. Each of these sup drills are primarily setups to extend the reach and catch a few more inches. Most all of these sup drills can be done with a pvc pipe, or even with your paddle. If you’re on land with the paddle, make sure to choke up on it as needed for each sup drill.

Arms overhead and directly to the side. Hold for about 1 minute then switch to the other side.

robert norman mobility drill 2

Place top hand firmly on top of shaft and bring chest to ground while bending the knees. Feel the stretch through the lats then take the opposite hand and reach as far down the shaft as possible and hold. Rotate those hips on the reach. Alternate hands after holding each position for 1 minute.

robert norman drill 3

Place your paddle/pvc behind the back and hook with the arms. Rotate the hips forward and hold, then bend the knee on that side and rotate further. This simulates what the hips should do during the shaft hand reach.

Incorporate these 3 drills into your warmup before going out on the water or at the end of your strength training routine and you’ll find it easier and easier during paddle sessions to extend your body during each stroke and ultimately make your race pace easier to maintain!

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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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