SUP Technique: Paddle Posture (Upper Back)

Hello again TotalSUP readers! It’s SUPerman back again with an other paddle tip. This one is a simple tip that will help you maximize your body to better paddle. Many of these paddle tips are going to be on better muscle engagement and postural cues to help athletes.

Today we are talking about upper back engagement!¬†The body is divided into seperate sections that work together to perform tasks. The different sections are joints and it’s simplest to understand them functioning like a chain.

A chain will be broken at its weakest link when force is applied. In this instance, energy cannot transfer properly though the joints and onto our paddle blade if these joints are not properly aligned or engaged. In more simple terms, if you have poor posture, you cannot properly maximize the force you produce.

So that being said, now we are looking for the shoulder region to be in proper engagement to transfer energy. We need the shoulder retracted. The photos here shows when the shoulders are not engaged and when they are properly engage from the rear and from the side.

Notice how my entire form from the side view improves, the top hand shoulder is higher, hips are able to rotate better which increases the function of the legs greatly.


This is especially important during the power phase of the stroke (after the blade initially enters at the catch but before you exit the blade from the water.) You rely on maximizing every part of your body to pull the board forward in that small window of oppurtunity.

If those shoulders are out of wack it will hinder performance all the way down the kinetic chain. Video 1 you will see I’m not engaging my back and I’m exaggerating this a little bit to really bow my upper spine back.


Video 2, I simply squeeze my shoulder blades together and perform the same stroke. This is not something you want to really stress about, just feel those upper back muscles contract a SMALL amount. If you consciously think about it, them it will become natural. The issue is many people don’t give it a second thought and suffer through multiple muscle aches simply because they don’t bring those shoulder blades closer together.

Thanks for reading! Through TotalSUP I am offering online coaching that includes a video analysis of your stroke and a workout plan for 25$ if you are interested please contact me at

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.

To follow Mathieu: