Best Stretches for Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Although SUP is a low impact sport, you still want to be stretched out properly to prevent repetitive motion injuries.  We’ve narrowed this list down to the most effective stretches for paddle boarding.

Stand up paddle boarding is a low impact sport so assuming that you aren’t a whitewater SUP enthusiast, your potential for injury is quite low.  However, like any sport with a lot of repetitive movements, there’s always the potential to strain your muscles, tendons or ligaments since you are using so many of the major muscle groups.  

The main areas of the body that you will want to protect are: shoulders and rotator cuffs, elbows, lower back, upper back (rhomboid and trapezius), biceps and knees. We’ve distilled our favorite SUP specific stretches that will keep you limber and pain free.


Overhead Stretch

paddle board stretches 

Also, known as “Shoulder Flossing”, this stretch does a great job of loosening up your shoulders, rhomboids, trapezius, and the pectoral muscles of your chest. Your shoulders take a bit of a beating when paddling a SUP so don’t skip this one! Using your paddle to assist with this stretch will make it much more effective. 

Start with your legs about hip width and your hands on the paddle a bit wider than hip width, hold the paddle directly in front of you and pull it up over your head and then let it fall as far back down your backside as you are able.  If you can’t get the paddle too close to your buttocks, try widening your grip on the paddle.  Repeat this sequence five to ten times.  Over time, you should be able to challenge yourself by pushing your hands closer together.


Side Bends

paddle board

Side Bends target the latissimus dorsi and serratus anterior – your upper and lateral back muscles which are two areas that help propel you on a paddle board. Using the same hand position that you used for the overhead stretch, you will also be starting with your paddle directly in front of you with your arms extended.  Now raise your paddle above your head while keeping your arms extended.

Keeping your lower back straight, hinge to the side at the waist and lean to the right side with your right hand pulling the shaft toward the ground and your left shoulder heading upwards. Hold this pose for 15 to 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.  Doe 5 to 10 reps on each side.


Lower Back Twist

stand up paddle board fitness 

Also known as the Supine Twist, this stretch is a great way to open up the lower back. It also has the surprising benefit of loosening up the rhomboid muscles in your upper back as well.  The rhomboids and trapezius muscles are two areas that tend to tighten up as many of us carry our stress there.

Start by lying on your back with your arms outstretched to create a “T” position with your palms facing down. Now lift the feet as you bring the knees towards your chest until your ankles are parallel with the floor.  Lower your knees to one side of the body while focusing on keeping the shoulders and palms flat on the floor. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds before reversing to the other side.  Repeat 5-10 times on each side.


Standing Hamstring Stretch

stretches for paddle boarding 

Another great way to prevent lower back pain is to make sure that your hamstring muscles stay loose. This stretch has the added benefit of stretching your calves which can become tight from balancing on your paddle board. 

Use a table or chair that is 3 feet high or so.  Put your left leg up on the table or chair just in front of your right leg.  Bend your right leg and lean forward from the hips and place your hands on your left leg for balance.  Once you become flexible enough, reach for your left foot and pull the toes towards you to stretch the calf. Hold the stretch for 30-40 seconds and switch sides. Repeat 2-3 times.


Wrist Extension Stretch

 paddle board fitness

Gripping your paddle too tightly can cause tight wrists which can lead to elbow pain for paddle boarders. The wrist extension stretch is an effective way of loosening up the forearms. 

Start by standing or sitting up straight and extend one arm in front of you at shoulder height or just below. Keep the extended arm straight and grab your fingers just above your palm with your opposite hand. Pull on the hand to bend the wrist down so that your fingertips are pointed towards the floor.  You should feel a noticeable stretch in your wrist and forearm.  Hold that stretch for 30-40 seconds.  Repeat 2-4 times per arm.


Seated Biceps Stretch

pre paddle board stretches

Your biceps get a great workout as you pull the SUP paddle towards you, but overly tight biceps can also lead to elbow pain.  To perform this stretch, sit with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor in front of your hips. Now put your hands behind you on the floor with your fingers facing away from you. Slowly scoot your buttocks towards your feet while keeping your hands where they are and hold this position for 30-40 seconds. Return to starting position and repeat 3-5 times.


IT Band Cross-Legged Arch

stand up paddle board

Tight IT bands from paddle boarding are associated with knee pain. This stretch also helps with the lateral core (external obliques) and thigh muscles (vastus lateralis).

Stand with your feet next to each other, back straight and your chin raised in order to elongate your spine. Standing on your right foot, lift your left foot and cross it in front of your right foot so that it rests on your opposite side of it with your toes facing forward.

Then lift and straighten your arms over your head so that your fingers point towards the sky.  Lean to the left and arch your right arm while making sure to not lean forward or backwards.  Rest your weight on your right foot and feel the deep stretch through your lateral core and in the left side of your right thigh. Hold the stretch for 15 to 40 seconds and switch sides. Repeat 2-3 times.



Perform these stretches before and after your SUP sessions and not only are you less likely to become injured but you will find that you are able to reach out further with your paddle stroke and will just feel better in general.


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