Fitness Paddling on an Inflatable SUP

You probably already know that paddle boarding works just about every muscle in your body but were you aware that you can really sculpt your body with a dedicated inflatable paddle board fitness program?


inflatable paddle boards or solid board weight limit and other accessories and planing hulls

If Covid taught us anything, it's that you don't need to commute to a stuffy gym to get in shape. Paddle boards are so versatile that you can get a full body workout just paddling or you can use them to turbocharge your body weight strength training or yoga practice. We can take you through an overview of how the stand up paddle board helps you get fit and some creative workouts that you can perform on them.

Inflatable paddle boards or solid boards?

both the atoll kayak conversion kit of many boards that have key features

Solid paddle boards with an EPS foam core have been the go-to for fitness paddling since the early days of SUP but inflatable stand up paddle boards have become quite popular as well in recent years. It could be argued that the inflatable board gives a slightly better work out because the best brands are about 90% as rigid as a solid board. We're not talking budget boards here as they will have a lot more give to them.  10% give is just about right to make you work a little harder.

As a side note, Glide inflatable paddle boards have been rated the stiffest boards available by an independent inflatable SUP review site. All the other inflatable SUPs had at least 40% more bend.

The other obvious advantages of an inflatable paddle board are ease of transport and storage. You don't need to get them to the lake on a roof rack, just throw them in the trunk. They lay flat when deflated and can be rolled up and stored in their backpack.

They also come in a complete SUP package, with SUP paddle, leash, backpack. The really high end SUP boards will also come with a kayak seats and carrying straps among other accessories.

A Stand up paddle board is one of the best pieces of recreational equipment for fitness

most stable board volume weight limit is a longer board and manual pump

Once you have paddle boarded for the first time, you can't be sure that you got a great workout but you know that your muscles feel tired. Well, guess what? An effective workout doesn't necessarily mean getting your heart rate up to 165 bpm on the Elliptical machine at the gym.

Paddle boarding actually burns a lot of calories and works almost every muscle in the body. Science actually tells us so! It's undeniable that spending time on stand up paddle boards will improve your physical fitness.

What muscles do inflatable SUPs work?

inflatable stand up paddle board lower displacement hull with great customer service

The 11 muscles that your paddle board session (whether on solid boards or inflatable sups) are: lungs (diaphragm), heart, quadriceps, hamstrings, rhomboids, lats, traps, triceps, biceps, shoulders and abs (oh, does it ever work the abs!). It also gives the 100 muscles in your feet and incredible workout which helps tremendously with balance as we age.

Most people assume that when they are doing the push-pull motion with their SUP paddle that they are only working their arms. Actually, your whole body is working in concert to keep you upright on the paddle board. You calves are helping your feet grip the deck pad of the inflatable SUP and your upper thighs are pushing down into the paddle board to give your upper body leverage as it powers the SUP paddle through the water.

"Arm paddling" is a mistake that beginner paddlers make when they bend their arms too much to force the paddle stroke. If you watch advanced paddlers power their inflatable stand up paddle board through the water, you will notice that they keep their arms somewhat straight so that their arms become something of a fulcrum and they are able to activate the bigger muscles of the back, chest and core to do most of the work of the paddle board stroke.

Calories burned during a paddle board session

plush deck pad on a thicker board and inflatable sup board with weight capacity


Because of the full body nature of a paddle boarding workout, you will find that your inflatable SUP gets you much leaner than that Shake Weight workout will! We devoted an entire article to the calories you can burn on an inflatable paddle board.

Recreational paddling, SUP yoga and surfing ocean waves burn a decent amount of calories

inflatable stand up paddle board with d rings weight limit of a wider board

Recreational paddle boarding (even if you are using a kayak seat) has been proven to burn 300 to 450 calories per hour while SUP yoga burns 400-550 calories per hour depending on the intensity of the program. Surfing ocean waves on your inflatable SUP with a planing hull should credit you back 575-750 calories for every hour you are in the surf. All around SUP boards work really well for either of these types of paddle boarding.

Paddle board touring and racing turn your body info a furnace!

inflatable sups with removable side fins and large center fin for many boards

If you are into touring on or racing your paddle board, you can really burn some significant calories. 600-720 calories for touring and 715 to 1130 for racing!

You are on a narrower board (as well as a thicker board) for either touring our racing which requires more balance which means more of a calorie burn. It's also a longer board and the hull shape and board design are different on both the touring and racing SUP board from all around SUP boards.

Rather than using planing hulls that skim across the water, these boards uses a displacement hull which allows them to cut through the water and get a better glide. They also typically have a speed tail. You will be covering long distances while burning more calories at the same time: win-win!

Bottom line: don't steer away from flatwater paddling if you are looking to shed some pounds.

Inflatable SUP board fishing and calorie burn

all around boards and inflatable sup board weight capacity and attachment points for flat water

Ok. So fishing from your inflatable SUP board isn't going to burn quite as many calories as the activities above but you will most likely catch a healthy dinner! Calories burned tend to be between 100 and 380 per hour.

You do have fishing rod holders and a paddle holder (for either a carbon fiber or aluminum paddle) that hook into the Scotty Mounts that fit into the d rings or other attachment points of your inflatable SUP board. While your rod is in the fishing rod holder, you could be doing air squats and push ups on your paddle board to up the calorie burn. That is if you haven't taken up every square inch of your deck pad with your gear!

Slow moving rivers or flat water both provide ample opportunities to workout on your fishing SUP board.

Calisthenics on your inflatable paddle board

inflatable boards and solid board performs with carbon fiber or fiberglass paddle

You read that correctly. Your inflatable SUP can serve as an unstable surface to perform all types of exercises. Depending on your level of intensity, you can easily burn over 1,000 calories per hour with this type of workout.

You will want to use a wider board like they use for SUP yoga whether you are using a solid board or an inflatable SUP. A great board for this is the Glide Lotus because it's a very stable board.

inflatable sup all around boards with dual chamber pump, repair kit and kayak seat

As one of the paddle board manufacturers that started the fitness paddling revolution, we can assure you that you will have a blast doing burpees, push ups, air squats. etc on your inflatable SUP board. We know this because gyms got wind of these types of workouts and asked us to create a shorter product that used the same quality materials as our inflatable SUPs but could be anchored to pool lane lines. The result was the Glide Fit which is in hundreds of pools around the globe.

A fitness program on inflatable SUPs

quality board volume for budget boards and other boards for flat water

Using the in depth knowledge that we've learned from our Glide Fit program, we're going to give you an overview of an exercise program that you can start with on your inflatable SUP board. Keep in mind that these exercises will be a lot more intense on the water so make sure that you can perform them on land first.

Inflatable SUP burpees

inflatable paddle boards and solid boards with fiberglass paddle p.

We all remember burpees from gym class don't we? Now imagine doing them on a piece of recreational equipment that shifts from side to side!

Start with your feet in a modified squat position as you straddle the handle of your inflatable SUP board. Lower your hands to the paddle board deck pad slightly in front of you, then kick your feet to the back of the inflatable board so that you are in push up position. Lower your chest to the deck pad and then push yourself back up.

Do a frog kick and jump your feet back to where they started and then stand and reach your arms overhead and bend your knees. Then jump into the air (try just jumping an inch or two until you are used to the inflatable paddle board motion.

Land with your knees bent and get back into squat position and do another rep. Complete 10 reps.

Dragon Flag on your inflatable boards

inflatable stand up paddle boards and solid boards with displacement hull and center fin

The dragon flag is an advanced bodyweight core exercise that can help build great overall core strength and incredibly strong, defined, six-pack abs . It was a favorite exercise of Bruce Lee and is one of the more advanced ones he used in his physical training. Because it is difficult and places a fair amount of strain on the joints, you should make sure you master it on land before trying it on your inflatable SUP.

Get into position on your back and grab the sides of your paddle board over your head. Or you can use the d rings on your inflatable board to secure a handle to. Point your toes, contract your abs and drive your legs up while keeping your entire body rigid and try not to hinge at the hips. Hold for a second and then lower your feet to the inflatable SUP and repeat. Shoot for 5 reps.

Push ups from the water on an inflatable SUP board are a new kind of burn

budget boards and solid board volume with attachment points for d rings

For this upper body scorcher, you are going to work up to it by doing regular push ups on your inflatable stand up paddle board. You will find these quite challenging due to the unstable nature of inflatable paddle boards.

Once you have built up your strength doing standard push ups you will be ready to push yourself up from the water. Start in the water next to your board and put your hands on each side of the paddle board handle. Then get yourself a little leverage by frog kicking while at the same time using your arms to push yourself up onto the inflatable SUP.

Push yourself all the way onto the paddle board and from your knees, drop back off the other side of the board and repeat the process. Do as many reps as you feel comfortable with.

Sit ups off the side of your stand up paddle board

inflatable sups with high weight capacity and kayak seat cover every square inch of the repair kit

This one will really make those abs burn! Sit with your feet hanging off the side of the inflatable SUP board and put your hands behind your head. Lower the back of your head as far as feels comfortable towards the water and then return to the starting position.

The water will give you a little leverage as you rise back up but don't let your feet move up. Start out doing 5 reps and work your way up to 20.

Paddle board air squats

stand up paddle boards with displacement hull and center fin

Squats are universally considered one of the best muscle builders for the lower body. They also do quite a bit for your abs, especially on a stand up paddle board.

Face forward on your inflatable SUP with your feet straddling the paddle board handle. They should be about a shoulder's width apart. Grab your SUP paddle and put your hands as far apart as feels comfortable and raise the paddle over your head.

Squat back as if you were trying to sit in a chair but keep your weight on your heels so that you do not lean forward. Make sure your hips move down and back. Now make certain that your lower back curve is maintained and keep heels flat on the paddle board deck pad the whole time. Your hips should descend lower than knees. Hold at the bottom of the squat for a few seconds, then rise up by pushing through heels and using glutes to return to a standing position.

Working the triceps on your inflatable paddle boards

stand up paddle board weight limit and carbon fiber repair kit for long distances

Tricep dips on an inflatable SUP will tone up your arms in a hurry. Position your hands shoulder width apart on the paddle board. Get in position with your posterior above the inflatable SUP handle and position yourself as if you are doing "tabletop pose" in yoga.

Straighten your arms, and keep a little bend in your elbows in order to always keep tension on your triceps and away from your elbow joints. Slowly bend at your elbows, and lower your upper body toward the paddle board until your arms are at about a 90-degree angle.

Once you have reached the bottom of the movement, slowly press off with your hands, and push yourself straight back up to the starting position. You will find that the act of balancing yourself while pushing up also gives your abs a solid workout.


inflatable sups are a wider board with planing hulls and attachment points for other boards

Your new gym is inside your inflatable SUP backpack! Paddle boarding gives such an incredible full body workout whether you are paddling long distances on flat water, catching waves or headed down river rapids on you stand up paddle board.

If you really want to chisel your body, however, try giving fitness paddle boarding a shot. These simple exercises will work your body in wonderful ways. An added benefit is that you won't ge crammed in a crowded, stinky gym but rather, you will be able to get back in touch with nature and will get a natural shot of Vitamin D at the same time.