Do you ever notice your legs swinging to the sides when you paddle? If so, it’s a habit that you need to break because you’ve more or less created an anchor for yourself. Fixing this problem is a quick way to drastically improve your paddle power.
Paddling with your legs dangling off the side of your board is a sign of lacking core strength. Continuing without fixing it, this habit will tire you out and make you a less efficient paddler.
This simple drill is called the Bird Dog and it can help you find better balance from a prone paddling position as part of my five-minute pre-surf warmup (you can get the entire warm up as a one-page cheat sheet here). By doing it regularly, you can also use it as a strength exercise for the core, upper back, and trunk.
How to do the Bird Dog drill properly:
Make sure that you focus your energy on using your core muscles, not the momentum of your arms or legs to complete reps. Do this slow and steady.
-Each motion should originate from your glutes, core muscles and shoulders.
-The goal is to keep everything tight and the hips steady throughout.
-Start on all fours, with the knees under your hips and palms directly under the shoulders.
-Look straight down at the floor with the chin tucked.
-Brace (contract) your stomach muscles (as you would instinctively protecting yourself from a punch).
-Lift one leg and extend it straight backward in line with your torso.
-Make sure you keep the glutes active (squeeze) and reach with your heel.
-In the meantime extend the opposite arm straight.
-Take a deep breath in the starting position and exhale during the motion.
Common mistakes include:
-Using your lower back instead of activating the glutes and shoulders. This is a product of poor core control.
–One of the most common mistakes is arching your back. Try to keep your back straight by bracing the core (abs).
-Leg and arms reaching/lifting too high: This is probably the most common mistake I see with beginners. Try to reach forward with your palms and backward with your heels during the movement. Check yourself in the mirror during the learning process.
-If you do this as a warm-up, perform 8 reaches/side.
-If you want to do this as a strength exercise for your core, do 3 sets of 8 per side.
If you find 3×8/side too easy, do it with a water bottle or a light weight in your hand and put on leg weights. This will make it 10x more difficult and strengthen you further.