a woman rowing while standing on top of her paddle board

What Muscles Does Paddle Boarding Work?

There’s an annoying misconception that we paddle boarders have to suffer - the misconception that this sport offers no physical benefit and that it does nothing as part of an exercise regime.

Let me counter that argument by asking, do you ever see a serious paddle boarder who is out of shape and who doesn’t have a well-toned body and defined muscles? No? Of course, you don’t, that’s because paddle boarding works virtually all of your major muscle groups and offers an incredible workout.

This is obviously dependent on the effort you put in, how hard you paddle on your UK-made paddle boards, and the distance you travel, but the underlying point remains. In this article, I want to share with you the benefits and answer the question, what muscles does paddle boarding work - you may be surprised!

Specific Muscles Paddle Boarding Uses

Let’s look at the basics first and check out which muscles paddle boarding uses. This sport is fantastic if you want a full-body workout and this is due to the range of motions you use, and the muscles you engage to stay stable on the board and keep your paddling momentum. Muscles worked during paddle boarding include:

As you can see, that’s a hell of a lot of muscles! I want to state that you will NOT get this full-body workout for sit-down paddle boarding though and this applies only to SUP (stand-up paddle boarding).

If you are kneeling or sitting on your paddle board then obviously your lower body won’t get the same workout but your back, shoulders, core, and arms will.

Muscle Groups That Get a Workout When Paddle Boarding

We can take this one step further and explore the specific muscle groups that paddle boarding exercises and this includes your core, legs, back, and arms for example.


Your core is key to balance and when you are standing upright on a paddle board, your core is engaged. The main muscles that are engaged are your abs, but your obliques get a workout too (these are the muscles at the side of your abs). So, if you want to work on that six-pack then paddle boarding helps!


When looking at what muscles does paddle boarding work, obviously your legs are right up there. This is why I put emphasis on the SUP aspect as opposed to kneeling or sitting down. When you are stood up on the board, various muscles in your legs are working to keep you balanced and you will also work your knee joints and surrounding muscle groups when you bend during your paddle strokes.


Posture when paddle boarding is key and having a straight back helps immensely with balance. Because you are working to stay balanced, your back muscles such as your lower rhomboids and lats are engaged and this will help strengthen your back too. If you suffer from bad posture and slouch when sitting, paddle boarding can soon rectify these issues!


Many people overlook the feet when it comes to muscle groups but just think how much pressure and strain is being placed on them as you stand on the paddle board and try to keep your balance. I was amazed to learn how many tiny muscles you have in your feet but you can guarantee that most of them are engaged and working hard when you are paddle boarding.


If you can work a paddle without using your arm muscles then please give me a call as I want to know how! This is the most obvious muscle group, but needless to say, your arms get a great workout when paddle boarding. Your beefy biceps and triceps are doing most of the work to pull the paddle through the water and keep you powering forward.


As I mentioned, your biceps and triceps do most of the pulling work when using your paddle. However, your shoulder muscles are also especially important and contribute to achieving a smooth and strong paddle stroke. Your shoulder muscles are engaged and allow you to easily pivot your arms to swing the paddle and adjust its angle to drag it through the water.

Where Else Can You Get a Full Body Workout Like the One Paddle Boarding Provides?

Ok, so you won’t bulk up to the size of Eddie Hall through paddle boarding, but as you can see from the above, it gives a comprehensive workout and works virtually all of your major muscle groups. With regular paddle boarding, you will build muscle strength, stay toned, and improve your cardiovascular limits.

What other sporting activity does this other than swimming? So, what muscles does paddle boarding work? LOTS, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!