Top 3 Lower Body Exercises for Dragon Boat (Plus: Free Lower Body Workout)

Every dragon boat athlete should be training their lower body; yes, every single one of you.

We know it may seem counter intuitive as you sit in a boat…who needs a lower body apart from sitting on it? Well, it’s imperative to use your lower body if you ever want to maximize the power of your stroke. You can only paddle so far and so fast with just your shoulders and back.

That being said, here are your top 3 lower body exercises to help you build a more powerful stroke – and the ability to paddle with the force of 1000 Vikings.

[Read until the end to get a free lower body exercises workout]

1) Front Squat

It was a hard choice between this, goblet squats, and back squats. Ultimately, the front squat is our first choice for dragon boaters.

First off, the front squat forces more core engagement than other variations of squats due to the loading on the front of the body, not the back. This alone is a huge benefit as dragon boaters require tremendous core endurance, strength and functionality to perform an optimal and powerful stroke.

Front squats train the butt, hamstrings and quads; some of the most powerful muscles in the body which contribute huge force production towards each stroke.

Finally, because of the upright torso position during the front squat, it helps promote great posture by training the spinal erectors and great mobility by stretching the lats and upper back. Both are important to protect the shoulders from abuse and remain injury free.

What you need:

– Squat stand or power rack
– Barbell

How to perform:

How to implement?

The front squat can be used as both a main lift and accessory lift. Anywhere between 2-15 reps and 3-10 sets is used for the front squat. Majority of the time our focus is using it as a main lift where we keep it strength oriented; 2-5 reps, 2-5 sets.


2) Deadlift (variation)

Deadlifting is one of the most effective lifts one can do for dryland. They recruit large amounts of muscle fibers (units that help you produce force and generate movement) on the back side of the body including the hamstrings, lats, butt, and upper back; all of which are the main muscles utilized in a stroke.

This is great news if you’re looking to add more force to your paddling ability.

The only down side to this lift is its technical debauchery we often see. Fortunately Mike Roberston just released an article that can be found here explaining the best deadlift variation for you.

We wish we could pick a variation and tell you it’s the best, but for safety’s sake, we need multiple variations to ensure safety while reaping all the benefits deadlifting has to offer.

What you need:

– Barbell or trap bar
– Potentially a rack or raised blocks

How to perform:

How to implement?

The deadlift is primarily a strength and main lift exercise. This exercise should come first or second in your lifting day and SHOULD NOT be done under fatigue. This means do not paddle for 3 hours and expect to come in and deadlift without potentially hurting your spine.

In addition, the quality of this lift is far more important than the weight. Anywhere between 1-10 reps and 3-10 sets is used for deadlifting.


3) Reverse Lunge

As per usual we always add a unilateral exercise in order to balance the asymmetrical nature of dragon boat.

Our choice here is the reverse lunge which is a fantastic way to train single leg strength and ensure there isn’t a huge strength discrepancy between limbs.

The reverse lunge is superior to other lunge variations because it forces you to shift your weight backwards, effectively loading the butt and the hamstrings; the muscles responsible for producing large amounts of force during a stroke.

What you need:

– Kettlebell or Dumbbell

How to perform:

How to implement?

The reverse lunge is mainly used as an assistance exercise. Anywhere from 8-20 reps and 3-6 sets is used for the reverse lunge. Focus on doing these well and you won’t need lots of weight.

Putting it all together here is what a sample lower day might look like:


Sample Lower Body Workout

Deadlift 3×5
Front Squat 4×8
Reverse Lunge 3×12/side

Training the lower body is important in any sport requiring power, strength or endurance. Dragon boat is no different. Make sure you include one or more of these exercises in your dryland routine to maximize the power of your legs and your stroke.

Stay tuned for next week’s Top 3 Core Exercises for Dragon Boat!


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