Top 3 Core Exercises for Dragon Boat (Get the FREE Core Workout)

Out of all our Top 3, this one ranks highest on the list of exercises dragon boaters should be doing as part of their dryland training. Not only are these core exercises going to develop strong, endurable mid-sections to avoid lower back injury, they will also help with a more efficient stroke.

How you ask?

Having a properly functioning, strong and endurable core is all about “transfer of force”. The mid-section needs to be like bamboo rod not a pool noodle if we hope to optimize the leg drive in our stroke.

 1) Half Kneeling Kettlebell Halo (HK KB Halo)

This is a fantastic core exercise that focuses on the synchronization of core musculature ensuring all muscles are firing at the appropriate time (check out Leo Shveyd’s article here for more information).

As the kettlebell travels around the head it changes your centre of gravity, forcing the body to react by recruiting different areas of the core in order to remain stable. This stabilization is necessary so you don’t fall sideways on your face – which wouldn’t be good for your dating life, or your ability to paddle.

During the KB halo, the body’s positioning is similar to that when you are paddling – stable lower body with a mobile upper body. While it looks nothing like a stroke, the core is being trained under similar conditions. Similar conditions result in a greater carry over to your on water performance.

Now you probably won’t “feel the burn” as you would in some other suspect core exercises – crunches, I’m looking at you! – but we are worried about the FUNCTION of your core musculature with this exercise, not how good they look. If your focus is aesthetics, then some form of spinal flexion or crunching may be required, but we are concerned with performance.

What you need:

– kettlebell or plate

How to perform:

How to implement?

These are best used at the beginning of the program. Trying to do halos under fatigue is a terrible idea for your head. Its main focus should be as an activation drill to make sure the core muscles are coordinated and firing appropriately to ensure stability. We like to use anywhere between 2-5 sets and 5-8 reps per side and each direction.


2) Stir the Pot

This exercise is a harder variation of the above core exercise because you have more overall load – in this case body weight – to control. All the benefits are similar to the half kneeling kettlebell halo.

What you need:

– Stability ball

How to perform:

How to implement?

Stir The Pot can be added at the beginning or end of a session. Again, stay away from fatigue with this exercise as a face plant is highly possible if you get tired.

Another way you can use it is as a super set in between two bigger exercises as a way to save time and include additional core work. Be advised only the arms should be moving in this exercise; if you have excessive hip movement and feel like a baby giraffe on ice, you are doing too many reps or potentially need to stick to halos for a while. Anywhere from 2-5 sets and 10-25 reps each direction are the usual prescription.


3) Suitcase Carry

Although this exercise only looks like something you’d do after visiting a grocery store or working on a farm, it has tremendous benefits for improving core endurance and strength. By only loading the one side of the body you are forcing the opposite side of your core to maintain stability and proper posture.

It is also extremely easy to learn; pick up the weight, stand tall, walk slow and avoid leaning to the side with the weight. You’re ready to carry. The suitcase carry also offers the benefit of extra postural work for the upper back a crucial area for paddlers. Core training and upper back work in one exercise? Yes please.

What you need:

– Kettlebell or Dumbbell or Farmers handle

How to perform:

How to implement?

Usually performed near the end of a training session this core exercise works as a great finisher. It can also be included in the warmup. The suitcase carry is generally programmed for anywhere between 2-5 sets and 50-100 steps per side.
Putting it all together here is what a sample core day might look like:


Sample Core Workout

HK KB Halo 2×5/direction/side
Stir The Pot 3×10-15
Suitcase Carry 3×50 steps/side


Now, although we said the halos wouldn’t make you sore, we didn’t say much about the other two. Try this sample day out and let us know how functional feels and the potential soreness you might experience the following day. You may discover core muscles you never even knew existed.

Got an exercise you think fits better in our top 3s and want us to explain?

Shoot us a line here!


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