Top 3 Pressing Exercises for Dragon Boat (Plus: Free Press Program)

Last week we covered the Top 3 Back Exercises for dragon boaters. This week on our Top 3 we will be covering pressing exercises for dragon boat.

Pressing exercises involve muscles on the front of the body, namely the pecs (chest), delts (shoulders) and triceps.

Although not as important as the back side of the body for dragon boat, we need to maintain a BALANCE between the pressing and pulling muscles so one side of the body doesn’t completely over power the other.

[Read until the end for a FREE press workout]

1) Push Up

Number one reason push ups are in this list is because of their versatility. They can be done anywhere, anytime, and all you need is you!

Another reason we love pushups is the fact that they have many progressions and regressions so that you can continue to build your pressing power, no matter what level of fitness you possess. If going from the ground is too hard, let’s have you start on a box or bench. If you can bang out 50 straight pushups, let’s add some weight on your back to make it tougher.

Pushups are also a closed chain exercise. What does that mean? When you apply force during the pushup, you are pressing against an immovable object, in this case, the Earth. Some may argue the earth is moveable but we’d argue only if you are Chuck Norris.

The closed chain nature of the pushup allows greater stability throughout the body (namely the shoulder) and helps protect against strains while pressing. If you aren’t sure how to perform a pushup, we have a step-by-step guide that can be found here.

What you need:

– Your bodyweight!

– Potentially a box or added weights – in the form of plates, weighted vest, or chains

How to perform:

How to implement?

The Push Up can be used as a main lift, assistance work, or conditioning. Its versatility is unmatched on this list and can really be implemented in numerous ways.

As far as sets and reps go, the pushup can have anywhere from 1-10 sets and as little as 3 or as many as 50 plus reps.

A point to emphasize here is we care how WELL you do them, not how many you can get. So if you can’t perform 10 perfect reps without cheating your range of motion or having form get sloppy, don’t think you should be doing 50 rep sets.


2) Dumbbell Bench Press

This is a great exercise to build shoulder stability and upper body strength.

The dumbbell variation is superior to the barbell bench press because it allows for a greater range of motion ensuring the shoulder remains mobile enough to get into an A-frame position while still getting all the strength benefits.

It also is safer from a biomechanical standpoint, as dumbbells allow movement at the wrist which reduces the strain on the elbow and shoulder joints.

Finally the arms are allowed to work independent of one another, helping promote strength balance between both left and right arms.

What you need:

– Adjustable or flat bench

– Dumbbells

How to perform:

How to implement?

The dumbbell bench can be used as your main strength exercise or assistant work. We use anywhere from 5-15 reps and 2-10 sets with our athletes. We try and stay above five reps, as heavier sets tend to be limited by people’s ability to get the dumbbells into the right starting position without hurting themselves or having a spotter.


3) Single Arm Kettlebell/Dumbbell Overhead Press

First off this exercise is excellent for creating stability in an overhead position.

One of the most common injuries in dragon boat athletes are due to a lack of mobility in the shoulder joint (your pecs and lats are too tight) or the shoulder can’t handle force in the overhead position because it’s too weak. This takes care of the latter.

Similar to the dumbbell bench, the single arm variation allows the wrist to move freely, reducing the strain on the elbow and shoulder joint.

Finally, an often over looked benefit of the single arm overhead press is its role in training core stability. When you try this pressing exercise, touch your oblique on the opposite side of the arm you are pressing with. Feel the rock that is your core functioning on all cylinders.

What you need:

– Kettlebell or Dumbbell

How to perform:

How to implement?

The single arm overhead press can be used as your main strength exercise or assistant work. We use anywhere from 5-15 reps per side and 2-10 sets with our athletes. Lower than 5 reps aren’t advised as getting the weight into the rack position can become a huge challenge for some. From a safety standpoint, we’d rather have you press a little lighter than throw your back out trying to get a dumbbell in the press position.


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


Sample Press Workout

DB Bench 5×5
Single Arm Kettlebell/Dumbbell Press 4×8/side
Pushup 3×12-15


Pressing exercises aren’t as crucial for paddlers as pulling exercises, but for the sake of joint balance, pressing work should be included. Focusing on these three lifts will help build excellent shoulder stability so you paddle injury free and can bang out beautiful pushups for the world to marvel at.

Stay tuned for next week’s Top 3 Lower Body Exercises for dragon boat athletes!


Photo Source: pushup

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