If you can’t go sailing at the moment, there are plenty of exercises you can do at home to keep your body moving and build up your fitness, helping you become a better sailor in the process. Improving your strength and endurance will have huge benefits when you get back on the water, so it’s worth working on it now.
Some of the best home exercises for sailors include:
- Cardio exercises like running and cycling
- Single-leg squats
Read on for a full list of the best home exercises for sailors, many of which don’t need any equipment at all.
In this article:
The Physical Skills You Need As A Sailor
The fitness fundamentals for sailors are aerobic endurance and muscle strength. Sailing relies a lot on upper body and core strength for most of the repetitive moves on deck. It also demands good lower-back strength to help support your core and avoid injury. You need a strong heart and lungs if you’re planning to sail long-distances during the season so you should look to build up your stamina too.
The type of sailing you do will impact the type of training you need. It is specific to your boat and your expectations. If you’re racing, you will need a far higher level of power and endurance than leisure sailors. Similarly, if you need high arm speed when you’re on your boat, you should try to mirror this movement speed in your training. There is no one-size-fits all approach to fitness but below you’ll find some moves to get your started.
These exercises all assume that you don’t have any equipment in your home other than ordinary furniture like chairs, table etc. If you have barbells, dumbbells, a swiss ball and other home gym equipment then use them! Weights increase the difficulty of the exercises so they’re useful for building up strength but they’re not essential, you can still have a brilliant workout using just your body weight.
Cardio workouts are one of the best ways to prepare for demanding sailing. Cardio is crucial for building up your stamina and strengthening your heart and lungs. The better your aerobic fitness, the better you will be on the water.
If you can get out of the house, go for a run or bike ride, ideally for at least 120 minutes. If you’ve never done running before, apps like C25k are a great place to start as they increase the distance and time in small increments. Everyone is different so concentrate on building up your base level of fitness, whatever that may be.
If you have use of a rowing machine, work in intervals 10x1 minute bursts of maximum effort with 1 minute rest in between sets. Alternatively, for a no equipment cardio workout, try skipping. Not only does it get your heart rate up, it is also great for developing your calf muscles. Really any exercise that gets your heart pumping faster and gets you breathing heavier is doing the trick.
The best (and most torturous) cardio workout for sailors is burpees. This full-body move tests your strength and cardiovascular system: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, drop your hands down to the floor so they are flat, jump your legs straight back out and land in a push up position, keep your back straight, drop down into a push up and back up, hop your feet forward, jump up reaching up. For a real challenge, see how long it takes you to do one set of 100.
There’s no need to stick to one form of aerobic exercise. Introduce as much variety as you can into your at home routine to keep working out interesting and challenge your body in new ways.
For sailors, core stability and stretching is really important for injury prevention. Core activation exercises are a good way to start your workout after a warm-up so that your deep core muscles can protect more vulnerable parts of your body, like your back.
These exercises help to improve posture, balance and joint stability. As well as doing these core-targeting moves before your home workout, you can also do them before a long day of sailing to protect your back from strain during the day.
Try doing three sets of each of these exercises for 30 seconds each, or 15-20 reps:
|T-Stances||2 (both sides)||30 sec.|
|Split Lunge with Rotation||2 (both sides)||30 sec.|
|Renegade Rows||1||20 reps|
|Single Leg Squats||2 (both sides)||15 reps|
Lay face down on a mat. Push your body up so it is supported by your forearms and toes and hold the position, keeping your body as flat as possible for 30 seconds. Imagine you are pulling your stomach in towards your spine. As the move becomes easier with repetition, increase the time to 1 minute, 90 seconds, 2 minutes and so on.
Stand with feet together. Shift your weight onto one foot and lift one leg up behind you whilst leaning forward, aiming to create a T-shape with your body. Bend the supporting leg, without letting your knee go over your toes. You can put your arms out to the sides for balance. Repeat with the other leg. This move will challenge your core and improve your balance.
Split Lunge with Rotation
Stand with your feet together, holding a football, book or equivalent object in both hands. Step back with one leg into a lunge. Push your back leg, straightening both legs and twisting your torso to one side, lifting your arms above your head. Return to standing. Repeat for 30 seconds, same side, same leg and then switch sides.
Take a high plank position and shift your weight onto one hand, pulling one arm up to your side so your hand is level with your chest. Replace to the floor and switch to the other side. Make sure you engage your core and alternate sides. If you have weights you can use them for added resistance. This exercise targets your core and your upper back at the same time.
Single Leg Squats
Stand on one leg, lift your foot out in front of you with your toes pointed towards the ceiling. Stand tall, without rounding your shoulders and lower your body down into a squat. Make sure your supporting knee doesn’t go over your toes. Go deeper as you get used to the move, you can also keep your arms out in front of you for balance or use a supporting wall to make it easier.
Upper Body Exercises
The upper body is the area of the body that gets the most work out when sailing. The muscles in the arms, shoulders and back are vital for pulling ropes so they’re a really important area to focus on. These exercises are a mixture of full-body moves and isolating moves that work solely on the arms, shoulders and back. Some of them are easier than others so work on what you can do and increase the difficulty over time.
Try doing three sets of each of these exercises for 30 seconds or 15-20 reps:
|Shoulder taps||1||20 reps|
|Tabletop lifts||1||15 reps|
|Overhead Adduction||1||20 reps|
One of the simplest and yet one of the most effective exercises for chest and shoulder strength, push-ups are a must in your sailing home workout. Lying on your front, push yourself up so you are supported by your hands and toes. Lower your chest and chin towards the floor with control and then drive back up. Make sure you keep your back straight, don’t let your butt stick up or sag down.
You can switch it up by bringing your hands out wider, staggering your hands by putting one further in front of the other or bringing hands together into a diamond shape.
Start in high plank position, leaning with your hands beneath your shoulders and feet hip width apart, balancing on your toes. Squeeze your core and keep your back steady, bring one hand up to touch your opposite shoulder and then lower it back down to the ground. Repeat on the other side, lifting your hand up to touch the opposite shoulder. Try to keep your hips as still as possible as you do this move. This is great for working your upper body and core at the same time.
Start in a crab position, sitting on the floor with your knees bent, palms flat with your fingers pointing towards your toes. Feet should be hip-width apart and arms shoulder-width apart. Lift your hips up towards the ceiling until they are shoulder level, coming into a tabletop position. Pause and then lower back down and repeat. This is a simple move, that works your whole body, especially your arms, shoulders, core and legs.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hinge forward from your hips, keeping your head in line with your tailbone. Start with your arms against your sides, in line with your body. Sweep your arms up to come in line with your ears, making a semi-circle arc and then sweep them back down. Repeat.
This exercise requires somewhere you can do chin ups like a sturdy gate or ideally a chin-up bar fitted in the doorway of your home. Grip the bar firmly, hands shoulder-width apart. Hang with straight arms and pull yourself up by pulling your elbows down to the floor until your chin is above the bar, then lower yourself back down and repeat. You can work on your grip strength at the same time by putting a towel over the bar.
Lower Back Exercises
Part of maintaining good core stability is making sure your lower back muscles are strong too. Lower back strength is key to preventing sailing-related injuries as a lot of common sailing moves can put excess pressure on your back. Make sure you don’t neglect these exercises when you’re training and start working on your back as often as you do your core.
Try doing three sets of each of these exercises for 30 seconds or 15-20 reps:
|Superman flutter||1||30 sec.|
|The bird dog||1||20 reps|
|Leg Lower||1||15 reps|
Lie flat on your front with your arms by your sides. Raise your arms and your legs off the ground, drawing your chest off the floor. Hold and then release back down and repeat. You can start with your legs further apart and gradually bring them closer together for a more challenging move. If you feel a sharp pinching in your back, take a break.
Lie flat on your front with your arms extended in front of you. With your palms facing down, lift your arms, legs and head off the floor. Bring your opposite leg and arm higher at the same time, then switch quickly to the opposite leg and arm. The move should look like you’re swimming with your legs, moving your arms in time with the kicks.
The Bird Dog
Start on your hands and knees. Squeeze your core so that your lower back is stable and reach forward with one arm. At the same time, extend the opposite leg back behind you. Both limbs should be parallel to the floor and your hips should be level, hold for 10 seconds. Imagine you have a spirit level resting on your back. Return to the start position and repeat with the opposite arm, opposite leg. This exercise is really effective at maintaining lower back health so it’s ideal for sailors.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips off the floor. Pause at the top and then lower back down with control. Repeat. You can make this more challenging by taking one leg off the floor or holding a weight on your hips.
Lie on your back with your hands by your side and your legs straight up in the air. Squeeze your core and slowly lower your legs down to the floor, as far as you can go without your lower back lifting off the ground. Your stomach muscles will be working hard but your shoulders and neck should stay relaxed, make sure you don’t tense them. Raise your legs up again and repeat. This move will improve the strength and flexibility of your lower back and hips, as well as working your core.
It’s generally recommended to leave 48 hours between intense strength sessions to give your body time to recover. If you want to work out every day, alternate between cardio sessions and strength training with one full rest day each week.
Every month, change up your entire workout program to give your muscles a different challenge. This will help your training and keep things interesting for you. If you can start working out little and often, you will find that your sailing will really benefit.
The benefits of exercising for sailors
Though most of us don’t need an intensive exercise regime to keep sailing, strength and endurance can be really beneficial when you’re spending long days on the water. When you can’t get out on your boat, try to work on your fitness at home instead. This is a really great way to stay in shape during the off-season and make sure you’re fighting fit when it’s time to get back on the water.