Steve Aston

Personal Exercise Programme


Steve Aston





Personal Activity Profile

The sports I am currently involved in are rugby, surfing and kayaking. I play rugby for Basingstoke, surf for the Balin UK junior team and kayak for Basingstoke and Deane Canoe Club (BADCC). I am sponsored by Perception (kayaks) and Werner (paddles). The sport I have chosen to train for in my personal exercise programme is slalom kayaking. The main components of fitness in kayaking are upper body power, balance and flexibility.

My main weakness is in upper body power. My skills in slalom kayaking are of a high standard but they are limited by my lack of upper body power. For example, I will have a stronger and faster high sculling support stroke if I am more powerful in my triceps and latissimus dorsi.

Overall Aims

One of the components of fitness I am aiming to improve through my personal exercise programme is power. If I am more powerful I will have more control over my kayak which will give me a better chance of passing through all the gates, especially the red (upstream) gates. Also, training for power will give me better muscle tone, which will aid my posture. This is very important in kayaking as it gives a greater range of motion in rotation about the torso.

The other component of fitness I am aiming to improve through my PEP is balance. Having better balance will give me a better chance of regaining normal posture when twisting and ducking to avoid poles, which make up the gates. This means that I will get penalised less and therefore have a lower time.

I aim to improve these two components of fitness through weight resistance training. I will be doing as many exercises using free weights as possible as this will make me use my stabiliser muscles, improving my balance and coordination. I will also carry out a lot of exercises on the swiss ball, as this will improve my core balance and endurance. Kayaking requires massive use of the core as there is a large amount of twisting and turning involved, therefore I will be doing as many exercises as I can that work the abdominals and obliques. All the muscles in the arms, shoulders and back are used in one or more stages of a stroke. Therefore I will most the free weights exercises I carry out will be focussing on improving my power in those body areas.

Although the lower body does very little work in kayaking, I will be doing some lower body work as well to maintain a good balance. I will mostly stick to compound leg exercises like squats. This will help my posture as it works the gluteals. I will also do some work on my adductors as these are vitally important to the hip-flick when rolling and maintaining balance when edging.

Fitness Profile

Overall Comment of Fitness Profile

Both the Harvard step test and the Multi-stage bleep test show that my cardiovascular endurance is very good. Although you do need good cardiovascular endurance for slalom kayaking, it is not particularly important as during competition you are rarely in the water for more than about two minutes.

The test I carried out for body composition rated me as acceptable. I weigh 72 kg and my height is 180 cm.

To test my flexibility I carried out the sit and reach test. Against national averages I was rated as excellent. Flexibility is very important in slalom kayaking as if you can reach further forward and twist more; you will have a more effective stroke. Also, if you are flexible, you will be able to get into more awkward positions, which you often need to do in order to avoid being penalised for touching gates.

To test my strength, I used a grip strength dynamometer and a back strength dynamometer. My scores on grip strength were average for both hands. Grip strength is obviously very important in canoeing as if your forearms are strong you have a better chance of holding on to the paddle.

To test my power I did the sergeant jump test. I scored 125 but this cannot be compared to national averages as there are non available. However, I do not see this test as being particularly critical anyway as I am more interested in developing my upper body power and the sergeant jump is more specific to lower body power.

To test my muscular endurance I did as many sit ups as I could in a minute and as many press-ups as I could in a minute. Respectively, these measure my core muscular endurance and my upper body (arms, shoulders, chest) muscular endurance. I did 46 sit-ups and 38 press-ups. There are no national averages for these to be compared to, but I will be able to see I the re-test at the end of my PEP whether or not I have improved in either of these areas.

Specific Aims of PEP

As I think my main weakness is upper body power, this is the aspect of fitness I will be looking to improve through my PEP. I already run three times a week to maintain my cardiovascular fitness but I will continue to do this. I believe upper body power is my main weakness as I often struggle with the green (upstream) gates. In order to make these gates, you need a very powerful stroke. Therefore, in order to train effectively and improve the power of my stroke, I need to break it down into separate components:

The Catch (The blade enters and locks onto the water at the start of the stroke)

The paddle enters the water quickly and cleanly (this requires co-ordination), close to the boat and as far forward as possible (requiring flexibility) with the blade at 90° to the direction of pull. This ensures that the paddle blade presents its maximum area to the direction of pull.

The trunk and shoulder must not unwind before the paddle is fully in the water. This ensures that the powerful muscles of the back and shoulders (latissimus dorsi and trapezius) are in their strongest position for the subsequent pull.

The Power Phase (The blade is fully immersed in the water at the start of the stroke and power is applied)

Once the paddle is in the water the trunk should rotate enabling an initial straight arm pull using the large trunk muscles (abdominals, external obliques).

As the trunk rotates, the arm closest to the immersed blade should bend at the elbow (needing power in the bicep). This means the other arm needs to straighten to accommodate this movement (needing power in the tricep). The blade should continue to be pulled until level with the hips. The leg on the side of the immersed blade should push firmly against the footrest to impart the pull from the paddle to forward movement of the kayak.

The Exit (The paddle is drawn from the water as soon as the blade reaches the hips)

The paddle is quickly and cleanly drawn from the water as the hips come level the pulling hand (to do this I will need powerful deltoids, trapezium and latissimus dorsi). Ideally a wing edge of the blade leads out of the water to prevent water from being lifted (This requires a quick snap of the wrist). A slow exit of the blade from the water will slow the boat as the forward momentum of the boat drags the blade through the water.

The Recovery (The paddle blades are clear of the water preparing for the next stroke on the other side of the boat)

This phase starts with the trunk rotated 30 – 40 degrees forward from the hips towards the side of the next paddle stroke. The back should be straight with a slight forward lean. The shoulder and forward arm are relaxed but firm and the arm is extended at eye level with the arm, elbow, wrist and hand in a straight line. The fingers should be relaxed but still controlling the paddle shaft.  

The back arm has started this phase at shoulder height, causing the paddle to be held parallel to the water, in front of the face. As this arm pushes further forward  (requiring powerful pectorals and triceps), the blade being prepared for the next stroke will pivot in the forward hand and is driven into the water for the catch.

I am also aiming to improve my flexibility, as although it is good, having better flexibility would be helpful as I would be better at avoiding gate poles and therefore have a better overall time. Having better flexibility will also help in rolling as the further forward you can lean whilst under water, the more effective the roll is. It will also help my stroke as if I can lean further forward, my stroke will be longer.

Safety Considerations

If training or competition is carried out without a warm up then there is a higher risk of injury and muscle soreness. The aim of a warm up is to prepare the body for exercise.  A warm up has the following physiological benefits:

  • The release of adrenaline increases heart rate and causes capillaries to dilate. This means that more blood/oxygen reaches the muscles and faster.
  • Muscle temperature increases and will therefore facilitate enzyme activity. This increases muscle metabolism meaning that there is a readily available supply of energy through the breakdown of glycogen.
  • Increased temperatures in the muscle cause an increase in the elasticity of the muscle fibres. This leads to an increase in the speed and force of contraction.
  • Warm ups make us more alert due to an increase in the speed of nerve impulse conduction.
  • Increased production of synovial fluid in the joints ensures efficient movement at the joints.
  • You can benefit physiologically from a warm up as it puts you in the right frame of mind for training or competition e.g. New Zealand Haka.

Warm ups should be specific to the activity that follows. They therefore need to include exercises that prepare the muscles that are to be used and activate the energy systems required for that particular activity. If the exercises are specific to the activity they will also prepare you mentally.

To gain as much as possible from a warm up, the following stages should be followed:

  1. The first phase of a warm up has the purpose of raising the heart rate. This increases the speed of oxygen delivery to the muscles and raises body temperature e.g. jogging.
  2. Now that muscle temperature has increased, the athlete can carry out some stretching/flexibility exercises. It is essential that both static stretches and some callisthenic type activities are performed where the muscle is working over its full range e.g. press ups and sit ups.
  3. The final stage of the warm up should involve a sport specific or skills related component in which the neuromuscular mechanisms, which are to follow, are worked e.g. serving in tennis, passing in rugby.

The cool down involves performing some kind of light, continuous exercise that keeps the heart rate elevated. The purpose of the cool down is to maintain high metabolic activity and to keep capillaries dilated. This allows oxygen to be flushed through the muscle tissue, removing and oxidising any lactic acid that remains. This will therefore prevent blood pooling in the veins, which can cause dizziness if exercise is stopped abruptly.

A cool down can also limits the effect of DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness), characterised by tender and painful muscles experienced in the days following heavy and exercise that the body is not used to. This soreness results from damage to muscle fibres and connective tissue surrounding the fibres. The soreness goes as the muscles repair themselves.

The final part of the cool down period should involve stretching exercises. This maintains and can improve flexibility as the muscles are very warm at this stage.

When I carry out my stretches I will stretch each muscle I will be working during training and its relative antagonist. I will hold each stretch for 8 – 12 seconds. I will use static stretches, as ballistic stretches are potentially harmful to connective tissue.

There are a number of ways by which I can reduce the chances of injury during each exercise session.

  • When lifting weights from the floor or rack, I will do so by bending at the knees rather than the back and straightening my legs to lift.
  • Before beginning each exercise I will make sure my hands are an equal distance away from the ends of the bar.
  • Once I have finished using equipment I will wipe them down and put the weights back on the rack.
  • If I am unsure about the technique for a particular exercise I will seek instruction rather than resort to trial and error.
  • I will not use heavy weights until I have perfected a technique I am new to.
  • I will perform exercises with a smooth, even rhythm.
  • I will return the weights to the rack after use.

Purpose of Exercises

As I am trying to improve my power I am using high weight for 3 sets of 6 repetitions for my exercises. This is because power is the ability to exert force in a short period of time. Therefore, in order to be specific in my training I have to make sure my muscles are working hard for a short period of time. This is why I am doing 6 repetitions.

I am using free weights as much as possible in preference to resistance machines to improve my co-ordination. Improving my co-ordination will give me better control of what I am doing with the paddle and therefore improve my whole technique.

Doing exercises on the swiss ball rather than the bench will also help as it will help me to improve my balance. By improving my balance I will decrease the chances of me capsizing and therefore being penalized, which will give me a better chance of having a lower time than my opponents.

Doing bicep curls will improve the power of my biceps. This means the flexion of my arm will be more powerful and therefore the power phase of my stroke will be faster, enabling me to complete the course in a quicker time.

Carrying out narrow grip pull downs on the cable crossover machine will improve the power of my triceps. This means the extension of my arm will be more powerful so I will improve the speed of my recovery. This will also improve paddling speed and consequently my overall time.

Doing chest press on the swiss ball will improve my balance and the power of my pectorals. As with my triceps, having more powerful pectorals will enable me to move the paddle through the air more quickly, giving a quicker recovery. Also, if my pectorals are more powerful I will have a more efficient pawlata roll, a manoeuvre in which the paddle is drawn across the chest in order to right a capsized kayak.

Doing forearm curls with the EZ bar and reverse curls will improve my wrist flexors and my brachioradialis. This will improve my grip of the paddle and also aid my paddling technique. A typical kayak paddle is feathered. This means that one of the blades is at an angle to the other (on old GP kayaks the angle would normally be 90° but it now varies according to its purposed use). The idea of a feathered paddle is that when one of the blades is out of the water, it moves through the air quickly as it is facing downwards. However, in order for this to work it is necessary for the paddler to continually rotate his wrists whilst paddling. Therefore, by carrying out these exercises I will improve the speed with which I rotate my wrist and therefore again improve the speed at which I move the paddle through the air. As for this exercise I am working on strength, I will be doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Using the hip adduction and abduction resistance machines as part of my training programme I will improve the power of my hips. This will help me to right the boat when I am riding on the edge of the boat (e.g. in a ferry glide), as I will have a more powerful hip flick. The only other leg exercise I will be doing is seated leg press, as although the lower body is not particularly important in slalom kayaking, I want to maintain a good balance.

I am doing lat raise on the swiss ball and cable lat pull down to improve the power of my back. If my latissimus dorsi are more powerful, my stroke will be better as I will draw the paddle through the water more quickly. This again means that I will be able to paddle faster and therefore complete the course in a lower time. Having more powerful latissimus dorsi will also be very useful for my support strokes as many of them utilise the lats, particularly my high brace, sculling draw and telemark strokes.

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I will be training on the rotary torso and abdominal crunch machines to improve my core power. Using the rotary torso machine will improve the power of my obliques. This means that I will be able to twist my body faster which will improve my speed and also my ability to avoid gates, meaning that I will have a better time. Using the abdominal crunch machine will improve the power of my abdominals. This will mean I will be able to lean forward faster and therefore lengthen my stroke. Having more powerful abdominals will also mean I will be ...

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