Training for Sailing

Training for Sailing

Fancy upping your workout?


Want to take advantage of living on this Island and combat the forces of nature as a competitive sailor?


Or just simply take it all in on a boat, perfecting your best ‘Captain Birdseye’ wink?


Whatever your persuasion, sailing can be a great way to get active, whether you're racing, exploring coastlines or lakes from a new perspective, or having a muck around on the water. But boy, is it a physical sport! Hanging out from a boat by your toes (hiking out) demands that your posturally really strong whilst maintaining a solid base.


Here at Life By Equipe we spoke to Sailing Instructor, Strength & Conditioning Coach, Jon Cooper to share with you some top additional exercises that Olympic Sailors use in their workouts.


Do you use a hiking boat? Why not add these into your gym routine to beast your gains on the water.

Jon Cooper’s Gym Training for Sailing


A simple warm up should include hip hinges, glute bridges, single leg body-weight work and med bands. Often areas like the lower back, hamstrings and glutes are hard to fire up in a boat and if you're training for sailing, activating these before you sail is always a good idea to prevent stiffness and injury.


Single Arm Cable Row


Do 4 sets of 12-20 reps, with each arm. Using a cable machine with a single handle.
Set up the single arm cable from the bottom rung with enough weight that you can maintain a good shoulder stability whilst it feels heavy
  • Face the cable with your feet apart at hip distance;

  • Bend your knees slightly & rip the ground apart with your feet for glute activation

  • With your shoulders pinched back, row the cable-holding arm backwards so your elbow reaches towards your hip & reaching your free arm forwards

  • At the same time as the row, drive through with your hips to standing, imitating a leg extension that you would get in the boat

  • Shoulders, back and hips should be straight on to the machine, no twisting, rotating, hunching or extending the shoulders too much.


Super Cooper tip: Keep your chin relaxed, look forwards, and keep your shoulders down, i.e. not creeping up to your neck.

Stiff Leg Deadlift


Do 2-3 sets of 12 reps.


  • Feet shoulder width apart with a slight bend at the knees, have that ‘feet ripping the ground apart’ feel

  • Arms are straight holding the bar close to your legs

  • Hinge back with your hips far enough to keep your back straight, keeping your shoulders squeezed until you feel a pull in your hamstrings, keeping the bar close to your legs

  • Return to standing upright, by pushing the hips forward

  • Avoid relaxing your shoulders, lifting your chin or flexing at the spine as this can cause injury.


Super Cooper tip: The majority of injuries you get though sailing are quad-related and you might have a lot of your training based on cycling, squats, leg press or leg extensions to strengthen your main muscle groups for hiking out. Some of the muscle groups that tend to get missed out are your lower back, hamstrings & glutes. So this exercise can help you to transfer more energy into the boat, as well as prevent injuries due to muscle imbalances.

Cable Machine Anti-Rotation Exercise


Do 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps each side.

  • Set up the cable at the chest height with a fairly light weight

  • Feet shoulder width apart with bent knees, have that ‘feet ripping the ground apart’ feel

  • Holding the cable in both hands next to your chest, body facing side-on to the machine, step slightly away from the machine so the cable is already loaded and trying to pull you back

  • Abs tight, extend your arms, then bring your hands back to your chest

  • Then turn your wrists 90 degrees and extend your arms up and over your head

  • If you're having trouble maintaining a good technique with overhead extensions, stick to forward arm extensions which will still help you to resist sideways rotation

  • Avoid rounding at the shoulders when extending the arms - nothing should move apart from the arms.


Super Cooper Tip: Many sailors will perform torso flexion & extension exercises within their training like sit ups, plank, back extensions etc. but some might miss out training their lateral stability which is vital for key movements in the boat. Want to make the exercise a little more boat-specific? Keep your stance narrower than shoulder width, as you won't have too much base to work from when your in your dinghy. Also keep that weight light as you might risk losing abdominal strength and stability, placing excess stress on your spine.
Use these exercises along with your average training programme to help develop strong and effective postures and posterior musculature. As well as put a little more energy into the boat!


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