Extreme Sport

Article On Sports

Strength Through Sailing

Target your upper and lower body, and core, for a total-body workout

This program consists of three sections: upper body, lower body and core conditioning. They’re functional exercises, designed to harden the joints and muscles of sailors in preparation for long voyages. But these moves will also help you become stronger, leaner and have better muscle stamina. Add them to your existing workout, doing three sets of 12 to 15 for each side of each movement.

Upper Body Functional Training

Double-arm pulls

Function: Boosts a sailor’s ability to hold rails and pull lines.

Your benefit: Wrist, arm and back strength, as well as engaging your core muscles. Find yourself a cable crossover machine, and place two handles on the bottom of the machine settings. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and choose a light weight. Start by pulling the handle in a straight line until your hand reaches your shoulder level. Then repeat on the other side. Aim to keep constant control, as the pull should always be a smooth movement without any swinging or arching of your back.


Function: Improves a sailor’s balance while working in rough seas, moving gear on deck.

Your benefit: Stronger back and core muscles. Using the cable crossover machine again, sit on a Bosu ball with your feet off the ground. Attach a rope handle, and grip one end with both hands towards the end. Pull this end to your left side, twisting at your hips, but keeping your head straight with your eyes looking forwards and your legs parallel off the ground ahead of you. Pull until your hands are above your head, and then repeat on the other side.

Modified Superman

Function: Enhances balance and all-over-body strength. Improves the core’s ability to stabilize as well as proprioception.

Your benefit: Improved back and abdominal power and flexibility. Get into a push-up position with you feet spaced wide apart. Lift one of your hands off the ground and straighten it under your chest in the opposite direction. Keep your hips in the same position, and then repeat the exercise on the other side.

Lower Body Functional Training

Squats with medicine ball

Function: Builds leg strength and balance to help when pulling in sails.

Your benefit: Explosive leg power and better leg muscle coordination. Bend at your knees until they form a 90-degree angle, while keeping your back straight and your glutes extended backwards. Hold a medicine ball above your head, and vary its position with each repetition (hold it to the left, to the right, in front of you and above your head).

Lunges with medicine ball

Function: Builds leg strength and balance for moving around on deck.

Your benefit: Improved leg strength and core power. Similar to the squat exercise above, you need to hold the medicine ball in different positions to test your body in different ways. To perform a lunge with good form, start in a standing position and take a big step forwards. Don’t let your knees bend over your feet – you should be able to see your toes if you look down. Hold a medicine ball above your head, and vary its position with each repetition (hold it to the left, to the right, in front of you and above your head).

Abdominal and Core Functional Training

High to low extensions

Function: Improves the sailor’s ability at pulling the sails down.

Your benefit: Enhanced core, back and leg strength. Stand with your feet wide apart, facing forwards, roughly a meter-and-a-half away from the cable crossover machine while holding the single handles. From an upright standing position with your arms extended in front of you, pull the handles down quickly and smoothly to a point just to the left of your feet. After moving back to the starting position, repeat the exercise, but pull the handles to a point between your feet. And for the third variation, do the same exercise but move it to a point to the right of you feet.

Weight ball throw

Function: Replicates the throwing of gear on-board the boat.

Your benefit: Build up core strength. Stand with you feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and throw a medicine ball to a partner, or against a wall. Catch the rebound and repeat the process, all the while placing the work emphasis on your core muscles. Swop sides to throw and catch the ball from the opposite direction.