Torso rotation is the technique we use to help us gain maximum control and power from our paddle strokes. When we kayak we use torso rotation to helps us generate power from our entire body rather than just our arms.
How to use Torso Rotation
1. Sitting in your kayak start by working out how to twist your upper body to the left and then to the right. Focus on allowing the rotation to happen from your core (bellybutton). Keeping your arms in a paddling box position swing your paddle side to side as you do the move
2. Next try twisting all the way to one side, then stop and hold it there.
3. Reach forward with the blade that’s in front as though you were starting a forward stroke or forward sweep.
You should find with this good torso rotation your paddle is ready in the perfect postion to take a forward stroke.
4. Now twist (rotate) all the way in the other direction.
You will notice that the paddle you had at the front of your boat has naturally followed your bodies movement, flowing through a forward paddle stroke, as your body unwinds.
5. As you get to the point where you have fully rotated, stop.
6. Holding that position. Take your paddle blade out of the water and reach out and forwards and put your other blade into the water on the other side.
You will now be in the position to start the next paddle stroke.
7. Again don’t just pull on the blade. Instead unwind and allow the torso rotation to pull the blade through the water, completing another paddle stroke.
8. Stop and switch paddle blades so your first blade is back at the front.
9. Rotate (unwind) again and the sequence continues.
You should find you’re now doing a forward paddling motion without having to do any pulling through the water from your shoulders or arms with the paddle blade. Instead utilising the power from the torso rotation, your core and the bodies larger muscle groups to generate all the power needed
As you learn all the strokes from here on out, try to remember what this feels like: being totally wound up using maximum torso rotation to take each stroke. This fundamental movement will show up in all aspects of kayaking and will save you energy on longer journeys and trips as you will be utilising the power from your whole body rather than just your shoulders and arms.
At the beginning it is common to feel like you are rotating your torso even when you are not. A twisting motion in the shoulders is not torso rotation. Instead, focus on twisting from your core and rotating your entire upper body from your belly button upwards.
By rotating our torso at the beginning of a move we can turn our body into large wound up spring. When we then unwind that spring, during the move, we are utilising all our large powerful muscle groups to power our strokes rather than just relying only on arms and shoulders.
One of the key muscles groups we use during this process is our core. Our core is one of our strongest muscle groups and will fatigue less quickly than our arms.
By rotating our torso we can also reach farther which allows us to access a longer and often more effective stroke
You can check the amount of torso rotation you’re using at any time by looking at the amount your PFD rotates side to side during each stroke. What we are looking for in a perfect world is 45 degrees of rotation in each direction (or 90 degrees total). When you are just sitting in your boat facing the bow the front of your PFD will be parallel to your boat. We want that to rotate out to 45 degrees. Imagine there is a badge in the middle of your chest on your PFD. Each time you paddle you are rotating your torso to show that badge to a person stood on the bank. To check this properly make sure your vest is snugged down so that it fully rotates with your body.