ROAM Exercises for Improved Dragon Boat Performance and Injury Prevention
Dragon Boat, Functional Fitness, Injury Prevention, Training

ROAM Exercises for Improved Dragon Boat Performance and Injury Prevention

I learnt how tough dragon boating was on the body when I paddled for my works team UDC Finance way back in 1990. Later on I trained the Wellington City Conquerors and the Pru Crew (1996-2000), Royal Hong Kong X-Men and Women (2003-2004) and the 5x Stanley Mixed Gold Cup winners SeaGods (2005-2012 and 2015-2018).  Naturally, the training focused on building strength, aerobic fitness and flexibility and I believe that the innovative training programmes that I brought to these crews gave the teams a significant advantage in reduced injury and improved performance.

The problems

Some of the issues I find with dragon boating are:

  • for many teams taking part, dragon boating is a corporate event so the level of fitness and mobility of the participants may not be up to strength which often results in injury, but also misery as you need to have a certain level of fitness to enjoy the sport
  • the paddling action is unbalanced and aggressive, which can cause injury on an unconditioned body
  • and, for the competitive teams, training season is intense, and can result in injury.

Core strength and flexibility will not only help reduce injury, but also improve performance. See the two videos below that explain these concepts.

Paddling shoulder injuries explained

The repeated pounding action of the paddle can cause shoulder injury, in particular when there is poor flexibility in the upper trunk, a common problem for those with a sedentary lifestyle. I show you how this happens, and demonstrate two tests you can do to see if you are suffering an impacted shoulder injury.

Why the core is so important

Check out my ‘cat’s cradle’ demonstration of how core strength stabilises the spine and is so important if you want to increase your power. By conditioning the full range of core muscles – your obliques, back muscles, abdominal, and in particular your transverse abdominus, you can draw  the ‘cat’s cradle’ in tightly around the spine, giving stability for muscle leverage and increased sports performance.


The stretches and movements outlined in the remaining videos are designed to help prevent injury and improve performance. They are based on my ROAM (Range of Active Movement) programme that uses five major yoga poses, breaking them down into the five fundamental movement patterns of squat, twist, bend, push, pull and lunge, which in turn correspond to the ‘5 animals’ concept of Traditional Chinese Medicine. You can read more about this here: ROAM – Awakening the Joy of Movement

In the videos you’ll hear me refer to the yoga poses and also terms such as ‘Superficial Back Line’, ‘Spiral Line’ & ‘Lateral Line’. These refer to the fascia ‘tracks’ that run through our bodies. You can read more about the role of fascia in my article Dynamic Warm Up and Stretching.

1. Dynamic Stretching / Warming Up

“dynamic warm up” is a series of movements designed to raise your body temperature, get your blood flowing and circulation moving, increase your range of motion and prep your muscles, and activate your nervous system prior to commencing physical activity or sports.

The movements you will see in the following two videos are based on the squat, twist, bend, push, pull and lunge, and several of these movements are demonstrated separately in the videos below. The idea is to perform a free flowing Tai Qi -like / dynamic warmup before exercise, but also, with regular practise, increase your ‘Range of Active Movement’ and so improve performance and reduce injury.



Dynamic warm up on the Bund Shanghai – short version

2. Dragon Boat Stretches

The Lunge

This sequence incorporates yoga’s Warrior 1, opening the Superficial front line, but also works the Spiral line for mobility while at the same time strengthening the legs, core and opening the chest.

The Twist

Another spiral stretch that will benefit paddlers. The twist sequence is known as the Revolved Triangle, or Reverse Trikonasana in Yoga speak.  As well as improving flexibility, it also challenges your balancing skills which of course, will improve if you are working on developing your core strength.

The Bend

Having a flexible spine and pelvis is key to achieving that all-important forward reach in paddling.  The forward bend works  your Superficial Back fascia line.

This side bend will also benefit paddlers, releasing the hips and shoulders.

Ultimate Paddler Stretches

These combinations work the spiral, back and lateral lines improving your ability to reach forward to grab more water with your paddle, and with the energy of the rotation, drive your paddle down

1) Works the back, spiral and lateral lines

2) Paddler’s flexibility squat with rotation for entry position

There’s a lot to absorb here so you can self coach with my book, ROAM – Movement as Medicine, or contact me for private training. I also train groups.


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Ross Eathorne is one of Asia’s leading fitness and wellbeing coaches and is renowned for his holistic approach to wellness. Ross coaches private clients, groups, champions as well as trainers in his L.I.F.E programme, he is the author of three books with another book on the way, is a keynote speaker, a gym owner, and a champion himself.

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