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The Top Five Fitness Tips for Sailors: (That cost nothing!)

5 April 2011 Andrew Verdon

Sailing Fitness and Training, by Michael Blackburn

"Sailing Fitness and Training, by Michael Blackburn"

One of my colleagues in the Australian Sailing Team is Michael Blackburn. Michael is currently the Laser coach to Laser and Etchells World champion, Tom Slingsby and he combines his own achievements with a background as a Sports Scientist with a PhD. I thought it would be good to speak with him and see what updates he believes are the Top Five things any sailor should be doing, to prepare their bodies for racing.

Michael's top five things you must do for sailing fitness:

1. Progress and Be Adaptable. Set a general training plan and then adapt/adjust it constantly. Books on training for sport say to set a periodised training plan a few months or even a whole year in advance and follow it. Have a good idea of what you want to achieve today and this week, then be prepared to modify your training plans as needed. Make sure your program is constantly progressed. As a good rule, you must change it every four to six weeks, as the body adapts to it and your progress diminishes.

2. Recover Well. Use ice and cold water recovery practices. Remember that you don't get fitter from training, until you get a chance to rest and let the body rebound. You can recover faster for your next training session using recovery strategies, such as cold-water immersion, contrast showers or compression clothing (e.g. Skins or similar). While it takes a little effort on your part, afterwards you really feel the difference, by way of reduced soreness and faster recovery times.

3. Develop Your Back. Take particular care of your back. Sailors suffer injuries to their backs, more than any other part of the body. Try to include exercises for your lower back and deep abdominal muscles, everyday. There are specific exercises in my book.

4. Have Stable Shoulders. Take particular care of your shoulders. After backs, shoulders are a sailor's next most injured body part. Sailing often requires sudden, strong movements of the arms, over a large range of motion and these can trouble the shoulder joints. Serious sailors should include shoulder stabilisation exercises as part of their strength training routine. (Search 'shoulder stabilisation' on YouTube)

5. Hip Flexors. Alongside working on your abdominal muscles, work on your hip flexors. Most of the time when you're sailing, the hip flexors are in a shortened position, so you need to correct that at the end of the day with some stretches. The other activity that tightens them is sitting at a desk for long periods, which the average person does for several hours each day. Hip flexor stretches can help improve your posture, help the muscles recover and participate in reducing lower back stiffness, soreness and potential long term pain.

Michael has just realised a digital version of his excellent book, Sail Fitter. The new edition of Sailing Fitness and Training (2011) is available via for USD$9.99. See for release info.

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