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Tips and Techniques - Loosen Your Grip



Loosen Your Grip

Do you suffer from tendonitis or soreness of the wrist and elbows caused by whitewater (or flat water) paddling? It could be the way you’re holding the paddle.

If the wrist or forearm of your grip hand (top hand) is sore or developing tendonitis, you may be doing a couple of things wrong. One is simply gripping or holding the paddle too tight. You should hold the paddle with a light touch, not a death grip.Or, if you are wrapping your thumb all the way around the handle it will put extra strain on the tendons when you do strokes such as the J in which your wrist and thumb turn down during the stroke.

To help alleviate this, loosen your grip and place your thumb on the side of the t-grip instead of wrapping it under. Your thumb now will point in the same direction as the t-grip. This position will also give you better control and feedback from the blade.

Try this, grip your paddle tightly with your thumb wrapped around the handle. Then, put the paddle along your side as if you had just finished a stroke. Turn your grip hand so that the thumb and the thumb side of the t-grip point straight down. You should feel a pulling or tightness from the base of your thumb up through your forearm. Now, holding that position, loosen your grip slightly and reposition your thumb so that it rests on the side of the t-grip. Feel how this releases the pressure and discomfort in the tendons?

If you are having trouble with your shaft hand or arm (bottom hand), it may be that you are holding it in the wrong position or too tightly. Your shaft hand doesn’t need a death grip on the paddle to do a stroke. The fingers only have to be held in a "hooked" position with the ends of the fingers lightly curled around the shaft.

If you are holding the paddle shaft too low it will cause undue stress on the wrist. To find the proper shaft-hand position, place the t-grip firmly under your armpit and let your hand hang down along the shaft. Put a mark on the paddle shaft next to where the end of your thumb rests. When paddling, your shaft hand should be just under that line. This grip position will give you good linkage (see the linkage tip for more info) with both the shoulders and torso and helps relieve undue pressure on the wrist.

Grip problems with either hand can place stress on tendons and muscles well beyond just the wrists. If you are already suffering from pain or inflammation, it may be necessary to to take a break and use the old standby--rest, elevation, and ice. Don't let poor technique keep you off the water!


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