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How To Get Fit For Solo Sailing: Hitting The Gym

30th June 2017
How To Get Fit For Solo Sailing: Hitting The Gym Credit: Kyle Gese/USAF

In the second of a three-part series, Vendee 2020 Vision solo sailor Andrew Baker breaks down his workout regimen - with tips for how you can make the most out of your own gym sessions.

Weight Training

Size & Strength: Trying to increase size and strength has to be my favourite form of fitness. I am not saying it’s the most important, but this form of training is what I enjoy doing the most. When really focusing on this part, I fall somewhere between a body builder and an Olympic weightlifter with my regime. I always start with the heavier, more complex exercises first, then work down, and eventually may hit individual muscles.

Example Session For Pulling Muscle Groups

ExerciseWeight (%max)RepsSets
Clean 90 4 5
Deadlift 90 5 5
Chins Bodyweight 8 - Failure 4
Bent over row 70 8 4
Barbell curls 70 8 3


Circuit: Circuit training is very good at making the body work as one and helping remove any imbalance. It also starts to lean towards cardiovascular training, but utilising weights gives a good base to work from. I have used CrossFit classes to make it bit more fun, but generally the circuits consist of weightlifting with less rest and lighter weights – sometimes just body weight is plenty.


Endurance: The best way to gain endurance for a specific sport is to take part in that sport as much and for as long as possible. It is hard to train to last longer when your workouts tend never to exceed an hour.

For myself, I jump on a spin bike or a treadmill and get my heart rate to 70% max. I will then sit at this level for 90 minutes. Generally, this will be the intensity where you have an increased breathing rate and can feel your heart pounding but can just about still talk as you perform the exercise.

Boredom can be the common issue with these sessions, so download your favourite TV series onto your phone or tablet and catch up while you sweat.

HIIT: High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves alternating between very intense bouts of exercise and low-intensity exercise. For example, sprinting for 30 seconds, then walking for 30 seconds. One HIIT workout I like to do is rowing and burpees, where the main goals are to burn fat and build explosive power. The key to this form of training is to give maximum effort – and I really do mean max effort!

HIIT is also great when short on time. A typical workout will take under half an hour. I use it a lot in the evenings after a busy day and save the longer runs or cycling for the weekends or days off.

Stability & Stretching

Boats are an unsteady platform at the best of times, on which we must move around and perform careful movements of balance. Try doing a deadlift in a gym to replicate lifting a folded sail. Now imagine the floor is on a 40-degree slant and bouncing up and down; building up strong joints around hips and knees is important. To do this I perform movements requiring balance and co-ordination, such as single-leg squats, overhead squats, step-ups and hip-raises.


With many sports, core strength is the key component that the body relies on for every movement. In sailing, this couldn’t be more prominent. As said before, stability is crucial when moving on board. But more than this, a solid core also keeps good posture. I work my core in two main ways: static work and dynamic.

Static consists of isometric exercises – basically holding positions, such as a simple plank. I mix it up a bit using my arms on a Swiss ball to increase the difficulty and make the stabiliser muscles around the core fire up and work harder.

Dynamic work involves crunches and back raises but also a lot of twisting motions such as the woodchopper or medicine ball throw.

Andrew Baker’s sailing fitness series began yesterday with his own routine for optimum performance, and concludes tomorrow with an often neglected but crucial element in training for any performance sailing activity: recovery.

Published in Sailing Fitness

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