A Basic Laser Sailing Fitness Program

Having solid strength in the Laser is a must. Without fail athletes of all levels come off the water and will remark they were fast or slow because of their “fitness levels”. The immediate following thought is “I need to get stronger” or “have more endurance”. Unless you have a coach or a trainer who knows the demands of the Laser many people will just go and knock about in the gym without a plan or direction. This article is aimed to arm you with a basic strength laser sailing fitness program to make you stronger in the boat and stave off injury.

Some important things to note:

Professional advice

When it comes to fitness seeking professional help is always important, it’s a lifelong journey improving form and gaining strength and if you lack experience a keen eye can get you going on your journey faster and safer.


It is nearly impossible to do the movements correctly without adequate flexibility throughout the entire body. It also promotes safety and recovery so it is highly recommended that every strength session begins with a solid warm-up and stretching and then again at the end.


While this deserves its own piece it’s important to remember that adequate nutrition is paramount for any athlete. If you are in a caloric surplus (eating more calories than you burn) you will gain weight, and if you are in a caloric deficit you will lose weight. Mass will gain or lose as a combination of fat and muscle.


It is far more important the exercises are done correctly and through the full range of motion rather than increasing weight or reps. Talking with a professional, training partners, or analyzing videos of your workouts are great ways to ensure you are constantly working on improving your form.

For this laser sailing fitness program, the focus will be gaining muscle mass and the concept we will employ to do that is hypertrophy. This is literally defined as the increase of the size of a muscle or organ and is done by adapting to a volume stimulus. For the context of this article, we will discuss it in terms of weights and volume used for the exercise. For the movements that require weight we will be working with 60%-75% of your one-rep max (1RM) and completing 6-12 reps for three sets. Don’t know your one-rep max? Chose a weight that you can do with the solid form for 10 reps

Principle of overload, each week we look to add on 5-10lbs to ensure our body keeps making adaptations to this planned overload. If we stay always doing the same weights out body will adapt and not grow.

The workouts will be separated into two days, workout A- Push days, and workout B, pull days


Laser Sailing Fitness while Traveling


Workout A – Push

Back squat – 3 sets x 10 reps @ 60%-75% of 1RM, Make sure you are hitting full depth i.e quads are parallel with the floor and spine is straight and core is braced

Incline press – 3 sets x 10 reps @ 60%-75% of 1RM, On an incline bench with either dumbbells or barbell, spine flat against the bench

Single leg extension- 3 sets x 10 reps @ 60%-75% of 1RM, On leg extension machine using one leg at a time, accelerate forcefully upwards and controlled down. No swinging!

Standing strict shoulder press – 3 sets x 10 reps @ 60%-75% of 1RM, Core and glutes braced only using shoulders and arms move the bar to an overhead position

Back extension – 3 sets x 10-20 reps, Brace core and keep a neutral spine, this is to strengthen lower back but should be felt primarily through glutes. When 20 reps become to easy hold weight to increase the difficulty

Workout B – Pull

Deadlift – 3 sets x 10 reps @ 60%-75% of 1RM, Neutral spine, braced core and focus on pulling with glutes

Pull Up – 3 sets x 10 reps, For those who can’t do a pull up jump up to the top position and slowly lower your self. For those who have ease with 10 reps, either add reps or add a weight belt. This is an important exercise for the laser.

Single leg hamstring curl – 3 sets x 10 reps @ 60%-75% of 1RM, on hamstring curl machine using one leg at a time accelerate hard on the up pull and controlled on the down portion. No swinging!

Hanging leg raises – 3 sets x 10 reps, from a neutral position and keeping legs straight, raise legs to 90 degrees and make very controlled on the way up and down, if they get too easy to try and toes to bar. No swinging from the bottom!

Ab wheel rollouts- 3 sets x 10 reps, start on knees and fully extend. Extremely important to keep back straight, if you can’t extend all the way stop where you’re from begins to break down.

For these workouts, they should be completed 3-5 times per week and rotated each week. For example week 1, ABA, and week 2, BAB. For the purpose of overload keep adding weight and volume for three consecutive weeks. The fourth week should be a “de-load week” Please keep in mind that you are still doing the workouts this week but at only 50% of the load and volume to allow the body to refresh and recover but still maintain strength gains.


The most important thing is the quality and consistency you train with, this laser sailing fitness program is a guide to give you the well-rounded strength you need in the laser but will not be helpful unless you put in the work week over week and month over month. If you nail the consistency and workout with quality you will see a big change in the boat.

Vaughn Harrison

When Vaughn isn't coaching sailors at our week long, all-inclusive Laser clinics in Mexico, he continues his work with countless Olympians, youth and masters sailors. He coached at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and founded ISA in 2008.

8 Responses to “A Basic Laser Sailing Fitness Program”

January 24, 2018 at 9:12 pm, Michael Gray said:

Nice Justin. What does ‘1RM’ mean ? (e.g. Where you say “@ 60% of 1RM”). Also for Hanging Leg Raises …”f they get too easy try and toes toes to bar.” Is there a typo in there ? What should it say?

January 30, 2018 at 11:42 am, Justin Norton said:

Hi Michael, “1RM” is your “one rep max” which is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one rep of the exercise. Good catch on the typo. What I am saying is that if hanging leg raises get to easy, then from hanging position try to touch your toes to the bar. A harder variation of hanging leg raise. Hope this helps! If you have any further questions pleas email me at justin@internationalsailingacademy.com

August 27, 2018 at 10:08 am, Jan said:

Hi Justin

I really want to start with this program. Some questions came up in my mind.
What does it mean to train at 50% of the load and volume? When i start training with 50kg x 10 reps x 3 sets, should i then train with 25kg x 5 reps x 3 sets?
Thank you for your answer.

August 29, 2018 at 11:15 am, Vaughn Harrison said:

Hi Jan,

That is correct what you have said, but keep in mind that it is based off of your 1 rep max – so 50% of 1 rep max is the recommended weight to start.

Good luck!

November 06, 2019 at 1:51 pm, Laser Sailing Fitness while Traveling - International Sailing Academy said:

[…] resources are thrown off all of which can affect your performance in the boat. The following are basic laser sailing fitness tips that can help you stay on track while you’re on the road while requiring minimal equipment and […]

August 11, 2020 at 3:08 am, Ben Reed said:

Been following the outline of this plan for a while and seeing results.

But just wondering why the inclined bench over chest press

August 16, 2020 at 9:13 am, Colin Gowland said:

Hi Ben,

Just spoke with Justin. Here is his reply:

The reason is that it builds the opposing muscles to holding the sheet in the “high position” (more weight outboard)

Let me know if that helps or if you have further questions.

Best, Colin

August 26, 2020 at 5:39 am, Ben Reed said:

Ah brilliant thank you, I hadn’t thought about it until someone asked me.

It’s a great program and I’ve seen great results using it

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