Practice Upgrade: 10 Simple Drills with Alignment Sticks

Dan Gold
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Alignment Stick Drills to Practice

Adaptive paddlers should practice often, and it is important that they have access to as many different kinds of paddling equipment as possible. Alignment stick drills can be done with any kind of paddling equipment, as long as you have enough sticks handy.


Stand with a stick (or a broom handle) on either side of your feet so that it shows from your front or rear foot the direction of your feet and the direction in which you are facing. In other words you should be able to draw an arrow through both feet, connecting it to the stick from the front or rear mid-foot forward and similarly through the other stick from the front foot to the rear. The sticks should cross in a straight line.

Return to this drill often. It is a good way to clarify your visual and body awareness. It is also excellent for connecting your body to your paddle arm/shoulder, preparing you for keeping your paddle straight in the water for those tricky eddy turns.


A fun drill to practice getting close to obstacles. Place two sticks on either side of the obstacle at a distance where you can use one hand to control your boat to go parallel to the sticks. Make sure that you do not touch the sticks. For a more advanced version, you can put more than two sticks. Steer the boat very close to the sticks from side to side, while maintaining your straight forward orientation.

The Train Tracks Drill

This drill is useful for developing a solid connection between your upper body and your skis. Stand with your skis together and parallel, pointing straight down the fall line. This can be a little confusing if you are looking at the skis, so instead find the direction of the tracks in the snow.

Stand facing your skis and extend your arms parallel to your skis. Bend at the waist and knees so your hands are pointing toward the snow. If you are inside someone else’s tracks it is easier to find the tracks with your eyes.

Stand tall and in control on two feet, centered between your skis, and begin to slide your upper body forward getting closer to the skis. Move through the joints, keeping your hips forward, shoulders stacked over your hips, with your head over your chin.

Stick the landing by allowing your knees to bend and your weight to sit in front of your skis.

Repeat up to ten times.

The Narrow Path Drill

This is a great drill to get you reconnected with your posture and balance.

Assume your normal stance on the mat and turn to the right so your feet are facing forward, outside edge and heel parrallel to the side of the room.

Place your toes right up against the wall, and move your hands up the wall behind your head so that you’re gripping the sides of your head.

Take a big breath in and as you exhale, step carefully forward, bringing your right foot next to your left (so you’re still sideways on the mat.)

As you exhale again, step your right foot across the mat in front of your left foot, so you’re straddling the center of the mat.

Stand here for a few seconds, breathing into your back and keeping your hips in line.

Next, exhale and bring your feet back to your initial position.

Take as many breaths as you need, and make sure to keep your hips in line with your knees and shoulders throughout this drill.

Three Parallel Lines Drill

With three alignment sticks or pieces of rolled-up tape across the floor about a foot apart, stand three feet in front of them. Start by facing straight ahead (A). Then, while keeping your head straight, lower your left shoulder (B). Now, while keeping your head straight, raise your right hip (C). Then, raise your chin and tilt your head to the right (D).

The whole sequence should look like the lower diagram of the playing card pictured above and you should be able to repeat it fluidly.

The Hip Bump Transition Drill

This drill also makes use of the spine alignment sticks. Set up a divert with the short stick on the lip. Slide one of the long sticks down the wall against the pool edge, leaning it against the wall so it won’t fall.

Place the long stick across the pool, parallel to the hip bump wall. Stand on the hip bump wall and over the short stick at hip level.

Weight the stick gently. Now pull both arms overhead. Keep the spine aligned with the sticks throughout the pull.

Relax down and think about the lower body. Push through the wall behind you, and pull up on the stick in front of you. Vigorously pull up on the stick.

Now, be sure to really pull up on the stick. The stick will travel along the pool wall, with your lower body following through toward the stick.

The stick will travel a short distance and smartly wall-walls in front of you and stop. As you pull up on the stick, rotate the lower body forward creating a spot in the water in front of you.

Resting your eyes on the stick, pull and stretch across the pool.

Let go of the stick and relax to think about the control of the legs pushing through the wall behind you. Drive the legs through and stretch out.

Takeaway Drill

To practice the take away drill, place your putter on the floor next to your feet. Place your alignment sticks about two feet apart (longer or shorter, depending on your ability) in front of where you’ll putt from. The sticks are there to help you get the proper address position.

First, take your line of sight down the sticks. The right stick should be one inch above the line between your feet. Then place the left stick at the left edge of your left foot. Next, swing the putter back and forth between the two aligning sticks. The touch of the putter head to the floor in front of you is your take away. Once you find that touch (you’ll know when you do), you are ready to putt.

This drill works best on carpeting or grass.

Downward Strike Drill

To do the Downward strike drill, you will need a pair of alignment sticks (or just 2 tennis balls).

Stand on the baseline holding your racquet from behind.

Anchor the back end of your strings on the floor and the front end of your strings on the alignment sticks.

Make sure you always hold the racquet tightly, and keep your shoulders and hips lined up in a neutral position.

Alignment stick 2 is for long baseline players, while alignment stick 1 is for short-baseline players.

The drill is to practice making a down-the-line flick shot and a cross-court shot.

To get to the down-the-line flick shot, you need to swing right before you reach the back alignment stick.

To get to the cross-court shot, you need to swing left right before you reach the front alignment stick.

Keep repeating this 40 times, 10 times each repetition in speed.

Ball Flight and Aim Drill

Warm up in the practice range using alignment sticks to reinforce basic ball flight and aim. Set the sticks in the middle of the practice range, and aim the ball between the sticks. Set a target about 20 feet outside of the sticks and make a note of where the ball is landing. Add in one more alignment stick for the same target and adjust your aim to place the ball between the sticks and the target. Repeat for progressively further distances.

Swing Plane Drill

Stand across the net from a partner. Have your partner position two alignment sticks along your swing plane; one in front of your head at the center, and one behind your head after impact. Your partner should move the sticks to a new position each time you hit a ball. If you’re hitting the ball too far right or left, the clubface will be closed or open at impact.

The “T” Drill

Learning to drive a golf ball with an open stance can be difficult (especially for left handed golfers), but teach you to hit the ball out toward the right side with the proper mechanics.

One of the things that makes it tough is the fact that when you open your stance and slow it down, the club tends to stay inside the arc you normally swing.

To fix this problem, you want to take your left hand off the club and set it on your left hip. This allows you to swing the club back slower than your normal swing.

It also forces your club to swing more of an open to closed position, which is the perfect way to hit a decent cut shot, or any other shot that goes out to the right side of the golf ball.

Failing to keep the club in the proper position at address causes your club to stay inside throughout your swing. When you keep your left hand on the hip, the club stays outside.

Putting Path Drill

This is a great drill for reinforcing your putting path. It begins with the path you create at address and makes sure you stay on it through the ball…s forward path.

First, find a straight line and put a stick at each end. Then, place a club at the top of the first stick which is parallel to the ground. Now, put your ball just a few inches out with an address to this club. When making your backstroke, make your stroke end right where the other stick is. Follow through until the club hits the ground. This will get you in the habit of hitting down through the ball, which is imperative.

With this drill, you’re going to end on the same line you began with, which will help reinforce the ability to stay on your path.

The Bottom Line

Upgrades are very valuable in any field, even in fitness.

The physical benefits aside, while training with upgrades brings extra challenge and fun, it also encourages your mind to think outside the box.

It can also help you see things in a new way, inspire you to try new things and, at the end of the day, isn’t that what we’re all after when we exercise?

This Ultimate Upgrade Workout Routine is tailored for all of the above.

Please do the movements with ease and try your best to focus your mind on the objectives of the routine.

Remember to check the alignment of your body and especially of your core. Also, start slow and progress to the next level gradually.

The body is not made to do the same movements over and over again. It will quickly grow accustomed to them and that’s when you get hurt.

Bonus Tip: Download this routine as a PDF and print it out as a guide to help you with your practice.

If you’ve been following the routine in the log book and have got a couple of weeks in, you should be ready to start seeing the results. If you’ve successfully completed the routine for a month, you should be hunting for new gains and starting to test the limits of your strength.