We all dream of trading our day job for the beach and surf life. However, even though full-time surfers appear low-key and carefree, their daily schedule is anything but laid-back. Don’t get me wrong, they do have plenty of freedom and are living the dream, but they must work hard to play hard.
Surfing is a physically demanding activity, an amazing combination of strength, power, endurance, balance, flexibility, speed and mental toughness. It is incredibly fun, but if you want to tackle big waves and push yourself to the limit, your fitness levels should be up to the challenge.
Before I say anything else, you should know that the best surfing exercise is… surfing itself. But when you’re not hitting the beach, you still need to train to stay in shape and to be able to give it your all when you’re in the water. Even surfers who spend most of their time riding waves still have an on-land training regimen and specific surf nutrition, designed to increase their strength, speed, power, endurance, mobility and flow, the critical aspects in a surfer’s physique.
What makes training for surfing so tricky is that we train on land to perform in the water, and we must imitate the movements we would normally do on the surfboard. This means we need to train our whole body dynamically if we want to get in the best surfing shape. Without further ado, here are 25 fundamental exercises that will boost your athletic capacity, both for surfing and in general.
Photo credit PopSugar.com
Squats are a crucial surfing exercise. Even though many consider them leg exercises, they are in fact a full-body workout. Out there in the water, your lower body needs to be strong as hell and your joints healthy and flexible. The ankles, knees, hips and spine support a heavy load when surfing, and are precisely the areas in your body that squats will help you improve. As you’re progressing, add load and complexity.
Jump squats - Photo credit Men's Fitness
Jump-squats – go down into a squat and from this position explosively jump as high as you can.
Pistol squat - Photo by Beth Bischoff
Single-leg squats – stand on one leg and squat as low as you can. You can hold on to something for support until you get the hang of it.
Bulgarian split squats – stand straight and raise one leg on a chair/bench/box behind you. Bend your front knee and lower your back knee towards the ground, going as low as you can and keeping your back straight. For an extra challenge, add some weight (dumbbells or kettlebells).
Barbell squat - Photo credit Muscle & Fitness
Barbell squats – stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Holding the bar across your upper back with an overhand grip, squat down and repeat.
Braced squats - Photo credit Women's Health
Braced squats – hold a weight plate in front of your chest with both hands, arms straight. Perform a squat while keeping the plate in place.
Turkish get-ups are now more popular than ever, and with good reason – they have amazing benefits for your overall athletic ability. Add them to your surf training program for increased mobility, joint health, dynamic movements, stability of the spine, shoulder control, core strength and more. Once you’ve developed skill and precision, add some load – up to 20 kg (44 lbs) for men and 12 kg (26 lbs) for women.
Turkish Get Up - Photo credit Coach Mag
Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand and lie on the ground on your back or in a cradled position on one side. Raise the weight over your face and get up using your free hand for support.
Photo credit Bodybuilding.com
The classic, good old pushup will never go out of style. Pushups engage your whole body, strengthening the core, aligning the spine and improving shoulder control. When it comes to surfing, a strong upper body means easier pop ups and duck dives, as well as shoulder injury prevention.
Work on alignment first, then on volume (more reps). Once you’ve mastered the classic pushup, work your way up to TRX and ring pushups. Add weight by elevating your feet or wearing a weighted vest. Improve power by increasing the speed of the press. With so many challenging variations, it’s almost impossible to get bored of pushups.
Ring pushups – the effort you will put into controlling the unstable rings adds to the challenge and really works your shoulders.
TRX Pushup - Photo credit Muscle & Fitness
TRX pushups – same as with ring pushups, with the TRX straps you will get more bang for your buck. You can also do pushups with your legs suspended.
Bosu ball pushups – get down on your knees and place your hands on the outer edges of the Bosu ball. Lift your knees off the ground and move your feet a bit further back. Find your balance and do as many pushups as you can.
Dumbbell Pushup - Photo credit Women's Health
Dumbbell pushups – hold a dumbbell in each hand and get in pushup position. Do a pushup and then rotate 90 degrees to one side and raise one weight overhead. Repeat on the opposite side.
Clap Pushups - Photo credit HIIT Academy
Clap pushups – in pushup position, lower your body until a few inches above the ground. Explosively push yourself back up so that your hands leave the ground and you can clap in midair. Land back in pushup position and use momentum to perform the next rep.
Burpees - Photo credit Bodybuilding.com
Burpee pushups – these mimic the movement you do when you catch a wave and have to pop up really fast. To add complexity, land with one foot in front of the other.
Woodchop Lunges - Photo credit Greatist.com
Look at pictures and videos of surfers and observe their hip and leg positions on the surfboard – hip joints need to move without restrictions. Lunges are one of the best exercises that copy the surf-specific leg and hip movements.
Jump lunges - Photo credit PopSugar
Dynamic lunges – step forward and into a lunge position. Jump up and switch sides, landing with the opposite foot forward. Repeat until you can no longer maintain proper posture.
Plate Overhead Walking Lunge - Photo credit Muscle & Performance
Overhead walking lunges – hold one dumbbell in each hand or a weight plate, lift overhead and engage your abs. Step forward into a lunge, bending your front knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Medicine ball twist lunges - Photo credit blivewear.com
Alternating medicine ball twist lunges – stand with your feet straight and evenly spaced, holding the medicine ball to your chest. Take one step forward and come into a low lunge, twisting your body to the outside of your front foot while keeping the ball in place.
Dumbbell lunges - Photo credit Greatist.com
Alternating dumbbell split lunges – hold a dumbbell in each hand next to your sides, palms facing each other. Take one step forward with one leg and get into a lunge. Jump up and switch sides.
Sandbag lunges - Photo credit sheerstrengthlabs.com
Alternating sandbag lunges – stand tall holding the sandbag with both hands. Step back into a reverse lunge as you rotate your torso and bring the sandbag to the outside of your front foot. Come back and repeat with the other foot.
Swiss Ball Exercises
Also known as a stability ball, gym ball or balance ball, this is one of the top fitness tools today. By doing basic exercises on an unstable surface, you improve strength, balance and cardio endurance.
Swiss ball dumbbell rotations - Photo credit WatchFit.com
Swiss ball dumbbell rotations – hold a dumbbell with both hands and lie on your back on a Swiss ball. Rotate your torso as far as you can to one side and then to the other. That’s one rep.
Swiss Ball-Supported Single Arm Rows - Photo credit ThePaleohacksBlog
Swiss Ball dumbbell row – hold a dumbbell in one hand and rest your other hand on a Swiss ball. Bend at the hips, your torso parallel to the ground and your back flat. Row the dumbbell to one side. Complete the reps on one side and switch sides.
Kneeling Swiss ball press – hold a dumbbell in each hand and kneel on a Swiss ball. Find your balance and lift the dumbbells to shoulder level. Then, press them overhead.
Swiss Ball Jackknife - Photo credit Women's Health
Swiss ball jackknife – get into pushup position, resting your shins on a Swiss ball. Keep your torso straight and then draw your knees to your chest, rolling the ball forward.
Swiss Ball Pike - Photo credit Womens' Health
To make this exercise more challenging, keep your knees straight and bring your legs underneath while raising your bum up and rolling the ball forward.
Bosu ball exercises
A simple yet ingenious piece of fitness equipment, the Bosu ball is an exciting way to pump up your workout, improve your balance and build core strength. Here are the best Bosu ball exercises for surfing:
Bosu ball crouches – stand on a Bosu ball and start twisting your hips and crouching down towards the floor on one side until your knee touches your chest, using your arms for balance. This exercise imitates the pop-up and turning movements on a surfboard.
Medicine ball wood chops – stand on the Bosu ball on one foot. Hold the medicine ball with both hands and move it from one side of your waist above your head to the other side of your waist. Repeat on both sides. This exercise helps maintain your balance while training the same muscles used when riding your board.
Kettlebell clean and press – stand on the Bosu ball with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a kettlebell with one arm between your legs. Lift the kettlebell up to your chest. Twisting your arm, bring the kettlebell to your shoulder and lift above head. Return to original position; this is one rep.
Kettlebell swing – stand on a Bosu ball with legs shoulder-width apart in a slightly crouched position. Keeping your back straight and the kettlebell with both hands between your legs, swing the weight forward up to head level, keeping your arms and back straight.
The above exercises alone are not enough to make you a better surfer. They are simply meant to make you a fitter, stronger and more physically capable person, which will definitely allow you to brush up on your skills in the water. Training is about improving your physical state, becoming leaner and more flexible. The rest depends on patience, mental strength and a dash of talent.
Congratulations, you’ve finally realized that in order to surf better you need to get into the best shape of your life. Include the above exercises in your workout routine and get ready to see improvements on your next surfing session.