10 Best Strength Exercises to Improve Your Surfing + Workout

How to Get in Shape for Surfing – Introduction

What are the best exercises for surfing strength?

Getting fit, losing weight, and building strength does not have to be solely gym-based pursuits.

While spending time working out is unavoidable if you have fitness goals, doing non-exercise physical activity is also good for you. 

For example, going out for a hike in the countryside, riding a bike just for the sheer enjoyment of it, wild swimming (open water swimming), and paddleboarding are just a few of the things you can do outdoors that enhance your health and wellbeing without actually being forms of structured exercise. 

Surfing is another great way to get up, head out, and move your body without having to worry about things like weights, sets, reps, or heart rate training zones.

This article reveals the 10 best strength training exercises for better surfing and provides you with a dryland workout to follow. 

Surfing 101 

Surfing originated in Hawaii in the late 1800s.

It soon caught on and quickly become a global phenomenon.

While surfing is a competitive and also a professional sport, most surfers do it for the sheer joy of riding the waves.

There really is no feeling like it! 

There are several different styles of surfing, including leisurely longboarding to intense big wave surfing.

However, while the water conditions and the boards may differ, many of the techniques remain the same. 

Learning to surf isn’t easy and requires balance, core strength, and plenty of practice.

However, to get the most out of surfing, it pays to be reasonably fit and strong.

The better conditioned you are, the longer you’ll be able to surf, and more time on the water means more time for perfecting your skills. 

If you are lucky enough to live near the ocean and have time to surf regularly, you will probably be able to surf yourself fit.

However, if, like a lot of surfers, you can only get to the water during weekends and surf holiday vacations, it pays to do some dryland training to ensure you are ready to surf whenever the opportunity arises. 

Main Muscles and Energy Systems Used During Surfing 

Surfing invariably starts with paddling out to where the waves begin to form – the break.

This involves lying prone on your board and using your arms to pull yourself through the water.

This requires cardiovascular fitness and upper body strength and endurance.

The motion is a lot like freestyle swimming and uses your: 

  • Latissimus dorsi – the muscles of your upper back 
  • Mid-traps and rhomboids – the muscles between your shoulder blades 
  • Erector spinae – the muscles of your lower back 
  • Triceps brachii – the muscles of the back of your upper arm 

Once the right wave comes along, your next task is to paddle quickly to catch it and then “pop up” to your feet, getting into your surfing stance with one foot forward and one foot back.

Once you are up, you ride the wave to the shore, using changes in balance and your core to steer your board. 

While riding in doesn’t involve a great deal of cardiovascular fitness and is usually over quite quickly, your lower body and core bear the brunt of this part of surfing: 

  • Quadriceps – the muscles on the front of your thighs
  • Hamstrings – the muscles on the back of your thighs 
  • Abductors and adductors – the muscles of your outer and inner thighs and hips 
  • Gluteus maximus – your butt
  • Core – the muscles of your midsection 
  • Gastrocnemius and soleus – your calf muscles  

In short, surfing is a full-body activity that also involves your cardiovascular system.

During surfing, the primary energy system is your aerobic energy system, but racing to catch a wave involves a quick bust of power from your ATP/CP energy system.

A good level of all-around fitness will help you get more from surfing. 

The Best Strength Exercises for Surfing  

The best way to improve your surfing is to surf!

However, dryland training can also be helpful, and you can use it to target your surfing muscles.

Here are ten of the best surfing exercises you can do on dry land:

#1. BOSU ball squat

Target muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, core. 

Stabilization training is an excellent way to lay the foundation of surfing fitness.

BOSU stands for Both Sides Up or Both Sides Utilized.

A BOSU balance trainer is basically half a stability ball with a flat, hard base and a curved, soft top.

It looks like an exercise ball that’s been cut in half!

BOSUs can be used for many different exercises, but if you are a surfer looking for stronger legs and better balance, BOSU ball squats should be at the top of your workout list. 

How to do it: 

  1. Place your BOSU curved side down.
  2. Stand on the BOSU with your feet roughly hip-width apart.
  3. Brace your abs and stand up straight. 
  4. Bend your legs and squat down as deep as you can.
  5. Do your utmost to keep the ball level. 
  6. Stand back up and repeat. 
  7. No BOSU? Get a similar effect by doing squats on a stack of pillows. 

BOSU ball squats are not simple exercises. 

They challenge your balance and can test the fitness level of even the most seasoned athlete.

Therefore, start with your body weight and progress to goblet squats with a dumbbell or kettlebell.

#2. Single-leg Romanian deadlift 

Target muscles: Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae. 

While surfing generally involves standing on two feet, albeit in a split stance, unilateral or single-limbed exercises like single-leg Romanian deadlifts are still helpful for improving your balance.

This is also a spine-friendly posterior chain exercise. 

How to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet together and a dumbbell or kettlebell in your left hand.
  2. Shift your weight over onto your left foot.
  3. Bend your knee slightly for stability if necessary.
  4. Without rounding your lower back, hinge forward from the hips and lower the weight down toward the floor.
  5. Extend your right leg out behind you for balance. 
  6. Stand up and repeat. 
  7. Rest a moment and switch sides. 

#3. Single-arm overhead walking lunge 

Target muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, core muscles, deltoids. 

This great exercise works all of your important surfing muscles while also challenging your balance.

In addition, this exercise will elevate your heart and breathing rate while mobilizing your hips.

All in all, it’s a very beneficial exercise for surfers. 

How to do it: 

  1. Hold a single dumbbell or kettlebell above your head.
  2. Stand with your feet together and brace your core. 
  3. Keeping your arm vertical and core braced, take a large step forward, bend your legs, and lower your rearmost knee down to within an inch of the floor. 
  4. Without pausing, step forward and through into another rep. 
  5. Continue for the prescribed number of reps and then rest. 
  6. Swap arms and repeat.

#4. Burpees

Target muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, core, pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps. 

The burpee is a surf specific exercise and simulates popping up to catch a wave.

It hits all the same muscles and is also a great conditioning exercise that will boost your fitness level so you can surf all day without getting tired. 

How to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet together, hands by your sides. 
  2. Squat down and place your hands flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.  
  3. Jump your feet out and back into the push-up position and do one rep. 
  4. Jump your feet back up to your hands. 
  5. Leap up into the air. 
  6. Land on slightly bent knees and repeat. 

#5. Plank and band row 

Target muscles: Core abdominal muscles, latissimus dorsi, biceps.  

This exercise will strengthen your core, arms, and back at the same time.

These are all essential muscles in surfing, especially for paddling out to the break.

Also, it makes planks MUCH more interesting! 

How to do it: 

  1. Attach a resistance band to a low anchor point.
  2. Get into the plank position so your weight is resting on your elbows and toes and your body is straight.
  3. Brace your abs and take hold of the band with one hand.
  4. Your head should be toward the anchor point. 
  5. Maintaining your core stability, bend your arm and row your hand into your shoulder.
  6. Do not let your hips or shoulders rotate. 
  7. Extend your arm and repeat. 
  8. Rest a moment and then swap arms. 

Banded Plank Rows Ab Exercise

#6.  Renegade row/push-up 

Target muscles: Core, pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps, latissimus dorsi, biceps. 

There aren’t many upper body surfing exercises that work as many muscle groups as renegade rows/push-ups.

If you only have time for a quick workout, do this exercise. 

How to do it: 

  1. With a dumbbell in each hand, adopt the push-up position.
  2. Brace your abs. 
  3. Keeping your other arm straight, row one weight into your ribs. 
  4. Set the weight down and repeat on the opposite side. 
  5. Do one push-up, lowering your chest down between your hands. 
  6. Repeat this row/row/push-up sequence for the prescribed number of reps. 

#7. Split stance Saxon side bend 

Target muscles: Core, especially the obliques. 

Named after Arthur Saxon—a 20th-century strongman—this exercise will help you build a strong core.

In fact, core exercises don’t get much more surfing specific than this movement.

It’s also a great balance exercise. 

How to do it: 

  1. Holding a medicine ball or dumbbell, take a single step forward and adopt a split stance, just like you’re riding your board. 
  2. Raise your arms above your head and brace your core. 
  3. Maintaining your balance, lean over to the left and then to the right. 
  4. Do your next set with your leg position reversed. 

Saxon Bends How-To – Dr. Brad Murray

#8. Half-squat to split squat 

Target muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, core. 

This is a plyometric or jumping exercise designed to increase leg power, foot speed, and balance.

All in all, it’s a very surfing-specific leg exercise.

Requiring nothing more than your body weight, you can do this exercise anywhere and anytime. 

How to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly outward.
  2. Brace your abs. 
  3. Squat partway down and then jump into the air. 
  4. While in the air, sweep one leg forward and one leg back so you land in a split stance. 
  5. Jump into the air and land back in your original squat stance. 
  6. Repeat, landing with your leg position reversed. 

#9. Mason twist 

Target muscles: Core, hip flexors. 

The Mason twist is a straightforward yet effective core and balance exercise.

It involves rotation which means it’s good for your obliques, which are crucial muscles during paddling and surfing. 

How to do it: 

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs bent and feet a few inches off the floor.
  2. Lean back, so you are balancing on your butt.
  3. Clasp your hands together. 
  4. Without lowering your feet, touch your hands to the floor next to your hips. 
  5. Alternate sides; the faster you go, the more you’ll wobble, and the more challenging this exercise becomes. 
  6. You can also do this exercise holding a light dumbbell or medicine ball. 

#10. Skydiver 

Target muscles: Erector spinae, gluteus maximus, rhomboids, trapezius, posterior deltoids. 

This exercise works the muscles you use to lift your chest off the board when you are paddling out.

It’s also an excellent postural exercise and one that will help balance out all the anterior core (abs!) training you probably do. 

How to do it: 

  1. Lie on your front with your legs straight, and arms bent to 90-degrees. 
  2. Lift your legs, head, chest, and arms off the floor, so you look like you are a freefall skydiver. 
  3. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds, lie back down, and repeat. 
  4. Take care not to lift your legs and upper body so high that you hyperextend your spine. 

Surfing Strength and Conditioning Workout 

Surf harder and longer by incorporating the above exercises into your dryland training. 

Better yet, follow our tried and tested surfer workout at home or in the gym for the best results.

But, before you do, remember to spend a few minutes warming up with some light cardio followed by dynamic flexibility and mobility exercises for all your major muscles and joints. 

Exercises for Surfing Strength WorkoutCredit HashiMashi.com

Exercises for Surfing – Wrapping Up 

A lot of recreational and beginner surfers do very little dryland training.

They’re easy to spot; they’re the ones that are tired after an hour or so in the water!

However, the pros spend a lot of time on strength and conditioning, and you should too. 

Hitting the weights will not necessarily make you a better surfer; only time on the water will do that.

However, being fitter and stronger means you’ll be able to surf longer before you get tired, and that WILL improve your surfing. 

Do this workout 2-3 times a week to make sure that, when you do hit the water, you can give it your all, all day long. 

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