Conventional wisdom is that the best way to improve your surfing is to surf more. That’s all good, but we all know there more days you’re not surfing than are surfing. Whether its lack of swell or just a busy schedule it can be hard to surf as often as we should if we want to improve.
Fortunately for us, we’re athletes and like any other athletes we can cross train to improve. The hardest part can be figuring which exercises will provide the most benefit for your surfing.
To answer your questions we’ve teamed up with the expert Cris Mills from Surf Strength Coach to go over some of the top surf exercises that will give you the best results. We’ve seen a lot of different exercises but we want to share some of our favorites.
The primary wave riding position for a surfer of any skill level is the squat. Generating speed and bottom turning are both functions of how well you’re able to control your board through well placed squats. The lower you can get using your knees and hips and the more strength you can push with the faster you can go on the wave and more you can crank on your bottom turns.
What better way to train for these surf motions than working on your squat? The front squat uses the basic squat pattern but puts the weight on the front part of your body. Distributing the weight to the front gives you a couple of added benefits that relate to surfing.
The load placement helps to work out your back’s extensor muscles. These muscles help not only with connecting your back to your legs but will also give you a better paddling posture and make your paddling stronger and more efficient.
The front squat also helps engage muscles all over your body. Besides building strength you will work on control through multiple lower body joints which will help you stay healthier in the long run as you continue surfing.
For the best results, we’ve found that it’s best to start with body weight. Once you’re comfortable with the movements, try adding weight and you’ll add power and strength to your work out.
If the squat is the primary wave riding position, the lunge movement makes up pretty much every other position while surfing. From turns to airs to barrel riding, many of the dynamic surfing motions are variants of the lunge.
The best method that we’ve learned from Surf Strength Coach to help our strength and flexibility with these maneuvers is the dynamic lunge. Basically, the dynamic lunges are adding different movements on top of a normal lunge.
Most of surfing is side to side lunges so it’s important to strengthen your lateral and medial muscles on the inside and outside of your thighs.
Starting with your feet facing forward, you can begin lunging from one side to the other.
Once you are comfortable with the normal side lunges, that is when the dynamic aspect of dynamic lunges come in. You can begin to add different motions or tools like an exercise ball to add more instability or surf motions to your lunges.
Adding torso twists or an exercise ball to your lunge helps you work on surf specific motions. Torso twists mimic the motion of your body turning through large hacks or cutbacks while adding an exercise ball will help you with your single leg strength which you’ll need to recover from some serious laybacks.
Knowing this, it’s apparent that we need exercises that will help us paddle better. We already mentioned the benefits of the front squat. But to maximize our paddling power, pushups are one of the best surf exercises we can do.
One of the things we’ve learned from Cris Mills is that we actually had a lot to learn when it came to our push up form. Once we got some pointers for better pushup form, we saw more benefit in our surfing.
Pushups strengthen the back muscles, lats, arms, and core which are all essential for paddling, duck diving, and the pop up. If you feel like the pushup isn’t doing much for you because you’re already really good at them, you can also add a balance board to your pushups for more instability which will help you build core strength and better mimic surfing on the ocean.
This is our recommended surf training program by Cris Mills at Surf Strength Coach:
Paddling is mostly pulling. The best exercise regimens for paddling include a lot of pulling exercises and some pushing exercises. Pull ups are your bread and butter work out for exercising pulls.
Paddling consists of pulling yourself along the water through each stroke. Pull ups work those same muscles through your arms and into your lats and shoulders so that you can maximize your strength in each paddle. This will allow you to paddle more efficiently and catch any wave you paddle for.
Variations on the pull up such as ring pull ups will help your surfing even more as they can provide more engagement through the core. We found these to be the best, but since we don’t all have rings, the simple pull up is still awesome.
Turkish Get Up
The first thing to get out of the way when talking about Turkish get ups is that they look wild. Believe us, we were skeptical too when we first tried them, but the benefits of the Turkish get up are huge for surfing. So, we can get over how weird this exercise looks at first.
The Turkish get up is getting up while holding a kettle bell over your head. It sounds pretty simple until you go out and try it.
You might be wondering what surf movement the Turkish get up mimics. It’s a fair question, and the answer is that it doesn’t mimic any specific surf movement. But, there are still numerous benefits from the Turkish get up that you will see in your surfing.
Basically, this exercise is a huge amount of dynamic movements under weight. You’ll be twisting and turning while engaging your muscles. If you think of it in this way, the connection to surfing is immediately apparent.
Besides an overall joint workout, which is always a plus, you will be engaging the core while strengthening your hips and shoulders. Combining all these parts will have you feeling loose on the wave face yet powerful and confident when moving in to any turn.
We’ve found that these work well as either a stand alone exercise or when combined in with some sort of training circuit. They also work well as a warm up to whatever exercise you’ll end up doing.
We’ve talked a little about single leg strength, but toe clocks are a dynamic workout that will have you building strength and flexibility that is immediately applicable to surfing. For toe clocks, you will single leg squat and then move your non-planted foot around in a circle, like a clock.
The key with this exercise is to only come as low as you are able before moving the hips. This will protect your knee and strengthen your quad. By moving your other leg, you will exercise your hip flexibility and improve your balance.
All of these parts of the toe clock fit into what you will be doing when you are riding the face of a wave. Any turn you do, there will be resistance from the wave and you will have to try to stay upright. Having done balance work and flexibility work with this exercise, you will have an easier time riding out of larger maneuvers and stay healthier through your mistakes.
These are some of our favorite exercises that we’ve learned from our friend Cris Mills at Surf Strength Coach. He’s given advice all over the place and put together one of the best programs that we’ve tried out that’s full of tons of different exercises and training programs.
Whatever your skill level or area of surfing that you want to focus on, there’s a program for you. Cris Mills can give you more exercises like these or just help you make sure that you’re doing them correctly, which we learned is hugely important. Together with the app, you’ll find that you’re getting looser, stronger, and ripping harder than ever.
If you’re looking to take your surfing to the next level, we cannot recommend Surf Strength Coach enough. We’ve tried it and it’s been so awesome that we wanted to share some of it with you.