Got a big surf trip planned? Strength and endurance in the right muscles will make a huge difference in your ability to catch waves and recover from long days in the ocean. We have taken a lot of surf trips and know how much power and strength it takes to catch waves, plus the amount of attention you need to give to some of the smaller muscle groups so you don’t end up hurt.
In fact, we are headed to San Diego in a few weeks and we haven’t surfed in 5 months. That’s a long time away from the ocean for us! I know it’s like riding a bike and my technique will come back quickly, but I also know my shoulders are not ready for the challenge. Not only that, but surfing is a highly anaerobic sport and most of my exercise over the past 5 months have been endurance based sports like hiking and biking.
Here’s what Gabi and I will be doing for the next 3 weeks to get ready to spend a week surfing our brains out 🏄🏽♀️😊
Tips For Beginner Surfers
If this is your first surf trip there are a few key pointers to keep in mind. First of all, surfing is not easy and the biggest thing I notice while watching beginners in surf schools around the world is that most beginners can’t paddle hard enough. So your first assignment is to get better at paddling. Alternate your lap in the pool between 5 minutes at a moderate pace with short sprints for one lap. This will build your anaerobic system and will transfer over to the surf board. Second, get good at holding your breath and being comfortable under water. Practice breath holds in the pool, but don’t push so hard that you balckout! Last, if you are surfing in cold water.
1. Prehab & Functional Training
Do you have tight shoulders? If so, it’s important to start your workout with these two exercises first. My shoulders are tight and my postural muscles fatigue fast when I surf.
Injury prevention can really be the most important thing you can do before a surf trip. You will be putting stresses on your joints that you don’t do on a regular basis. Making sure you have good mobility and strength around the joint will go a long way.
Start with the shoulders, but you want to consider spending time on the low back too since you will be spending a lot of time in an arched position while lying on your board especially if you are a short boarder.
I start my workout every day by holding these 3 stretches for 1-2 minutes each.
Supine Chest Opener
Lie on your back with a block under the scapula area. Open the arms up to cactus position.
Side Lying Neck Stretch
Lie on your side with your head hanging off a blanket/block combo. Let your head hang heavy and drop your shoulder away from your ear.
Lie flat on your back and bring one knee across your body. Try to keep the shoulders flat on the ground.
Next, Strengthen the smaller muscles of the neck and shoulders with these exercises. Try doing these 3 exercises for 15 reps, twice through.
Place a soft ball behind your head and against a wall. Retract your chin by pressing your head into the ball and slightly drop your chin. Imagine trying to stack the vertebrae in your cervical spine. I know this is a weird exercise but it really helps prevent neck injuries.
Start with knees bent so your back is flat against the wall. Start with the arms in cactus position, elbows and backs of the hands touching the wall. Extend the arms overhead as far as you can without the elbows coming away from the wall. Dont worry if you can’t extend your arms all the way overhead.
Rear Delt Pull
Hold a resistance band a little wider than shoulder width. With straight arms pull the band apart and focus on squeezing the mid traps. Don’t use the muscles in the next.
2. Strength Training
I will also weight training twice a week leading up to my surf trip. In the gym, I’ll be focusing on explosive power which means I’ll do these exercises:
Go for less than 10 reps and focus on popping off the ground fast. When you get the hang of this, start landing in a surf stance with a low squat and staggered stance.
If you produce enough power, you should be able to fatigue with six reps per leg.
Clapping Push Ups
Descend slow and explode fast trying to catch enough air to clap.
3. Add Interval Training
Long runs or hours on the stair stepper aren’t going to mimic my surf session. Instead, I’ll run for 5-10 minutes, walk a few minutes and then do a couple sprints. And repeat.
Trail running with some hills can also be a good way to add interval training.
Ideally, you want to push yourself to 85% of maximum heart rate for a few minutes and then fully recover followed by some very short power moves to mimic the paddle out, waiting for the set, and then fast explosive power to engage the wave.
4. Add Some Cross Training
I also add in some indoor rock climbing once or twice a week to strengthen my shoulders. Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles will improve the integrity of the shoulder girdle. Swimming can also be a good way to cross train.
5. Establish a Good Recovery Routine
There’s nothing better than lying in a hammock after a long surf session, but active recovery is an important element. This means adding some foam rolling or yoga poses to help in recovery both after hard workouts and after you surf all day on your surf trip. Many of the yoga poses I demonstrate in Yoga For Hikers and Backpackers are also good for surfing.
Keep in mind, this is just a start. We are in good shape and have maintained a lot of strength and conditioning already. If you need a more complete program or have injuries you are working around, that’s what we specialize in. Click here to learn more about our individualized strength and conditioning programs.
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