One rarely sees a surfer in a gym. Why would you? Why would anyone exercise in a sterile and artificial atmosphere when you can get your workout in one of the most beautiful and scenic environments in the world? Unfortunately, surfers are at the mercy of the ocean’s conditions - swells, tides and winds. These can keep a surfer dry for weeks waiting for the next surfing session. Staying in top shape physically during lulls in the swell can be a challenge. Not doing so will not only hinder a surfer’s performance but increase the potential for injuries.
The Surfers Workout is done entirely with a bungee and Swiss ball. If you’re going to play in an unstable environment, doesn’t it make sense to train on one? The workout will simulate the movements of the three basic elements of a surf session. The Paddle Out (chest, shoulders and back), The Pop Up (chest, abs, back, hip flexors) and Surfing (legs and core). It challenges a surfer’s endurance and muscular strength, while engaging the neuromuscular system (balance) and core musculature (hips, abs, butt and back). An added benefit to the this workout is that weighing less than a laptop, surfers can easily take a bungee and Swiss ball with them on their travels.
Surfers can choose a surfboard in a variety of shapes and sizes. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say there are two types of boards: long boards and short boards (though some of today’s board designs have started to merge the two). A long board (typically around three feet taller than a surfer’s height) has greater bouyancy, making it easier to paddle and catch waves. It's also more stable, so it’s easier to learn on. A long boarder maneuvers the board with long sweeping turns and can walk up and down the board to fine tune its trim and speed. Hanging 10, nose riding, bottom turns, drop knee backside turns and cheater fives are a few maneuvers in the long boarders’ lexicon.
Short boards vary in length from several inches below or above a surfer’s height. Short boards are harder to paddle; therefore, the takeoff (i.e., catching the wave) is done at a later stage of the wave development. This places the surfer in a more critical position of a breaking wave. Short boarders typically maintain their feet in a set position on the board, creating speed by carving turns up and down the face of the wave. Short boarders get radical with maneuvers known as catching air, off the lip, floaters and 360s.
Although the styles are very different, physical demands are required for both. Incorporating the Surfer’s Workout will help surfers avoid muscle atrophy by stimulating the muscles used in a surf session. The workout will also increase the amount of power and balance generated (and needed) in the unstable environment of the surf. The workout aims to strengthen opposing muscle groups, helping to avoid overuse injuries from constant paddling, while developing strength and awareness in deep segmental muscles of the spine, required for stabilization and functional movements.
The Surfers Workout
The goal is to complete all three sections in a circuit fashion, with rests between exercise, depending on the fitness levels of the client.
- The Paddle Out. Table top position, head and shoulders on ball, hips elevated and parallel to floor. Start hands overhead drawing bungee to thighs. Do either bilateral or unilateral movements for 25 reps.
- The Pop-Up. Knees on ball, hands on floor. Alternate one push with one reverse crunch for 10 reps.
- Surfing. Single leg lunge. Work up to 25 reps per leg.
- Surfing (the glide). Hands ands knees balance on ball. Hold for 30 seconds.
- The Core. Pull and crunch for 25 reps.
- Followed by leg extensions. 15 reps. Hold top position for three seconds.
- Paddleout. Tabletop position. Reverse paddle for 25 reps.
- Popup. Knees on ball, draw knees to opposite shoulder with push up in between. Perform 10 reps.
- Surfing. Single leg lunge with one arm row. Perform 20 reps each leg.
- Surfing (the glide). Balance with both knees on ball. Alternate dropping butt to opposite heel for 30 seconds.
- The Core. Knees on ball, rotate bungee to opposite side. Perform 15 reps each side.
- Followed by back extensions. Perform 15 reps holding three seconds each.
- Paddleout. Chest on ball. Toes on the floor. Keeping chest slightly elevated as when paddling on a surfboard. Highly conditioned surfers using a heavy bungee may need to anchor feet behind a rail or heavy weights. Perform 20 reps.
- Pop-up. Single leg crunch alternating with push-up in between. Perform 10 reps.
- Surfing. Single leg lunge with lateral pull. Perform 20 reps each leg.
- Surfing (the glide). One knee and one foot on ball. Balance for 30 seconds.
- The Core. Table top position, rotate to opposite side 15 reps each side.
- Followed by the two-point balance, hold three to five seconds for five reps.
- Scientific Core Conditioning by Paul Chek
- The Essence of Stability Ball Training by JC Santana
- Ultimate Stability Balls I by JC Santana
- Ultimate Stability Balls II by JC Santana
- Get Back on Resist A Ball by Mike and Stephanie Morris
* Special thanks to my surf buddy and top trainer Kurt Dasbach for modeling these exercises.