PT on the Net Research

Kite Surfing


Question:

I am working in Dubai, and there are about 400 kite surfers here who want me to give a talk on exercises (strength, core, rotator cuff, etc.) especially for kite surfers. Do you have any information on this subject?

Answer:

Before you suggest any sort of stretching or resistance training activities, you may want to provide them some general information regarding optimal shoulder mechanics. Outline the boney structures that articulate in and around the shoulder. Outline the soft tissues of the shoulder. You are dealing with lay people, so general information would suffice.

Ultimately, you want them to understand that the shoulder is a complex joint that requires proper postural setting to function correctly and pain free. Furthermore, other than the rather “fragile” connection at the acromioclavicular joint, the entire shoulder structure including the arm is supported by nothing more than soft tissue. Unfortunately, this design causes the shoulder to be highly susceptible to soft tissue damage and misalignment caused by muscular imbalances and impingement syndromes.

Therefore, for them to achieve optimal performance, they need to start with optimal posture and shoulder function. If you are not comfortable with the fundamentals of the shoulder complex, you may need to do a little research on PTontheNet.com. Unfortunately, I cannot cover that within the context of this question, but there are several really great resources that go quite in depth that you can refer to.

Once you provide them with the fundamentals, you can start to get a little more creative. I suggest that you analyze what you see when they are wind surfing and figure out how to recreate it in a more controlled manor in the weight room.

Ultimately, you are going to see a need for a lot of “proprioceptive” shoulder control, not just strength. Due to the erratic nature of the wind pulling on the kite, there tends to be a lot of random jerky multi directional pulling forces in the shoulder. This is something that the body needs to be addressed.

You might start them off with some more traditional shoulder and upper back exercises and progress into more "reactive" types of drills. For instance, you might talk about general shoulder strength exercises and upper back exercises. Once they demonstrate a proficiency in general strength (as determined by the coach), you can start adding in more dynamic types of activities. You may be able to include exercises like:

  1. Hanging from a barbell in a squat rack as you would in a body row, assuming a correct shoulder posture and perform the following:
    • Start with your palms forward. While hanging, release one hand and switch it to a palm backward grip. Release the other hand and do the same.
    • One hand at a time, return to the starting position.
    • Hand to hand hanging walk sideways palms forward.
    • Hand to hand hanging walk sideways palms backward.
    • Hand to hand hanging walk sideways palms alternating.
    • Cross over hanging hand walk.
    • Hand exchange. Set up is the same, but you want a nice thick pad under clients in case they fall. Perform a body row half way up. Quickly drop the bar with both hands and switch your grip from palms forward to palms back. Repeat.
  2. Dumbbell hand walks. Start in a push up position with your hands on dumbbells. Perform a rowing motion with one dumbbell. Step over the opposite elbow and place in back on the ground in front of where it started. Repeat on the other side. Minimize hip twist and try to keep a nice plank position with a horizontal pelvis. You can perform this drill in multiple directions and around obstacles.
  3. Squat down in front of a high pulley with a D handle attached. Have the client maintain the squat and perform a one arm pull down. Randomly tell them to "switch." On switch, have the athlete quickly change directions. You can also progress this to a point where you lightly push the pulling arm in random directions as the athlete rows.
  4. You may also be able to do wheel barrow hand walks in various directions as well as push ups on unstable surfaces.

Hopefully, these ideas will get you mind going. Once again, these are things I would do with a perfectly healthy athlete. If there is any sort of issue, it needs to be addressed and resolved before advancing to these types of exercises.