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Surfing Fitness and Health

Surfing Fitness and Health


Woman using a Indo Board

Not all of us can live within walking distance of a surfing beach and even those of us that are lucky enough to do just that, can't guarantee consistent surfable waves year round, so whoever you are there are always going to be times when your surfing fitness levels begin to drop due to lack of water time.

Our guide to understanding fitness and training for surfers below will give you a good starting point to understanding fitness training specific for surfing, including strength, endurance and core training programmes which will keep you fit ready for the next time the surf is pumping!

Strength training and the benefits for surfers

Strength during surfing movements can be gained by resistance training but not just any strength training will do, for example there are specific types of strength training for specific sports, different intensities and weights that if done on a regular basis will give different outcomes.

Strength training isn’t just about lifting weights, whilst weight training can be highly beneficial to surfing power, however there are a vast range of strength training types that can also be of great benefit.

The ability to generate strength and fitness is a very important component for success in many sports, particularly in those involving explosive movements such as surfing.

Key elements in strength training for surfers

Man using a Power Stroke bungee cord

For strength training to be a factor in surfing performance there are key areas to take into consideration, for example for true strength gains to take place it is wise to look at just what surfing movements your trying to strengthen and why.

The exercises must be functional for a particular move, for example if your goal is to improve the upper body for improved paddle fitness you wouldn’t lift massive weights which could restrict your (ROM) range of movement.

During surfing performance, endurance is a key factor, paddling out plays a major part in surfing at whatever level, and whatever size the surf is, for a surfer to use strength training to improve their paddle power then endurance training would be the key.   By endurance training we mean long sets of high reps of nonstop exercises that promote strength gains.   To optimise endurance there's no better exercise than paddling in the water itself but the next best option is to use a Powerstroke bungee cord training system.

Element 1 - Hypertrophy

Synonymous with most people’s perception of strength training, hypertrophy refers to increased muscle bulk and size.   This is only one aspect of a sport specific training program and one that should be included for only a select group of athletes.   Football and rugby players require significant bulk to withstand very aggressive body contact.   For most athletes however, too much muscle bulk is a hindrance.   And remember that a larger muscle is not necessarily a stronger muscle.

Element 2 - Strength Endurance

Explosive power is not always the predominant goal of the strength training program.   For events such as distance running, cycling, swimming and rowing, strength endurance is a major limiting factor.   Again, the greater amount of starting maximal strength, the more of it can be maintained for a prolonged period.

Strength endurance can be developed through own body weight exercises like pull ups or press ups or the use of low weights and high repetitions, again it is important to say that strength training for surfers should not restrict surfing movements and this should be taken into account when designing a surf fitness program.

Element 3 - Explosive Power

Explosive Power is a key element when developing a strength program for surfers, the dynamic movements are key to performance so any strength.

The Benefits:

  • Increased strength in tendons, ligaments and bones
  • Increased metabolism
  • Increased calorie burning during resistance training sessions
  • Improved posture
  • Injury protection for muscle and joints

What are the classifications of strength?

These are:

  • Maximum strength – the greatest force that is possible in a single maximum contraction
  • Elastic strength – the ability to overcome a resistance with a fast contraction
  • Strength endurance – the ability to express force many times over, this is one key factor within surfing fitness and performance

How do we get stronger for surfing strength gains using weights?

A muscle will only strengthen when forced to operate beyond its customary intensity (overload).   Overload can be progressed by increasing the:

  • Resistance e.g. the amount of weight lifted
  • Number of repetitions with a particular weight i.e.) from 5 to 10
  • Number of sets of the exercise i.e.) from 2 sets to 3 sets
To help you plan your own work out programme a great place to start is the book The Complete Guide to Surf Fitness or if you prefer a more visual approach try the Surf Stronger 1 DVD - Surfers Workout.

Core Strength Training for Surfers

Man using a balance board

The core muscles include not only those in your abdominals and back, but also muscles in your pelvic floor and hips.   Many of your core muscles can't be seen because they're buried underneath other muscles.   The transverse abdominals for example, is hiding underneath your rectus abdominals and encases, or hugs the whole area below the belly button.   While the rectus abdominals is sitting on top looking good, the transverse abdominals is working hard, especially during surfing movements.

Strong core strength is a massive benefit to any surfer, improving balance, stability, and posture and limiting the possibility of injury in muscles being used to compensate if the core is weak.   A great training tool for core strength and balance is the balance board.   There are lots of variations available but these two are the best the Homerider and Indo Board.

Core Strength Training and Athletic Performance

The muscles of the trunk and torso stabilise the spine from the pelvis to the neck and shoulder; they allow the transfer of powerful movements of the arms and legs.

Training the muscles of the core also corrects postural imbalances that can lead to injuries.   The biggest benefit of core training is to develop functional fitness that is fitness that is essential to both daily living and regular activities.

Core strengthening exercises are most effective when the torso works as a solid unit and both front and back muscles contract at the same time, multi joint movements are performed and stabilisation of the spine is monitored.

For a surfer specific core workout programme look no further than the DVD Surf Stronger 2 - Core strength.



This article has been written with the kind assistance of Lee Stanbury, surf fitness coach to the British Junior surf team, fully qualified fitness instructor, inventor of Powerstroke and author of the Book The Complete Guide to Surf Fitness.   For more information visit Lee Stanbury's website Fit2surf.

Where Next?

If you want to put what you have just read into practice simply use the links below to buy sun cream, workout DVDs, balance boards and more from the surf shop.   If you found our 'Surfers Fitness & Health' guide useful then be sure to visit some more of our Surfing Information pages.

 
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