Guest Posts

Kick-ass training for surfers who want to improve their game

By January 31, 2011 4 Comments

Today’s guest-post is by James Page — A friend of mine that spends more time in the water than out of it.
As an avid surfer, below he’ll explain what he’s got to go through in order to be able to ‘WAIL’ on some serious waves 8 days a week.
(might be an exaggeration).
———-

Tubby McFat-sticks – Yes that’s him

Kick-ass training for surfers who want to improve their game
There’s a lot of “fair-weather surfers” making their way into the line up at the moment… most of them with a  belly-full of winter jammed into their ever-shrinking board shorts. Surfing is probably one of the more physically demanding sports (which makes me wonder how Tubby McFat-sticks above, even got up on his board). It puts tremendous strain on your shoulders, back, knees, as well as core muscles.

What 40 year-old surfer, hasn’t had a shoulder or knee reconstruction, or semi-constant lower back pain?

The best thing for your surfing, is surfing itself, but for fair-weather surfers and regular wax-heads alike, there are diverse and interesting training techniques, that will immeasurably help your surfing and save your body… so you can be throwing yourselves into heaving slabs of water for years to come.

#1 Strength
Surfing is all about core. If you have a weak core, your surfing is going to be limp, lifeless and you’ll suffer lower back or other injuries. Not only that, but with the following core exercises, you’ll look like SPARTAHHHHHH in no time.

“GOD, KILL ME” I hear you say… but this is essential.

Mix it up with a combination of:
Fitball crunches
– Kettle bell russian twists
– Twisting crunches
– Medicine ball crunches/twists

You have to be careful of your back but with all the twisting you do to your body in the water, you’ll need this kind of training to prevent injury and develop a strong core. Remember you’re not only developing core strength, but completing these exercises at a rate that give’s you a cardio work out too (think short rests between sets of 30-60 seconds max).

Shoulders/Back
“Hey spaghetti arms, maybe you should have done some more chin ups!”

Paddling requires a combination of powerful bursts of speed and repetition of said powerful bursts of speed. Paddle, stop, paddle, stop, paddle, stop – You need a combination of power and endurance. We want you in the water enjoying the surf for hours, not minutes. Short stocky un-flexible muscles are a big no-no. We want lean, strong muscles that can go the distance.

Work in some:
– Lat pull-downs
– Close-grip chin ups/wide-grip pull-ups
– Seated cable rows
Shoulder presses

Keep the weights mid range and the reps higher. Do only once a week.

Girls usually get spaghetti arms before guys so this is especially important for the “gidgets”, but keep the weight low and the reps high to avoid the “Chinese swimmer” look.

Kick-ass training for surfers who want to improve their game

Alana Blanchard, some of the best buns in the business

Legs
Squats squats squats, they suck! suck! suck!, but your surfing relies on powerful leg strength – especially leg strength with balance. So all these exercises drill that home…

These will also give you buns of steal!
– Fitball squats
– Deadlifts
– Lunges
– 
One-leg Bosu ball squats

Jump Squats
Yes you will look like quite ‘speshul’, yes people will think you have learning difficulties, but for power surfing and even today’s more modern ariel surfing this is the shizznit!

Kick-ass training for surfers who want to improve their game

Couldn’t find a pic of Mr Bourez’s fence-post legs, but here’s why he’s nicknamed “The Spartan”

The key to most of this training is to not hammer the weights, but to use your own body weight as resistance. That’s what you’ll be using in the water, so it’s what you need to train your body to do on land.

#2 Flexibility
Streeeeeeeeeeeetch. All the strength in the world aint going to help if you’re a walking corpse like Mike Whitney. Stretching is essential to any training regime, but for surfers it is our lifeblood. Stretch your shoulders and arms, lower back, hamstrings and most importantly… groin!

And this is why you need to stretch…

Yoga
Ok, so if you’re a girl you already know yoga rocks. If you’re a guy, you probably think it’s for girls! With the risk of sounding like a stoned hippy soul-surfer, there’s almost nothing better for your performance in the water, than yoga.

Not only will it improve your flexibility, balance and breathing, you get to see women bent over in lycra for an hour.

#3 Endurance
Believe it or not there is very little in the way of gym training that will prepare you for the lung-burning onslaught of surfing. Bike riding? Ummm no… Sand running? Try again! Boxing?… not unless you paddle by punching the water into submission. I have tonnes of friends that think their weekly matt slapping will help them in the water, only to nearly drown in their own humility.

Scratch all that sh*t, here are some great cardio workouts:

Ocean swimming
A couple of years back I ran into a well known Aussie swimmer in a nightclub after the PanPacs, and he was out getting “f#cked up”. It was his release from hammering out the kilometers, chasing that black line in the pool. Pool swimming is so boring, even people who do it for living need hard drugs to cope with the monotony.

So ditch it in favour of an ocean swim. Not only is salt water good for you, the random movement of the ocean is way better for your breathing and strength. It will also allow you to become more in-touch with the ocean (rips, currents and wave prediction).

For the serious surf nut – Underwater Rock Training
You’ll look borderline insane but underwater rock or weight training is freaking unreal for your surfing. It will also build you lungs like a town crier.

The Finisher
Heres what happens when you put your resistance training, stretching and cardio altogether.. it all counts when the surf is this big.. it also helps if you’re 10 x world champ… check the switch foot in the barrel at the 51 second mark:

Sample workout structure
Below is a sample workout structure that you can use as a guide for the above mentioned exercises split into workout A and B (put your cardio at the end of each workout, or better yet, do your cardio on the days you don’t train with weights). You won’t need much for triceps and chest, as being out there in the surf will be stimulation enough for these muscle groups.

Sets/RepsWorkout ASets/RepsWorkout B
3 x 15Fitball crunches3 x 15Lat pull-downs
3 x 15Kettle bell russian twists3 x (as many as you can do)Close-grip pull-ups
4 x 10-12Fitball Squats3 x (as many as you can do)Wide-grip chin-ups
4 x 10-12Deadlifts4 x 10-12Shoulder Press
3 x 10-12Jump Squats4 x (as many as you can do)Pushups

James Page…
– Is an Aquarius (the “Water Bearer” beatches)
– In the water since 3 months old
– Surfing for 16 years
– Surf training for 12 years
– Eating healthy and off the piss since Monday arvo.

Editor’s Note: Questions for James? Comment below.

Clint Nielsen

Author Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Tahi says:

    No chest excercises? i would have thought one of the hardest parts of surfing is standing up, similar to a push up?

    • Clint Nielsen says:

      As you can see in the sample workout, pushups are on there.
      Keep in mind, most avid surfers get plenty of chest work due to getting up from a lying position and then standing. For those that face difficulties performing such a task, then I’d mix up the pushups with bench pressing movements in various iterations (decline, incline, flyes etc) .

      • JAMA says:

        believe it or not Tahi, getting up on a surfboard is less about arm strength and more about core strength. You use much of your core muscles to “pop up” from the lying position. Remember the bad 80’s break dancing manoeuvre “the worm” where’d you’d ripple along the ground, that same action (only in reverse) is what you use to “pop up” to your feet… it’s all in the core, the arms just push you up at the beginning and in actual fact do very little to get you to your feet… having said that i do a bit of chest training so i don’t just get a massive back and start looking like a turtle…

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