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“Surfers don’t train do they?”

January 31, 2012

Strength and conditioning for surfers

“Surfers are lazy, smelly hippies.  If it’s flat they re drinking, smoking, and adding to the dysfunctional society we live in”.   Ask up and coming local surfer Taz Knight‘s PE teacher who recently suggested in his school report that he: ‘struggled to maintain a healthy lifestyle’ despite the fact that he runs, surfs, does yoga and core strength training every day.  British Surf champion Laura Crane trains 4 times a week with Bay Fitness as well as running, swimming, and GB training.  Big wave lunatic Andrew Cotton follows a strict training programme of cardio and high intensity interval training.

Professionalism and innovation in training have become an integral part of surfing. Admittedly the best training for surfing is to surf 5 hours a day in a tropical climate, eat lean protein, fresh vegetables, and come home with 5% body fat. However when there are no waves, surf specific strength and conditioning can help you paddle faster, harder, catch more waves, recover quicker, avoid injury, and improve your core, flexibility and mobility.

Training in any sport needs to simulate the demands of the sport.

Needs analysis – Surfing

Fitness components: Muscular endurance, Strength, Power, Core stability, flexibility, speed, endurance, Balance.

Movements/Demands – Pop up, explosive paddling, quick recovery, bottom turn, top turn, unilateral (one leg) balance/power, Isometric hamstring/quadriceps contraction.

Muscles – Back (Lats, Traps) shoulders, arms, legs (Isometric contraction)

There are a plethora of beginner/intermediate and advanced ways to develop your surf fitness. Here are a few examples;

Warm Up

• Raise pulse to get blood flowing to the muscles
• Increase mobility of joints. (Shoulders, Hips) and flexibility of muscle groups. (Quads, Hamstrings, Back)
• Simulate demands and intensity of your surf or training session (e.g pop ups, lunges, hamstring kicks, press ups)

Anaerobic Threshold intervals (paddle or dune runs)

High Intensity interval training increases your OBLA. (Onset of Blood lactate accumulation). This means you can paddle at a high intensity for longer before failure. Your body will adapt and be able to recover quicker from bursts of high intensity. When it’s flat try:

• 4 x 4 – 1 minute sets of towing your partner around the bay. (Include simulation phase after each set: 10 secs no resistance, paddle as hard as you can). Rest for 2 mins inbetween each set.

• 3 x 20 Squat Jump Dune runs. Perform 20 jump squats and drive to the top of the dune as explosively as you can. Repeat 3 times

• 3x 20 core suicide dune runs. Perform 20 suicides (elbows to hands) and sprint to top of dune. Repeat 3 times.

Power – A combination of strength and speed

• Squat Jumps, clap press ups, box jumps. Power cleans, Sumo High pulls, Snatch, Push press.

• Split squat lunge jumps– Step into a lunge placing your front knee above your front ankle. In one movement jump up as high as you can and with soft knees land with the other leg in front. Hips must face forward at all times.




• Med Ball Slams – Hannah Collins mid explosion! She followed this with tyre tricep dips and dune spiderwomen crawls. Bingo wings of steel!






• Nutty explosive Tyre flips. He followed this with med ball chest pass and a dune sprint.



Muscular endurance/Strength


• Resistance band paddle. Tiverton student getting Surf Fit! (3 x 1min quick as he can) At home tie a resistance band round a door handle or banister and go ballistic!


• DB Get Up. (3 x 12) Hold a dumbbell above your head fully extending your arm. Fall backwards to the floor and roll back up again to your feet. Excellent for core strength. In particular the quadratus lumborum muscle with aids rotary core strength; key for big turns and stability.

• Core Ball push ups. With your hands on a core stability ball complete 3 x 10/20/30 press ups. (depending on your level)

• Pull ups (res band assisted if needed). 3 x 12 (If you fail rest for 7-12 seconds then carry on until you hit 12. For advanced try horizontal leg pull ups to engage the core.


• HT horizontal pulls and reverse flies Develop paddling strength/endurance.





• 1 LEGGED SQUAT. Develop unilateral (1 leg) strength, flexibility, balance. Complete 3 x 10 on each leg sitting as deep into your heel as you can. Use a step/bench to drop lower than your natural level.





• Shoulder abductions/Flexion. 3 x 20 (sideways then forward)



Core Stability – Some examples

• Core Planks – In a plank position contract your pelvic floor. Maintaining a flat back bring your elbow to your opposite knee. (3 x 20/30)



• Core Ball Pikes. Start in a prone position. Keep your legs straight come into a pike and return. 3 x 20/30 reps.






• Russian twists. 3 x 30. (core and rotary strength)





• Hip flexor stretch. Increase Hip mobility to improve turns.



• Glute stretch. Release deep glute muscles to take pressure off of lower back.






• “The Human Knott”. Increase balance, hip and hamstring flexibility.




Balance can be trained with a variety of postures with or without equipment. Dan Colwill could do with some of this.



• Bosu ball airplane. 1 min each leg; bend front leg and extend through back leg.




Your swim sessions should replicate the demands of a surf. Continuous training is good for developing cardiovascular fitness but should be mixed up with fartlek, intervals, pyramids, and hypoxic training (Lung capacity).


If you are training at a high intensity and volume your body needs regular intake of fuel to aid muscle fibre recovery and replenish glycogen stores. I try to eat 5/6 small meals a day. Lot’s of carbohydrates to use as energy as not to use lean muscle. I take on slow release carbs before exercise such as wheat pasta, Brown rice, Muesli, porridge. After I eat High GI carbs (Jacket Potatoes, bananas etc and protein which I find gives me energy and helps my muscles recover. This sort of training requires around 1.4-1.6 g of protein a day per kilo of body weight. Eating little and often and doing high intensity exercise elevates your metabolism, makes your body efficient and burning fat as energy and means your body needs to take on nutrient dense calories every 2/3 hours.

If you want to try some of these moves and many more fun, innovative, challenging exercises come to Bay Fitness group classes. Alternatively book some one on one to get specific training to your needs, weaknesses, injuries, postural imbalances and goals. Gain your own programme, client profile booklet and nutrition booklet.  Head to www.bayfitness.co.uk for more info.

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