Take a look at any professional surfer and you'll see that their six-pack abs and thighs of steel are built on a strong foundation of mobility, strength and conditioning. But did you know that you can create that sculpted surfer's physique on dry land as well?
Michelle Drielsma, creator of Surf Strength Conditioning and author of Fluid Surfer: The Surfer's Bible to Endless Performance & Injury Prevention, is an expert on how to prepare and protect your body for the dynamic sport of surfing and beyond. Here are the seven moves she recommends to get you fit to dive in and ride the waves this summer with safety, strength and grace (or just look like you do).
Paddling requires a lot of shoulder mobility — the ability to move your arms repeatedly (with control) through their full range of motion. But it's also important for non-surfers for preventing injury. Start doing this move with just your body weight and progress to holding one- to two-pound weights to give your shoulder-stabilizing muscles an added challenge from multiple angles.
- Lie on your stomach with one arm straight out in front of you, holding a weight, and the other hand near your chest for support.
- Lift your head and chest off the ground.
- Circle your top arm out and around to the side, ending at your shoulder.
Reps: 30 seconds on each side
"Many shoulder issues can be relieved by more shoulder hanging," says Drielsma. So she recommends this move to improve shoulder mobility and control for surfers and non-surfers alike.
- Grab onto a securely mounted overhead bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Retract your shoulder blades to create space between your ears and shoulders.
- Draw your navel into your spine, contract your glutes and find a hollow body position.
Reps: three sets of 10 to 20 seconds
Optional: Work up to single-arm hanging for 10 seconds or more and change the grip of your hangs regularly (overhand, underhand, neutral, wide, narrow and crossed).
Skater to Curtsy Squat
If you've ever seen a surfer cruising along the inside of a barrel wave, you've seen their ability to crouch and stay low for a long time. Surfing demands mobility of the hips and ankles and the strength of your legs. This move helps you build that stamina and lower-body strength, whether you're hitting the waves or not.
- Squat on one leg with your other leg extended out to the side. Ensure there's no weight on the foot of the leg extended to the side.
- Then, as you squat on the same leg, extend the leg behind you, again keeping your weight off that leg.
- Lastly, still squatting on the same leg, cross the other leg behind and to the opposite side of your body. Keep your squat knee bent and over your toes throughout.
Reps: 5 on each side
A solid body-weight push-up is essential in the sport of surfing. Not only do you need a strong upper body to push up and come to standing once you catch a wave, but in stronger and larger waves, you'll need the strength to duck dive under the surf. Even if you're not on the board, you can benefit from the upper-body strength you'll built with this foundational exercise.
- Start in plank position — your hands shoulder-width apart and your fingers facing forward.
- Stay on the balls of your feet and keep your neck in line with your spine. Maintain a flat lower back as you pull your navel in.
- Bend your elbows to lower your chest down, and then push back up to a straight-arm plank.
- Push up with your elbows tucked in and close to your chest, not flaring out to the sides.
Reps: four sets of 10
Single-Leg Hip Bridge
Endless paddling may make it seem like surfing is purely an upper-body workout, but strong glutes and hips and pelvic stability is what helps you go from cruising to turning and shredding. The single-leg hip bridge will help you build the strength and control to rip. Plus, when you're not in the ocean, your booty will look phenomenal.
- Lie on your back and bend one knee.
- Push through your heel and use your glutes to lift your hips.
- Make sure you're extending at your hips, not your lower spine, by rotating your hip bones back to keep your lower back flat.
Reps: 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps
Optional: You can elevate your foot on a bench or step to make it harder.
Swiss Ball Jackknife
When it comes to any sport, it's important to train for the movements you'll actually be doing. But this exercise isn't just for surfers. The Swiss ball jackknife helps build the balance, core strength and control. "This exercise is great for your hip flexion-core integration," says Drielsma. "It mimics the strength and control requirements for a pop-up."
- Start in a straight-arm plank with your feet on the Swiss ball.
- Draw the navel toward the spine, bend your knees and draw them in to touch your mid-triceps.
- Begin with the spine neutral and then progress to rounding your back (just like if you were popping up off the surfboard).
Reps: 3 sets of 15
Russian twists strengthen your core and help give you the power to safely turn — whether performing some championship-worthy maneuvers or in your day-to-day life. You can either do this move with just your body weight or you can hold a dumbbell with both hands. The body-weight version focuses on the rotational-strength side, and the dumbbell version emphasizes the anti-rotational-strength side to help protect your spine.
- Sit on a small Swiss ball and roll back so that your upper back is in contact with the ball.
- Bridge your hips up using your glutes and abs to keep your lower back flat.
- Keep your arms straight and slowly rotate your chest to face one side.
- Rotate through the upper spine, and keep your hips relatively still.
Reps: 3 sets of 25 (both sides equals one rep)