5 Essential Surfing Workouts

5 Essential Surfing Workouts

Surfing is a sport that you can enjoy for a lifetime. It’s fun, exciting, and even cathartic at times. No matter what your skill level, you’ll get a great workout surfing.

What is the best training exercise for surfing?

There’s not one single exercise that could be considered the “best” for surfing. However, once you understand what muscles are being activated while you’re surfing, you can target those areas to make sure you’re hitting hard where it matters.

Cardio and power exercises will also prove to be essential to a surfer workout regimen. So, first, it’s important to talk about what parts of the body surfing exercises should focus on.

What part of the body does surfing work out?

If you’re a surfer, you’ll know that it can leave you wrecked and is truly a full-body workout. Still, there are a few key areas that need to be in exceptional shape to be an exceptional surfer.

Surfing is a great work out for:

  • Core: Stability and balance come from your core and are essential to good surfing.
  • Lower body: Holding a powerful stance while riding and the ability to turn and complete manoeuvres all come from your legs.
  • Upper body: Your shoulders and back need to be strong and mobile for effecting paddling.
  • Flexibility: As strong as you need to be, your joints and muscles also need to be limber to twist in the ways necessary for surfing.


There are many surf exercises you can do to get your body and breathing in top shape before paddling out. Here’s a few:


Surfing requires a high degree of balance, but most rides aren’t long enough to have a dramatic training effect on your balance. Stand on a balance board and do a variety of squats and lunges. If you don’t have a balance board, stand on one foot with your eyes closed. Try to stay balanced for 30 seconds or more. Like all skills, your balance improves the more you practice, so practice daily.

Core: Side Plank with Reach Through

Strong core muscles stabilize your torso to help your paddling, balance, and rotation through turns. The side plank and reach-through exercise emphasises the oblique muscles and adds a rotational component. Prop yourself up on your side with your right side closest to the floor. Stack your feet and stabilize with your right forearm. Straighten your left arm toward the sky and look up at your left hand. Reach your left hand underneath and behind your body. Follow your hand with your head and eyes.  Keep your torso braced and don’t let your hips drop. Do 1 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps per side.

Leg Strength: Single Leg Squats

Stronger legs help you stay balanced and in control of your board. Whether you are a high-performance surfer or just getting started, single leg squats will develop the core, hip, and leg strength to perform at your best. Stand on your right foot and lift your left foot about 5 inches off the ground. Keeping your right knee aligned with your middle right toe, lower down to a 45-degree knee bend. Keep your back straight and your head in line with your shoulders. Don’t let your knee track too far past your toes. Complete 5 reps on each leg, holding for 1 to 3 seconds in the lowest position. For more challenge, hold a medicine ball at your chest or increase the depth of the squat.

Pre-Surf Warm Up: Deep Squat with Overhead Reach

Before you paddle out, you want a quick warm-up to loosen your hips and shoulders. Place your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart. Your toes can turn out slightly. Squat down, keeping your torso straight and your gaze forward. Touch the ground with both hands, pause, and then stand back up. As you stand up, circle your arms upward and reach toward the sky. Repeat 10 to 15 times.


A surf session is about 50% paddling compared to the 5% spent wave-riding. It’s safe to say if your paddling muscles are not conditioned, you will have to cut your session short. The following pool workout will challenge your paddling endurance, strength, and power.

Warm Up:
5 minutes of mixed strokes.

Main Set:
2 x 100 yards at a brisk but comfortable pace (endurance).
3 x 50 yards at a faster pace than the previous set, with 10 pushups after each 50 yard effort (strength).
4 x 25 yards all out (power).

Rest for 15 to 20 seconds between each effort. Rest for 2 minutes before repeating a second round.

Breath Control:
Finish with 3 to 5 sets underwater. Swim one lap at endurance pace above the water. When you turn at the wall, swim underwater as far as you can while holding your breath. This drill simulates paddling and then having to duck-dive a wave. It also prepares you mentally if you get held underwater. For safety, make sure you do this drill with a partner. Work on staying calm and relaxed, especially when you feel the need to come up for air.

Our expert physiotherapists can help you figure out what exercises you need most and develop a personalised plan that will make this a summer to remember. Don’t let weak arms or core instability hold you back from the best wave of the day. Call us today and book an appointment.