improve your surfing fitness
Min Read Time

6 Essential Exercises to Improve Your Surfing

If you feel like your fitness is holding you back in the surf, you want to catch more waves or just improve your surf fitness, then we've outlined the best exercises to add to your routine.

Surfing is a very physically demanding sport. You burn calories like crazy while on the waves, and you engage pretty much all of your major muscle groups while trying to keep your balance on the surfboard.

It isn’t a sport that purely focuses on the strength and size of your muscles, or on the overall flexibility of your body. Surfing actually requires equal parts muscle tone, flexibility, and endurance. When you’re out on the waves, you’re getting a full-body workout and you can definitely tell that that’s the case when you wake up the day after an intense surf session.

How can working out make you a better surfer?

Aside from the health benefits that a regular workout plan grants, you’ll also be able to stay in shape for when you decide to get back out on the waves, as opposed to getting slowed down due to not looking after your body properly.

Working out provides great benefits for new surfers as well. In the beginning, a lot of newcomers might find that everything from paddling up the wave, to actually staying balanced on the board requires using muscles that they didn’t even know they had. A few trips to the gym can help with that.

As long as you know what muscle groups to focus on and which exercises to prioritize, you can help your body adapt to the same repetitive motions that will be very useful on the waves later on.

6 Key Exercises to Improve Your Surfing

We’re glad you asked. In the section below, we’ll give you six essential exercises that are most likely to grant the best results when it comes to training the muscles you need to improve your surfing skills.

General flexibility exercises

We’re kind of breaking the rules on this first one since it’s not really any specific exercise, but rather a stretching routine of your choice. We would recommend that you go for deep lunges for your legs, can openers for your hips, and windmills for your upper back.

  • The lunges are pretty self-explanatory. While you’re standing upright, step in deeply with one leg while keeping the other to your back. Get back to your original standing position, and then do the same with your other leg, and repeat.
  • The can openers are done by standing with your legs at shoulder width, extending your arms in front of your body and moving them as far as you can from the right side of your body to the left, and back again.
  • For the windmills, stand with your legs a bit further apart, extend your arms to your side so that you’re doing a T pose, and bend at the waist at around a 45-degree angle. Keep your arms straight and start moving them in circular motions so that when your right side goes down and to the front, the left is going up and to the back.

When it comes to shoulder and neck exercises, you really can’t go wrong with any of them. Simply rotate your shoulders and head in circular motions until they are loose.

There are plenty of other flexibility exercises you can do if you don’t like doing these, but it’s important to stretch at least once every one or two days. This will help maintain the range of motion that your joints had when you were surfing and will allow you to move your body properly when you’re on the waves again.

Dynamic lunges

The lunge is a very important exercise when it comes to strengthening your leg muscles. But don’t be fooled. There is actually quite a big difference between the two types of lunges you can do.

Your basic warmup lunges are meant to do little more than stretch your leg muscles and limber them up for a more intense workout. This means that they usually contain quicker dips with each leg, quicker recovery back to the standing position, and much less time spent in the actual lunge pose.

The dynamic lunges are meant to be deeper step-ins. Your legs need to be held for at least 3-5 seconds, and your upper body always needs to be completely upright (if you want to do them correctly, that is).

This one seemingly simple exercise can really strengthen your lower body, which is the foundation of your ability on a surfboard. Just be careful that you don’t overdo it and overwork yourself since that can lead to joint pains, which is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve here

Front squat

In order to perform a front squat, you’ll to need to use a barbell. Approach the barbell, extend your hands, and place your fingers on the top of the bar. Step under the bar until it’s at your chest height, roll the bar into your hands, and balance it on your upper chest (just below the neck) with your hands.

The barbell is mostly going to be held in place with your shoulders and fingertips (which are extended backward and touching your shoulders), meaning that you don’t want to overdo it on the weights here. When you have the bar firmly in place, stand with your legs at around shoulder width, crouch down, and then stand back up. Repeat.

This workout is a bit tricky because it requires a bit more hand and wrist flexibility, not to mention the need to always keep your back straight and your legs firmly on the ground. The exercise mostly focuses on the upper leg and glute muscles, but it also has another added benefit.

Due to the awkward position of the bar, you’ll have to engage your core quite a bit in order to stabilize yourself while you’re squatting down and keep your back straight the entire time. As a result, you’ll develop a solid core that will help you balance on any wave and pull off any turn on your board.


The good old, reliable push-ups. There really isn’t a workout routine out there that doesn’t include this classic exercise, and there’s a good reason for that. When it comes to exercises that can help you get more power out of your triceps, chest, and upper back, there really is no equal to the push-ups (as long as you do them right, that is).

Be careful not to overextend your arms and actually keep them as close to your ribcage as you can. Keep your body straight, and as soon as you feel like you can’t keep your waist in line with your legs and chest, it’s time to take a rest. You’ll to want to look up while you’re doing the push-ups. Most people tend to look at the ground, which gives them a sort of headache sensation due to the blood going to their head.

The point isn’t to do them as quickly or as slowly as possible, but rather to get as low as you can before you push up, and repeat. You’ll see better results from doing 10 proper reps, rather than 50 push-up “attempts” where you don’t even bend your elbows.

When done properly, pushups can really help you retain or even develop the muscles that you need in order to paddle out and actually catch the surf. Additionally, they can also help you get a firmer core, and take better control of your board as a result.

Ring chin-ups

This is going to be the trickiest exercise to perform, partly due to the difficulty of the exercise itself, and partly due to the fact that your local gym might not have the necessary equipment for this one. Unfortunately, the bars that most gyms provide for chin-ups aren’t compatible with this workout, so you might need to go a bit out of your way to find a place that can provide you with the gym rings you need, but the results will definitely be worth it.

The exercise focuses on grabbing the two suspended rings and lifting your body up until your hands are under your chin (hence the name). This simple repetitive motion will actually engage everything from your shoulders and arms to your upper back and core muscles. The idea is that all of these muscle groups will be trained up and you’ll be able to move on the waves more easily since your upper body is already pretty used to doing similar dynamic movements.

Turkish get-up

This final workout is as difficult to perform as it is to explain properly. All you really need in order to pull off this particular exercise is a kettlebell.

  • Start by laying on your back on the floor with your arms and legs spread out like a starfish.
  • While you’re still lying on your back and while you’re holding the kettlebell in your right hand, bring your right leg up and put your right foot just under your butt.
  • Use your right arm to push the kettlebell towards the ceiling and prop yourself up on your left elbow.
  • Use your right leg to push your hips off of the ground and balance yourself on your left hand.
  • Place your left knee under your body, lift your left hand off of the ground, and go into a lunge on your left knee and your right foot.
  • From this position, all you need to do is stand up.
  • Do all of these steps backward.
  • When you’re back on the ground repeat the same actions, but with the sides switched (meaning that you should start with your left hand and left foot this time).

Again - very difficult to explain.

Like a lot of the other exercises, the main purpose of the Turkish get-up is to train your muscles to be able to handle dynamic movements with greater ease. It’ll take a while to get the hang of this one, but as long as you keep an eye on the kettlebell (as well as a steady grip), you should do just fine.


The real beauty of staying in shape is that you can choose your own workout routine.

While the exercises we mentioned are very useful when it comes to staying in surfing shape, you really don’t have to follow them so strictly if you don’t like a particular workout that we mentioned.

What’s important is that while you’re not on the water, you’re still taking care of yourself in preparation for when you put your wetsuit on and shred some waves.

Written by
Jeremy Dean
surf coaching