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Using Functional Training To Improve Surfing

Surfing involves a combination of many movements, and forces the body to work synergistically. There is not a muscle in the body that is not used while surfing. It is truly the ultimate total body workout.

Recently, there has been a growing trend of the top surfers hiring personal trainers to increase their ability in the water. Doing functional strength training does this.

What is Functional Training For Surfing?

Functional training is simply the act of training to be better at the given task. So for surfing, functional training is simply creating movements in the gym that mimics movements in the water.

This cannot be achieved by sitting on various pieces of equipment and just pushing out repetitions. As surfing is movement, training for surfing must involve movement.

How to Train Functionally for Surfing

As previously stated, surfing is a total body exercise; therefore the entire body should be trained as one. Compound movements that involve more than one large muscle group at a time are key.

Think about all of the actions that go into a pop-up; there is paddling for the wave, a push up to get up off the board, and then pulling the legs up and under the body to stand up.

Now, functionally, exercises that would work these muscle groups would be a squat to shoulder press, crab walks, burpees, mountain climbers, a cable chest press with a lunge, swimmers using a high cable, and various core work such as plank variations.

To increase the difficulty and to aid in the balance required in surfing any or all exercises should incorporate a stability ball, bosu ball, or indo board. Also, try to do any standing exercise on one leg. This functions to increase balance and core stability. Again, you’re best advised to stay away from machines.

Functional Cardio For Surfing

Surfing is not only extremely taxing on the muscles, but also the lungs and heart. Sport specifically, the best way to increase endurance in the water is to paddle and surf as often as possible.



To train cardio functionally in the gym or at home, there should be a focus on anaerobic (or interval training) over aerobic training. Surfing is all about quick bursts. This is the idea behind anaerobic conditioning.

Training this way not only makes the lungs and heart stronger, but it also incorporates muscle building so it burn more calories, too. Think, for example, a series of sprints or shuffles.

Go as hard as possible for 30 seconds, and then rest 30 seconds. This type of cardio training will serve much better to prepare the surfer for the short bursts of energy expenditure that catching a wave requires.

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Obviously, the best way to be a better surfer is to surf. But those who surf know that it is not always possible to get in the water. Incorporating functional training and anaerobic conditioning to any workout program is guaranteed to increase stamina, muscle strength and endurance, balance, and an overall better working bodily system. Don’t just take my word for it, try it, you’ll be amazed at the difference.

Jason Nichols is a certified Charleston personal trainer at Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. Learn more how you can receive a FREE no obligations trial of our Charleston personal training programs and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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Category: Fitness Training.