SURFING is wicked fun whether you hit the knee-highs or nine footers, but it’s also incredibly demanding on our bodies. Many of my avid surfing clients will come in with shoulder pain and low back pain – sometimes both – mainly due to the extended-arched position needed for repetitive paddling motions. This leads to overuse and a lot of stiffness in many muscles.
Surfing not only requires practice, but also high levels of strength, endurance, and mobility. Here are a few mobility and strength exercises to help improve your ride and prevent future injuries:
- Loosened Lats
Foam rollers are proven to help relieve pain, stiffness and tightness in muscles, connective tissues, and joints. Our lats are big muscles that are important for pulling our arms down (“the swimmer’s muscle”). Lay on your side with the foam roller underneath your shoulder blade with your arm over your head. To find those sore spots, roll up and down. The process should be fairly uncomfortable, so keep rolling about 30 seconds over each particular sore spot you find along the way. Ideally you should be rolling two to five minutes on each side. The compression will help get that muscle loosened up to improve your overhead range and freedom of flexibility through your thoracic spine (mid back). Repeat on the other side.
- Hip Openers
In a deep squat, grab your right shin with the opposite hand. As your core stays tall, rotate the upper body towards the sky, reaching overhead with the right arm. Return to center, repeat eight to ten times. Switch sides.
- Thoracic Extension
Using a rolled up yoga mat, towel, foam roller or barbell, place under your mid-back. Gently lower your head to the floor, extending your back over the roller. While you extend, reach your arms overhead and relax your head and neck. Hold for 10 seconds, while taking deep belly breaths. Sit back up. Move the roller a bit up your back repeat five to eight times.
- Burpee Box (or Stair) Jumps
The explosiveness you need for a solid pop-up. While a burpee mimics a pop-up, the box jump adds solid lower body strength training. No box? Get to the boards early and use the stair height of your choice. Standing in front of the box (or stairs) further than an arm’s length away, drop to the ground, chest to floor with your arms pushed up at your side. Explode back into a standing position in one movement and jump up to the box landing on both feet evenly. Step down. Repeat eight to ten times.
- Inverted Rows
You can do these right on the boards using the metal railings. Lay under a bar at a comfortable height. With your heels planted on the boards, grip the bar shoulder width apart. Pull your chest toward the bar. Through the movement, pinch your shoulder blades together to activate the back muscles. Try to keep your neck neutral. Repeat eight to ten times.
While surfing, your core is working overtime to compensate for instability out on the water. Firing up your trunk will create better core and back strength. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and with your forearms on the floor. Extend your legs behind you with toes tucked, pressing into the plank. Make sure to keep your body in a straight line, keeping your ab muscles tight. Hold 30-60 seconds. Repeat three to five times. Turn it up a notch by performing on a stability ball.
Check with a doctor before beginning any new routine, including this one.
Pictured: Matt Keenan, professional surfer and owner of Keenan Surf Mechanics.
Find this and more in the August issue of Ocean City Magazine