7 Exercises for Your Surfing Workout At Home

Surfing is an incredible sport that challenges your entire body’s musculature.

Some of the movements involved in surfing can be challenging. Thankfully, certain exercises you can do at home can help you perform better in the waves.

This article suggests 7 exercises that can make you a better and healthier surfer.

Virtually all your muscles are involved when you try to catch a wave.

Simply lying on the board requires abdominal strength as you float in the water.

When you paddle, you engage your shoulders, triceps, chest, and lats.

When you try to catch a wave, your chest, triceps, and shoulders push you onto your feet, with the support of your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

Once standing, your lower back and glutes are needed to stay upright.

When riding the wave, your legs and core need to be strong and stable. Your core muscles also help your turn and move on the board.


Surfing is a complex sport that works muscles across your entire body.

Surfing demands short bursts of high energy coupled with a fair amount of lower intensity paddling.

From a conditioning standpoint, a 2012 study recommends that you replicate these conditions in your training. High intensity intervals using compound movements are ideal for most people looking to improve their surfing (1).

From a strength perspective, you need the power to push yourself off the board and stand up quickly. Research has shown that this involves moving about 75 percent of your own body weight in less than a second (2).

You should also work to improve your core stability, which is needed for moving, surfing on, and laying on the board.

Good mobility is also essential in surfing. For instance, you need ankle mobility to stand on the board and shoulder mobility to paddle or to raise your torso off the board when scanning for a new wave.

Lastly, you also need to ensure you’re keeping your joints healthy to prevent injury. In fact, an older 2005 review found that many surfers experience overuse injuries in their shoulders, neck, and lower back from repetitive paddling (3).


Surf training should revolve around high intensity bursts of energy, lower intensity endurance work, core stability training, and full-body mobility work.

1. Push-ups

The basic exercise: Start with your hands on the ground under your chest, shoulder-width apart, with your fingers pointed slightly outwards. Bring your feet back and get onto your toes. Bring your chest to the ground with control and press back up. Start with 3–4 sets of 5–20 reps

Variations for increased intensity: Add a weighted vest or elevate your feet to make the standard push-up harder.

The power version: Start at the top of the push-up position. Lower yourself into the bottom position of the push-up with control. Then, explode as powerfully as possible upwards to make your hands leave the ground. Add a clap if desired. Land back down as gently as you can and repeat.

2. Squats

The basic exercise: Bring your feet to just outside the hips in a standing position. Push your hips back and down with an upright chest. Descend until your hip reaches below the height of your knees, then come back up. Start with 3–4 sets of 12–15 reps

Variations for increased intensity: Add a dumbbell or kettlebell for more resistance. Hold the weight at your collarbone with both hands.

The power version: Control the descent of the squat. On the way up, add a jump.

3. Lunges

The basic exercise: Stand with your feet slightly further apart than hip-width. Bring one foot forward and bend your front knee until your back knee touches the ground, aiming for a 90-degree angle at both knees. Start with 3 sets of 10–15 reps per side.

Variations for increased intensity: Do a Bulgarian split-squat version of this exercise. Place your back foot on a chair behind you instead of the ground. You can also add weight by wearing a weighted vest or holding a dumbbell or kettlebell.

4. Row

The basic exercise: Place a dumbbell or kettlebell by a bench. Place one knee and hand on the same side on the bench. With your opposite hand, grab the weight and pull it up until it touches your chest, then lower with control. Start with 3 sets of 8–12 reps per side.

Variation: If you have a TRX strap system or two gymnastic rings, you can use them to perform an inverted row. Face the rings or straps above you and pull your body weight up to chest level, keeping your core tight. This is a superb way to increase your shoulder stability.

5. Planks

The basic exercise: Get into a basic push-up position, but instead of using your hands, come down to your elbows. Keep your hips in line with your shoulders and your abs tight. Start with 3 sets of 15–30 seconds.

Variations for increased intensity: Try lifting one foot off the ground during the plank. When that becomes easy, lift the opposite arm straight ahead along with the foot. These variations will really challenge your core.

6. Turkish Get-up

The basic exercise: This is a fantastic core and shoulder exercise that requires a lot of stability and mobility. Before you add any weight, practice the movement whilst holding a teacup filled with water.

  1. Begin by lying flat on the ground with your right knee bent and your foot on the ground. Keep your right arm straight overhead, holding the teacup. This arm will stay straight above you throughout the entire exercise.
  2. Sit up, keeping the teacup above you, using your left arm to help bring your torso off the ground.
  3. Lift your butt off the ground and pull your left leg under your body in one motion until the knee is behind you. Your leg should be on the ground and pointing out.
  4. Take your left hand off the ground, so that your torso can be fully upright. You’re now in the half-kneeling position, which looks like the bottom of a lunge with your knee on the ground.
  5. Finally, stand up with the teacup still above your head, held in your outstretched arm.
  6. Now do the same thing in reverse, until you are back on the ground where you started.
  7. Do 2 sets of 3–5 reps per side.

Variations for increased intensity: Once you’ve mastered the teacup version and can perform it without spilling any water, replace the cup with a light dumbbell or kettlebell.

7. Handcuff with Rotation

The basic exercise: This is a great shoulder mobility tool to improve the internal and external rotation of your rotator cuff.

  1. Start by laying on the ground face down. Interlace your fingers and place them behind your back as if you’ve just been handcuffed.
  2. Keep the fingers locked and bring your hands as high as you can. Then, slowly unlock them. With straight arms, bring your arms to the side, making a T-shape.
  3. Keep the arms straight and continue bringing them up until they’re completely above your head, letting the wrists naturally rotate until you can see your palms.
  4. Now, bend both elbows and try to touch both shoulders with your hands.
  5. Straighten your arms and repeat the same steps in reverse until your fingers are interlaced, hands behind your back in the handcuff position.
  6. Do 2 sets of 3–5 reps.

Here is an example of a 2-days per week training schedule using the exercises introduced above. Aim to complete this training in addition to your regular surfing sessions.


First, perform 3–5 sets of the below exercises, with 30 seconds of rest in between sets:

  • Bodyweight squat, 12–15 reps
  • Push-ups, 10–20 reps

Then, perform 2–3 sets of the below, with 1 minute of rest in between sets:

  • Turkish get-ups, 5 reps per side


First, perform 3–5 sets of the below exercises, with 30 seconds of rest in between sets:

  • Dumbbell rows, 10–12 reps
  • Bodyweight lunges, 15–20 reps per side

Then, perform 2–3 sets of the below, with 1 minute of rest in between sets:

  • Plank holds, 30–45 seconds

Lastly, perform 3 sets of the below, with 30 seconds of rest in between sets:

  • Handcuff with rotation, 5 reps

All these exercises will help prepare you for some of the movements required in the sport of surfing. Yet, the number one thing that will make you a better surfer is to go out and surf.

In a 2017 clinical trial, 17 surfers were introduced to a strength training program. After 5 weeks, their paddling performance increased. However, after developing the requisite amount of strength, their performance stopped climbing.

This indicates that while strength training can help you get stronger and better at surfing, there is a point of diminishing returns when you’ve developed all the strength you need (4).

Another thing to keep in mind is conditioning.

For instance, a 2016 study found that doing paddling intervals in the water using 10 sets of 40-second bouts increased performance. So, next time you hit the water, bring a waterproof stopwatch or a friend along to start working on your conditioning (5).

Surfing is an excellent full-body sport.

If you want to strengthen the muscles involved in surfing or get fitter to perform better in the water, try to add some of these at-home workouts to your routine.

These surfing workouts won’t just improve your performance, but they’ll also improve your overall health. With consistency, you’ll quickly see yourself riding a few more waves than the week before.