Wondering which exercises will help you surf more easily?

Physical Preparation to Avoid Surfing Fatigue or Injury

Congratulations to those of you daring to catch the waves in San Diego with WoA this August! Before your trip I want to help you prepare yourself for the physical challenges while training to surf as well as avoid any possible injury. As a Fitness and Wellness Coach I have prepared a few exercise routines to help you develop the strength and flexibility to make the most of your trip.

Although your class is only a couple of hours, your preparation will give you more confidence in your ability to perform so you can fully enjoy the experience. The sport of surfing utilizes your core for balance, strength in upper and lower body for power, and flexibility to allow yourself to maneuver through water. In particular, the neck rotation is important for circular visual at all times, shoulder rotation to paddle through the water, flexible hips to shift up and down on your board, and the combined power of upper and lower body to pop-up on the board while your core strength will help you stay on. Let’s make the most of this adventure by following a few simple routines that will help avoid any neck, shoulder or hip issues. 


Build your overall strength and increase your stamina in the water to ensure you can paddle to the waves. 

  • Run in shallow water to build core and stamina and condition your hips
  • Pull-ups out of water for upper body strength- While standing near a wall in the deep side of a pool, use the pool ledge, place both your hands down shoulder width apart and pull yourself up to waist high, slowly lower yourself completely into water and repeat 15 times.
  • Sculling with chest up/no legs - swim across pool with bent arms and elbows lifted while head and neck are out of water. Rotate your hands and forearms in a figure 8 to propel forward. You may use a buoy between your knees to keep your lower body from dropping, but do not kick. This exercise works the rotator cuff and prepares you for paddling.


Riding the waves uses your core strength in order to stay balanced and on the surfboard. 

It’s all about planks, planks and more planks :)... depending on your ability I suggest starting this routine at 3 minutes and working up to 5 minutes. It is important that you DO NOT allow your hip to drop. Hold each of the following positions for 3 seconds and move directly into the next without pause working your way up to 5 minutes total. These are shown from left to right in the photos below. 

  • Standard plank - forearms and toes 
  • Upward plank - hands and toes
  • Standard plank with leg extension - forearms with 1 leg extended (keep the hips from rotating), switch legs
  • Upward plank with leg extension
  • Standard plank with arm extension - this time you will extend 1 arm at a time and remember to hold the hips from rotating
  • Upward plank with arm extension
  • Standard plank with leg/arm extension - simultaneously extend the right arm/left leg then switch sides and hold hips steady
  • Upward plank with leg/arm extension
  • Upward plank rotation
  • Upward plank walk out with push-ups

Note: You can increase your intensity by performing on a swiss ball.

plank 3


Adding upper and lower body strength to your routine will help you maneuver and pull yourselves up onto the surfboard without fatigue. 

  • Using alternate directional strength routines will work best to prepare for this type of sport. For example, while doing a chest press add incline and decline presses. Shoulder work should also be incorporated using cables for best effects.
  • Plyometrics (ie “jump training”) are the best for strengthening and adding the extra power to your legs. These exercises will give you the power to perform a pop-up much easier.
    • squat jumps
    • lateral jump skips
    • scissor skips
    • step ups on a bench or running bleachers
    • cross step downs from a bench (must keep heel of foot on bench planted)


You can avoid physical fatigue by stretching often and increasing your flexibility. 

  • Stretching the ligaments in your neck allows you the range of motion to view in 360⁰ angles. While stretching do not rotate your neck in a circular motion as this will fatigue the tendons in your neck causing more issues than good. Use the following steps for a nice daily stretch.
    • Stretching the sides of your neck
      • Sit with your spine upright in neutral position.
      • Tilt your head toward the right and place your left arm,elbow bent, behind your back.
      • Use your right hand to hold your head in position but do not press your head down.
      • Press your left elbow toward the floor. Be sure to hold your posture upright. As you feel the stretch, relax and take a few deep breaths. 
      • Release your head and lift to an upright position.
      • With your left arm still behind your back, look over your right shoulder then tilt your head down so your chin tucks into your neck.
      • Again, use your right hand to hold your head in position but do not press your head down.
      • Press your left elbow toward the floor and feel the stretch.
      • Repeat on the other side.
    • Stretching the front and back of your neck
      • Sit upright and tilt your neck just enough to look at ceiling. While pushing your chin upward, place your fingers under the collar bone and massage downward by pressing in only a penny deep. Tilt your head side to side while massaging.
      • To stretch the back of neck, lower your chin to your chest, intertwine your fingers with arms extended in front of you, roll your spine back while pushing your hands and arms forward.
    • Open the hips with the frogger stance and hip stretches. Focus on getting good range of motion in all directions. (see photo examples below)
    • Stretch Therapy, with an assisted therapist, is beneficial for your overall wellness and performance. Lengthening tightened muscles and decreasing the toxic build-up in the muscle tissue is important for your healing. The assisted stretching allows the therapist to identify tightened joints that are limited in range of motion. It also allows you to relax the muscle while the lengthening is performed.
    • Yoga is considered one of the best stretch & conditioning modalities for surfing. This develops your flexibility in the hips, low back, chest, shoulders and your balance while learning the control of your breathing.

Please feel free to contact me for further information or to discuss specific concerns. Download this workout as a PDF. 

Make it a GREAT experience!!

Angela Schlett

Fitness & Wellness Coach

Lifestyle Empowered Training Systems