Surfing might look like a peaceful, easy way to spend a day at the beach, but as anyone who’s ever tried it (or anyone who’s ever seen Blue Crush) well knows, the sport requires a lot of strength. In addition to having a strong core that’s required to help you maintain balance on the board, paddling out and popping up require a near-Herculean level of upper body strength. And though surf season may still be a few long months away (at least in this hemisphere), these athletes can serve as a source of gym inspiration all year round—particularly when it comes to your arm workouts.
Take it from Jack Freestone, pro surfer and co-founder of Kelsen hair care, who says that though surfing works every muscle you have in your body—”from your eyes to your toes,” as he puts it—your arm strength is particularly critical. “Every wave starts by the surfer paddling into it,” he says. “Strength, coordination, and mobility are the primary components that every surfer should have.”
Water adds resistance to your workout when paddling, so Freestone pays special attention to his upper body when in the gym. Though he switches his exercise routine up pretty frequently, he says that every exercise he does “translates to a strong and mobile upper body, which is perfect for surfing.” To incorporate his exercises into your own sweat sesh for arm strength, keep scrolling.
Upper body strength training for surfing
1. Single-arm landmine roll-out: This landmine exercise places one end of the barbell on the ground with the other propped up on a weight. Stabilize yourself on one arm and push the weight back and forth slowly. It’s meant to work your core and upper body stability. Freestone says he does three sets of six on each side.
2. Split-leg deadlift: Done on one leg at a time, the deadlift works your balance and your hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles. Freestone recommends doing three sets of six on each side.
3. Lunge with overhead press: While working your legs through the lunge, the added overhead press strengthens the shoulders. Start out with five to 10 pound weights and move up as you master the move. Freestone does three sets, six on each side.
4. Landmine floor press: This landmine exercise places one end of a bar on the ground so that you can use the weight almost as if it were on an up-and-down lever. From there, Freestone recommends placing the opposite end of the bar in your hand to lift and lower while laying on your back with your feet underneath you to build scapular strength. Try three sets of six on each side.
5. Chin-up: Chin-ups help surfers by working on upper body strength, including the biceps and the back. Freestone does a slow descent chin-up for 10 reps, then quickly pulls himself back up to the top of the bar, and lowers down again.
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