How to train well for surfing: Paddling

Want to improve your paddle form? Here’s where to start. Photo: Adrenaline Athlete.

Editor’s note: This piece was written and supported by Alan Bisseker of Adrenaline Athlete, a professional strength and conditioning coach who works with elite athletes in multiple sports, including world champions, Olympic gold medalists and many professional surfers. Get 30% off Alan’s monthly subscription plan, with weekly workouts delivered straight to your phone, here. If you’re interested in working with Alan 1-on-1, he offers a free 45-minute Zoom consultation. Register now.

If you don’t take away anything else from reading this article, please let it be this. When it comes to improving physical performance in surfing, keep it simple, focus on exactly what you’re trying to improve, and find yourself where you are.

What holds most people back from making progress in land surf training is the tidal wave of nonsense you’ll find on social media (except for this account, of course). Once you cut out the noise, surf training isn’t complicated. I must also point out that I am not here to overstate the importance of strength and fitness in surfing, because ultimately technical ability will be the most important factor in your performance in the water. Strength and conditioning (if used correctly) will simply allow you to perform faster, harder and for longer – and who doesn’t want that!

With that in mind, I decided to break things down into simple exercises that anyone can do, focused on improving specific aspects of surfing such as paddle boarding, pop ups and surfing that are crucial for any surfer. , from beginner to professional. The exercises I have provided are by no means exhaustive, but they will work for 99% of you. This article, the first of three, will cover fitness paddle.

Paddle power test with Adrenaline Athlete

QS surfer and English National Champion Luke Dillon tests his paddling power. Photo: Adrenaline Athlete.

For many surfers, especially beginners, “paddling fitness” is the biggest barrier to progression. We spend up to 55% of our time in the water paddling, at varying intensities and with limited rest, especially when exiting from the stern. Therefore, you need sufficient aerobic capacity (or VO2max) to sustain intense, repeated paddling efforts, quickly replenish energy, and then repeat repeatedly.

On a muscular level, you also need excellent endurance from your glutes, abs, lats, traps, upper back, and shoulders (to name a few) to hold yourself in that extended “arched” position and perform the repetitive paddling motion, without the dreaded “shoulder burn” stopping you in your tracks.

How to train

Aerobic capacity: Any steady, low-intensity activity like swimming, biking, or running will help build the necessary infrastructure (small blood vessels, oxidative cells, ventricular capacity, etc.) required to increase your aerobic capacity. 30 to 90 minutes at a brisk pace, three times a week will show results.

For the time-pressed surfer, shorter, more intense intervals have also proven effective in improving aerobic capacity. Try six to eight minutes of intense (but sustained) effort on a rowing machine or SkiErg (with corresponding rest periods), or 20 to 30 seconds of full effort with 40 seconds of rest to improve paddle fitness .

Muscular endurance: Embrace the shoulder burn! The dreaded Bottle Hops exercise (see above) is both loved and hated by my private clients, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more powerful stimulus for burn-resistant shoulders. Try timed sets of 30-60 seconds of quality reps (similar rest periods, initially) or aim to do 100 total quality reps, with as little rest as possible.

Next step in this series: sprint by paddling and jumping.

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