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Weight Training for Surfing

Stay Fit and Strong for Surfing


Updated February 04, 2013

Taj Burrow

Taj Burrow

(c) Jay DiMartino

Whether it's body surfing, bodyboarding, or board surfing, the strength and power required for the inherent twisting, turning and even tumbling required in surfing moves is taxing of energy and demanding of fitness and muscle strength and flexibility. Successful surfing requires a combination of power, strength, flexibility, and endurance. Upper body, core, and lower body fitness is essential. Fitness for swimming is a good start, but you need more.

Weight training and strength training, used intelligently, can promote and enhance your skill characteristics in the surf. Because all athletes have individual needs, a generic program like the one that follows will need to be modified for style, age, goals, and facilities available. However, here's a weights program, starting out, that you can use to set yourself up for surfing for recreation or competition.

General Preparation

The general preparation phase should provide all-round muscle and strength conditioning. If you prepare on a seasonal basis, Summer for example, this would be used in the early pre-season, perhaps last Winter. If you do not have seasons, then just progress through the training phases in sequence and start over if you have an extended break.

As a general rule, and for all the following program phases, you will be better off not surfingafter a strenuous weight training session. Recover full strength or at least don't compete that day, for performance and safety reasons.

Frequency - 2 to 3 sessions per week for 6 to 8 weeks
Type - general conditioning
Exercises - 9 exercises, 3 sets of 10 to 12, plus warm-up and cool-down in the Basic Strength and Muscle program. (I favor the Romanian type deadlift rather than full deadlift in this program.)
Rest between sets - 30-90 seconds

Specific Preparation

In this phase, you will focus more on the development of strength and power. This is the period, later pre-season, leading up to the start of competition.

Frequency - 2 to 3 session per week, 4 to 6 weeks
Type - strength and power
Exercises - 5 sets of 6: Romanian deadlift, incline bench press, hang power clean, pullups, squats -- plus combo crunches at 3 sets of 10 to 12
Rest between sets - 2-3 minutes, crunches, 1-2 minutes

Competition Phase

The aim of this phase is the maintenance of strength and power. Surfing and competition should dominate. If you don't compete, then enjoy your new strength recreationally. Prior to the start of competition, take 7-10 days break from heavy weights work at the end of Specific Preparation while maintaining your ocean work. Weight training in the competition phase should play essentially a maintenance role.

Frequency - 1 to 2 sessions per week
Type - power; lighter loads and faster execution than in the specific preparation phase
Exercises - 3 sets of 10, rapid concentric movement, 40% to 60% of 1RM. Squats, hang clean, Romanian deadlift. Crunches.
Rest between sets - 1-2 minutes

Aerobic Conditioning

Surfing for hours requires stamina, endurance and aerobic fitness. Surfers should run or cycle for this type of fitness. A regular run is a crucial training element for increasing aerobic fitness and endurance, especially for those who spend long hours in the surf, training or competing. Distance run should be between 6 and 8 kilometres at moderate pace for four or five days each week. Long surfing and paddling or swimming sessions can replace some of this aerobic conditioning. Longer endurance training should be avoided to minimize muscle loss and conversion of fiber type from fast to slow.

Circuit training in the gym can also provide aerobic conditioning.


  • Be sure to warm up prior to weight training.
  • Don't train through serious injuries, acute or chronic.
  • Don't sacrifice a surfing session for a weights session if you are time poor -- unless you're treating, or recovering from an injury with weights work. Surfing is the primary skill you need.
  • If you have a knowledgeable strength and conditioning coach, be guided by him or her regarding the details of your program.
  • Take at least a few weeks off at the end of the season to recover after a hard season of training and surfing.
  • If you're new to weight training, read up on the fundamentals before you start.

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