What Muscles Does Surfing Work

What Muscles Does Surfing Work? Even Those You May Not Consider

By Sophia the SeaMonster on Jan 28, 2023

Looking lean without looking weak and muscular without the bulk. The Sharp muscle lines and the overall body balance are perfectly symmetrical.

That’s the same enviable athletic physique most common with professional surfers.

But those professionals weren’t always that fit; they put knowledge, time, and effort into getting there.

The knowledge of the muscles that surfing works, taking their time training them, and the effort to stay patient and persistent. And this is exactly what I’ve dedicated to this article, primarily focusing on the ‘knowledge’ part!

So, stay tuned and get all that muscle knowledge at your fingertips.

What Muscles Does Surfing Work? The Quick Pick

Surfing works almost all of your body muscles, from the shoulders to the lower legs. Primarily, surfing involves your core muscles and the muscles of the arms, shoulders, legs, and back. The arms and shoulders are used while paddling; leg muscles like hamstrings and quads help you stand up, and turns involve obliques and the lower back muscles.

Now that you’ve got a brief idea of muscles used in surfing, let me explain all the steps-wise important muscle groups surfing involves, on both the primary and secondary levels!

Surfing Muscles Used from Start to Finish

Muscles Used for Paddling

Undoubtedly, paddling is the most demanding part of surfing. That’s because you have to rely solely on a couple of muscles to gain the full range of forward motion. Surfers spend 60% of their time paddling in the water. And the percentage can increase for beginners as they aren’t skilled enough to catch each good wave coming on and frequently have to paddle to catch wave after wave. So being familiar with the exact muscles used in paddling is crucial for beginner surfers.

When you prepare to take off on a good-looking wave, you must set the right posture while lying on the surfboard. If you just lay flat on the board, you won’t be able to gain the motion and momentum required for paddling. You need to squeeze your glutes and lower back muscles to raise your upper body. While partially supporting your upper body lifted, shoulder and arms muscles will then be engaged to paddle toward the wave.

While paddling, Your core muscles, including your abs and lower back, will support you to maintain a stable position on the surfboard, while your upper back muscles will help keep your upper body raised from the board.

The Muscles Used For The "Pop-up Technique"

It’s time to bring your body from the lying down, paddling position to your standing stance when you’re riding the wave. When both the forward motion and power of the wave prevent you from upping your body, your chest and triceps help you get there while your core muscles help you stay stable on the board.

When you’re finally ready for the stance on the surfboard, your leg muscles come into play.

The Muscles Used For Riding The Wave

When there’s no long-lasting stability and inspiring maneuvers, no one will clap for you. And the only muscles that help you achieve that surfer’s feel are your leg and core muscles.

Solid hamstrings and quads provide perfect stability and grip. They also play a key role in generating speed when doing the pumping technique, in which the surfer surfs up and down the face of the wave in a smooth, flowing motion.

Got an urge to maneuver? Your core muscles, including hips and abs, will allow all that, such as bottom turns, carves, cutbacks, and aerials. Plus, they are often associated with torso rotations, which always happen.

Ligaments And Tendons Play Vital Roles As Well

Both ligaments and tendons are fibrous connective tissues in the body.

Ligaments attach bones to each other while serving the purpose to hold structures together and keep them stable. 

Tendons attach muscle to the bone while serving to move the bone or structure.

With all that said, it’s pretty clear now that some intensive water sports like surfing consist of explosive movements and put so much pressure on your ligaments and tendons. Turns out, taking good care of these tissues is as important as strength training. The stronger these tissues, the lower the risk of injuries.

The best way to keep your ligaments and tendons healthy is by focusing on your diet, training, and stretching.

Strength, Endurance, and Flexibility

All that directly translates to the power, balance, and technique that surfing requires. While maintaining your muscles' strength, you also need to have some cardiovascular exercise that would pay off well when perks in surfing test your endurance levels. And not to mention, only good workout routines, a balanced diet, and discipline can get you to achieve that.

But getting there isn’t as difficult as you may think - dedicating just 30 minutes a day, three days per week of strength training, while short bouts of aerobic exercise combined will prepare your body for the surf challenges. Not only this, but as you combine daily workouts with surf sessions, you’ll burn more calories with less effort. The number of calories that surfing burns are more than the number of calories an aerobic workout burns!

It also pays to keep your surf muscles fully oxygenated and active. Quit smoking, follow a few simple physical guidelines and eat well.

As said earlier, find some stretching exercises that match your surfing before and after.

There’s Also Something Other Than Muscles At Work While Surfing

That’s your brain! Yes, beginners who have developed a few generic skills will likely reduce the time it takes to learn surfing.

Though many of these generic skills create as you get into the venture and become regular, getting mentally prepared beforehand could add to the dopamine!

  • A Passion for Learning - When you set your goal of jumping from novice to pro, you’re training your brain to utilize energy in learning from experienced folks instead of feeling jealous of them and hindering your progress.
  • No Give-Ups - At the beginning, when the weather conditions are excellent, you could see hundreds of waves coming on. And the fun part is: You’re mainly able to ride just a few. Those you miss aren’t your failures; if you haven’t missed them, you won’t have ridden your best waves as a beginner - just because you didn’t give up!
  • More Confidence - As you start building reasonably good strength, endurance, and flexibility, you feel more confident not only for getting good at the sport but for being on the journey to a healthy lifestyle by acquiring a fit body.

Final Thought

As you know by now, surfing is a sport that requires strength, balance, and technique. With the knowledge of the muscles involved in surfing, you’re better off focussing on the right ones instead of having hours of exhausting workouts in the gym. Prepare your body just a little bit before surfing, and let the sport do what’s remaining!

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