Fit to Surf


The Surfer’s Guide to Strength and Conditioning by Rocky Snyder

Rocky Snyder FIt to SurfCopyright© 2003 by Rocky Snyder.  All rights reserved.
You must cite the author and source of this content if you wish to use or reprint it in any form.

Strength Training

Bursts of speed are often required when surfing.  This is why strength training is powerful component in your conditioning program.  As mentioned earlier, strength training consists of relatively short bursts of muscular force anywhere up to 1 to 2 minutes.  This type of training builds size and strength in the muscles and conditions them to store more energy for immediate use.

However, after only twenty or thirty seconds of such activity the source of immediate energy is exhausted and the muscles (and your liver) have to release a form of sugar that is broken down to create even more energy.  Strength training conditions the body to sore more of this sugar for future needs.  This chemical reaction not only allows the muscles to continue generating force but also unfortunately creates lactic acid.  Lactic acid accumulation in muscle tissue creates a burning sensati0on in the muscles.  This burning may cause you to stop before you want.  Strength training increases your tolerance for lactic acid, allowing you to paddle hard and farther.  Other benefits of strength training include:

  • Increased energy levels.
  • Reduced injury potential.
  • Increased bone density.
  • Increased body circulation.
  • Heightened body awareness.

When performing strength exercises, remember the five Rs, important elements of every strength program:

  1. Resistance:  The amount of weight or other resistance used during an exercise.  Whatever the amount of resistance chosen, it's essential to retain proper form while doing the exercise.
  2. Repetitions:  The number of times a movement is performed during a set of an exercise.  Typically, the lower the number of repetitions (with high resistance), the more basic strength is trained; the higher the repetitions (with low resistance), the more muscular endurance is trained.
  3. Range of motion:  The movement a muscle is responsible for.  Ideally, it is best to train the muscle's fullest range of motion.
  4. Rest:  The amount of time spent resting between each set of exercises.  An ideal rest period is between 30 seconds and 2 minutes, but the rest period may increase with greater intensity of exercise.
  5. Recovery:  The amount of time spent between strength training workouts of the same muscle group.  It is often recommended that you allow 48 hours after strength training one muscle group before exercising that same group again, though this is not an ironclad rule.  If you find that you are strength training the same muscle groups two days in a row, it would be wise to change the selection of exercises for the following day (for example, when exercising the chest (pectorals), perform the dumbbell bench press on Monday and perform stability ball push-ups on Tuesday).

When you are training for strength, try to achieve temporary muscle fatigue in one set of each exercise.  Temporary muscle fatigue occurs when the muscle are so exhausted that another repetition cannot be performed with proper technique.

In selecting your strength workout program, choose a range of exercises in order to incorporate all the major muscle groups.  If you intend to perform strength workouts more than three to four times per week, it may be better to focus on upper body on one day and lower body on a different day.

It's important to maintain proper form from start to finish in a set.  It's equally important to have someone act as a spotter for safety when you perform exercise with weights that are suspended above your body.  If you experience pain during an exercise stop immediately and omit that exercise from the workout for the time being.

Exhale during the exertion phase of each exercise (for example, exhaling as you push upward during the dumbbell bench press).  If you experience dizziness or pain during an exercise, stop immediately and omit that exercise from the workout for the time being.