So you’ve decided to surf! Amazing. Doing Pilates exercises for surfing will definitely improve your strength. Beginner surfers often comment on how much harder surfing is than they thought it would be. Learning a new skill or improving your ability level in a sport is always challenging, but that effort is worth it! One of the ways to lessen the steep learning curve of surfing is to do the correct exercises to prepare. We know we’ve covered surf camp preparation before here, but this time we will focus more on the strengthening aspect of preparation.
Pilates exercises are ideal for preparing you for surfing. This mind-body workout focuses on strength, stretching, balance and alignment. These are all important for surfing! While we could go in-depth with workout options, we will provide you with a short, straightforward selection of exercises to help your paddling, pop-up, surfing and balance. Since this is such a curated list of movements, we encourage you to do ten reps of each exercise at least four times a week, if not more! If you want a longer routine check out this YouTube video.
When doing Pilates, it is vital to engage your core muscles. These include the abdominals in the front of the body, paying particular attention to the lower abs, down by your belly button. Obliques are also essential, and they are the core muscles on the sides of your torso. Of course, back muscles are also a big part of your core and very important for surfing!
Set-Up: Lay down on your back (supine), and with your legs slightly separated, bend your knees until your feet are firmly planted on the ground directly underneath your knees. Place your arms by your side, engaging your triceps as you press the back of your arms into the ground. Think of creating a wrapping sensation around your lower core to engage your back, abdominals in the front and obliques on the sides.
Movement: Slowly lift your hips until your torso is in a straight line connecting your shoulders, hips and knees. Slowly lower down and repeat.
Set-Up: While lying on your back, bring your legs one at a time into tabletop. Tabletop means lifting your feet and floating your legs in the air with approximately a 90* angle at both the hips and the knees. If you think of your shins as a tabletop, you will be able to get them parallel to the ground. Place your arms out to the sides, with the palms facing up. Firmly press your arms and shoulders into the ground. Squeeze your legs together. Make sure your shoulders stay on the floor, and the knees don’t separate!
Movement: Slowly tip your legs first to one side, then the other. Spine Twist Supine is an oblique exercise, not a leg exercise! One way to engage the proper muscles is to think of the movement coming from your waistline. The legs are like a weight, which you have to move side to side with your core; they don’t initiate the movement.
Lay down on your back with your legs extended long. Engage your abdominals and bring your arms back as if you want to put them on the ground next to your ears. We don’t want the back arching, so if your back starts to lift off of the ground, that’s as far as the arms should go.
Slowly roll your body off of the floor, starting with your arms and ending when you are sitting up. Think of rolling your spine up in a progression, one vertebra at a time. As you sit up at the top, engage all of your core, so you create length in your torso, space between your ribs and your hips. We don’t want to end up collapsed in the center of the body. If your legs start lifting off the ground while rolling up to a sitting position, stop at that point. You don’t have to sit all the way up!
Set-Up: Move into a push-up position, either with straight legs or on your knees. Make sure your wrists are directly under your shoulders. Push your hands firmly into the ground as if you are trying to get your chest as far away from the ground as possible, as this will help you engage your upper back muscles.
Movement: Hold this plank position for 30-60 seconds. For variation or to make the exercise more difficult, you can also try holding a plank with one leg in the air for 15-30 seconds and then switch legs. There is also the option of adding push-ups to the plank. If you do this, keep your elbows close to the sides of your body. Think of having your elbows brush your ribs as you push up and down.
Set-Up: Lay down on your stomach with arms overhead, like in a superman position. Engage your core muscles so your chest, arms and legs are in the air. Make sure you remain looking down so you don’t put unnecessary strain on your neck.
Movement: Keeping your arms and legs straight, lift one leg and the opposite arm, then switch. Swimming faster is easier than swimming slowly. You can decide your level of challenge!
Doing Pilates exercises to improve your surfing will definitely pay off, making your first lesson easier or helping you maneuver the board with grace after you’ve been surfing in the lineup for a while. Practice these Pilates exercises for surfing before coming to the Pura Vida Adventures surf and yoga retreat here in Costa Rica and you will feel the benefits!