When it comes to training for surfing, or any action sport for that matter, balance is the magic ingredient. Ask any skilled athlete or trainer, and you can bet that they have some aspect of balance training in their program. The great thing about balance training is that you do not need a gym membership or access to a professional facility to train. In fact, with these three exercises, all you need is your body.
1. The Pistol Squat
The pistol squat is a nifty movement. It comes up in gymnastics training, in the yoga studio, and many other bodyweight training disciplines. It is a great balance exercise to include in your action sports training. Whether you are surfing, snowboarding, or skateboarding, developing dynamic leg strength is going to help you upgrade your time in doing what you love.
What is so great about the pistol squat is that it is a unilateral movement, which is just a fancy way of saying you are isolating one side of your body. This is important because by nature, one side of our body is weaker than the other. Some of us ride goofy, some of us ride regular. Some of us sleep on our left side and some on our right. The pistol squat will help you work on imbalances in your body while at the same time improving your balance.
TIP: Start with lowering down to a chair or box. Make sure to keep the weight on your heel and reach your hips back while you reach your arms forward as a counterbalance. If you can bust out 10 pistol squats on each side, you are a rockstar.
2. The Chest to Wall Handstand
Perhaps one of the coolest party tricks and the creme de la creme of balance exercises is the handstand. Not only is the handstand good for showing off and improving your balance, it is actually a great mobility exercise for the shoulders and spine. Not to mention it can help you get very strong.
One of the biggest issues I come across training with surfers is tight shoulders. Paddling and lying facedown on a surfboard can put your shoulders in a compromised position. The handstand is great for fixing this issue.
You do not need to do a freestanding handstand to gain the benefits from this movement. Start with you chest to the wall (or in my case, a palm tree) and think about pushing the ground away while pulling your head through your arm pits. This is important because it will allow you to open up the muscles in your chest and shoulder girdle. As you get more comfortable in this position, start to bring one foot off the wall. Then maybe two. Keep up with this, and you might find yourself floating upside down before you know it. Think you can hold a chest to wall handstand for 60 seconds? Let’s see it.
3. Slackline/Rail Balancing
If you have ever had the opportunity to step on a slack line or balance on a handrail for the first time, you know how awkward it is. I have watched some of the most gifted athletes fumble with this. This is because the slackline works more than just your muscles; it is a tool that helps develop your vestibular system, the part of your body in your inner ear that is responsible for finding balance and control. Spending some time on the slackline or walking on some handrails is a great way to start your morning because it will turn on that system and get your ready for a day on the slopes or in the swell.