Paddling Surfer

It’s go-time. Photo: Lechat Valentin

The Inertia

Editor’s Note: Check out the 12-week program Surf Style Training with Elise CarverTry a workout and access the full course today.

One of the best ways to achieve better paddle fitness is by, well, paddling. Sure, the movement of swimming freestyle will help, and it’s great for your cardiovascular fitness, but the best thing for improving your paddle fitness…is to paddle. More.

But what do you do when you’re having ocean problems? Away from the beach for a bit? No surf? No time? Or it’s just too bloody cold where you live? How can you work on your paddle fitness when the ocean’s just not an option?

By working on your paddle strength. I’m talking about weight and resistance training that builds the strength in your arms and back so you have the ability to haul buckets out of your way. Buckets!


Here are some tips to point you in the right direction:

1. Concentrate the majority of your attention on the following muscles: lats, rhomboids, triceps and delts.

2. Take time to build strength throughout your shoulder girdle. Check in with your rotator cuffs, triceps and lat activation. These are some of the foundations of good paddle strength.

3. Stick to body weight exercises or light weights. About 60 – 70 percent of your maximum load.

4. Alternate between high repetitions for endurance paddle strength and plyometric low repetitions for high-intensity short bursts, like catching a wave.


5. Include movements that mimic the motion of paddling. Such as the ski machine, lat pulldowns, and exercises like the one in the sample workout video below.

6. Go for the burn on a regular basis. Planking movements practiced continuously for one minute are a great example.

7. Try activities like boxing and rock climbing as alternative ways to build sustained paddle strength.

8. Don’t forget to incorporate recovery into your training plan. Stretching, massages, trigger point release, rest days, and hot/cold therapy are all great.

9. Pay particular attention to stretching your chest and triceps, plus trigger point your SCM, scalene’s and traps to release excess muscle tension from your neck and shoulders when building your paddle strength.

Here’s one more technique for building paddle fitness in the water.

In between the sets when you’re paddling back out or just around (this one is great to fill those long lulls), paddle hard and fast for ten strokes, then alternate with ten slow, drawn-out strokes. Run through this cycle five times, then stop and catch your breath before doing it again.

The benefit of this technique is it builds the fast twitch response required for catching waves – when your body goes from mild activity into hyper-drive. The better you get at this, the more horsepower you’ll have when it’s go-time.

For a full body surf fitness program, including upper body and paddle fitness workouts, check out the 12-week program I put together with The Inertia available now. Enter code HEALTHY50 to save $50 for a limited time.


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