Surfer/Fitness & Health Coach
Lots of pulling, some pushing. Make yourself stronger. Cris Mills

Lots of pulling, some pushing. Make yourself stronger.

The Inertia

Injuries, lack of endurance, and lack of flexibility. That’s probably what I hear about the most from people, or what I see as the general bigger issues. With this video and post, we’ll tackle the lack of endurance.

Adequate flexibility through the joints in the upper body is key. It enables you to be able to train safely and efficiently for endurance–what we’ll call from this point on as “work capacity.”

When we’re talking about flexibility, what we’re really talking about is mobility. That basically just means that you have full access to joint range of motion and can control that movement. Do you have the mobility in the shoulder joint to perform a full paddle stroke? Do you have the mobility in the gleno-humeral joint perform a pop-up? Do you have the mobility through the thoracic spine to get into enough spinal extension when paddling so you’re not beating up your cervical spine or shoulder?

You’ve got to make sure the flexibility/mobility is there, so that you can safely train for work capacity (endurance) and surf pain free. The bottom of this article has some upper body stretches and mobility work.


Take a few seconds and think about what we generally do when paddling out or catching a wave. It’s a combination of paddling strokes of varying intensities, and a pop-up or some duck dives. So there’s an ongoing combination of pulling movements (paddling), pushing movements (pop-ups or duck dives), in a variety of intensities, for a variety of durations.

Surfers need a pretty good amount of work capacity for the upper body. It does vary a bit depending on where you’re surfing, the rip currents, the size of the swell, and other factors, but the bottom line is if you improve your work capacity, you’ll be better off. Lots of pulling, and some pushing.

There are so many ways to go about work capacity training. Jumprope intervals, row machine, swimming intervals, circuit training…. I could go on forever. But one I like to use personally and with clients is an Upper Body Double Pull and Push Circuit. Two push movements, the first being a higher intensity with less reps, the second being a lesser intensity with more reps, followed by a pushing movement, and then a jumprope circuit. All of these movements will hover around 80% intensity. That’s so we can continuously move, keep our muscles producing force, and training our system to deal with sustained energy output.


Upper Body Endurance Surfing Workout
-Strength Based Pull (Higher Intensity, Lower Reps (8-10)
-Endurance Based Pull (Lower Intensity, Higher Reps (15-20)
-Push Variation (8-15 Reps depending on movement)
-Cardio Movement – Jumprope, Ski-Erg, Rower, Throwing Ropes
-Repeat 3-5 Times
-Short Rest Periods.
-You’re a Beast.

Substitute the movements based on your equipment and capability.  Focus on quality movement over quantity. That’s Important. Keep  yourself moving for a longer period of time with minimal rests.

You need to have healthy joints and full range of motion. If you’re limited from an injury or orthopedic issue, you need to utilize as much range of motion possible in a pain free range, and regain as much movement potential as possible. Work on your flexibility, your tissue health, trigger points, and joint alignment / posture.

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