1. Core strength for lying on the board
2. Paddling endurance
3. Strength and control needed for the pop-up


This article explains some key exercises for surfing strength across different surfing skills. Surfing is a tough endurance sport which many people are sometimes unprepared for. You must have good strength to catch a wave and pop-up/stand-up with minimal effort. Through my experience in strength and conditioning, I can see how beneficial some basic strength exercises for surfing would accelerate the rate of learning for a beginner surfer. 


As a beginner, the essential physical components that will give you a good platform are,


  • Being able to do full press-up(s) – 15 for girls 25 for boys.
  • Having good core stability – 60 -120s plank
  • Having total upper body endurance – aerobic and muscular
  • Having good mobility / flexibility – Specifically hips and ankles.



Lying on the surfboard


Lying on the surfboard is an active process, it is not like lying down on land where you can just let everything relax. It is one of the only sports where you have to find your balance whilst on your belly. This means that you must have the core engaged creating a single solid structure that can be unconsciously moved together. As a result, to be able to perform a plank for an absolute minimum of 60 seconds is essential.  To help with this please try the short core circuits below.


Strength exercises for surfing – Core Development Circuit,


Traditional plank 30-60s


Side Plank 30s


V-sit Hold 60s


Repeat three times.


Alternatively, try our bodyweight beach workout aim at both core and full-body strength – Animal Flow


The pop-up


The pop-up involves pushing your whole weight up on an unstable surface. You must be efficient at a normal press-up so that you can easily control the balance of the board whilst performing the full pop-up movement. The pop-up should be effortless so that you can keep all senses focus on the external environment around you (where the board is, what the wave is doing, getting your feet to the standing position). If you are using all your focus and working memory on pushing up you will find it very hard to get to a standing position in time, especially if you are trying to catch a green wave.


If press-ups are your problem then there are 2 ways you can improve to progress to being able to perform full press-ups. Option 1 is performing knee press-ups which reduces the amount of weight you have to push with from the floor. Option 2 is by using eccentric or negative press-ups. Here you slowly lower yourself from a full-press top position to the floor over 5 seconds. You can crawl back to the top position and repeat 5 times. This exercise has the same muscle activation as normal press-ups and eccentric movements stimulated high threshold motor units which are used for explosive movements.  Try this circuit to improve your pop-up strength related to your pop-up.


Strength exercises for surfing – Upper body push and pop-up strength


Knee press-ups x 20


Eccentric Press-ups 5s down x 5


Pop-up Practice x 10


Repeat 3 times




The better your upper body endurance is the more time you will practice catching a wave and popping up on the board. If you only have the endurance to paddle out 3 times that means you only practice catching a wave 3 times.  This simple factor of being fit to practice the skill more, is pivotal in accelerating your training. If you do not have the opportunity to surf 3-5 times per week, I would suggest swimming, rowing or boxing x 3-5 per week. These alternative activities are the best positive transfer for paddling endurance and great all round strength exercises for surfing.

Need a surf strength training programme. 




Coach Edward Young, Instagram – @Circuitspro

Director of Circuits Pro, Strength and Conditioning Coach

Coach Edward Young has worked for the last 10 years with the ambition to further understand our bodies, their ultimate potential and how to help people to improve the relationship with their own body.