Weightlifting Routines For Improved Surfing

Surfing guidebooks generally recommend a wide range of weightlifting routines to supplement surfing.  These routines tend to complex, time consuming, and expensive.  They require a wide range of equipment, and significant time commitments to gyms.  This is a guide to a weightlifting routine that focus on a single goal: improve your surfing.

Why Weight Lifting?

Why lift weights at all? Weightlifting will give you more strength and endurance.  It will make you faster and more explosive.  The routine advocated in this article will make your body more symmetrical.  Where does this come into play?

Surfing Fundamentals Benefited:

  • Paddling
  • Popups
  • Turns

The 5/3/1 Routine

Download the Routine (PDF)

Download a Routine Spreadsheet (XLS)

The best weightlifting routine for beginners (and perhaps advanced lifters) is the Wendler 5/3/1 routine.


The 5/3/1 Routine is deceptively simple.  Other routines require countless hours and complicated schedules.

The 5/3/1 Routine only requires you to visit the gym twice a week.  You do only four lifts per week, two per day.  You can take your time and still easily finish your lifts within an hour.

The 5/3/1 Routine advocates Squats, Bench Press, Deadlifts, and Military Press.  Because these lifts are so common, there’s a wide range of advice and resources for each lift.  Why these lifts?  They are all multiple muscle group lifts.  All of the lifts forces your muscles to be in harmony.


The number one reason to use the 5/3/1 routine: results.  People usually drop weightlifting routines just as fast as they take them on.  Worse, people often take on too much weight, too soon, and injure themselves (sometimes permanently).  Using this weightlifting routine will improve the endurance, explosiveness, and balance of your surfing.  The routine starts slow and builds gradually.


Increased Paddling Endurance

I didn’t expect it, but I absolutely have increased paddling endurance.  My hypothesis is that the endurance boost comes from having a stronger core.  One of the greatest problems with surf paddling endurance is poor form due to fatigued back and shoulder muscles.

All of the Wendler lifts engage and improve the back and core muscles. My form stays solid longer and my shoulders don’t droop.  In turn, I can paddled much longer, and I’m much less sore after.

Increased Explosiveness: Paddling and Pumping

Upper-body: The biggest improvement to my surfing came in the form of increased explosiveness.  I went from struggling on the inside to being the farthest outside surfer in the crowd.  I’m getting more out of each stroke, and less fatigued by the time I popup.  My popups are faster and more graceful.

Lower-body:  The other area of surfing benefited by explosiveness is manuevers.  My pumps, turns, and stalls are all much more powerful.  My sprays are bigger and my carves easier to execute.


Free weight lifting has emerged in recent years as a prime method of improving muscle balance and correcting for symmetrical imbalances.  After starting my weightlifting routine I quickly discovered my left leg was much weaker than my right leg. I discovered this while squatting.  See the video below.

Video of knee valgus: watch the left knee shoot towards the center as the lifted comes off the bottom.  This is due to weakness in the lifters left leg and back.


Stoke Drift