Back Exercises For Surfers

Lower Back Pain is one of the leading causes for time out of the water or time off work. 

When we develop pain, we become fearful of movement or activities that could bring on more pain.

However recovering movement it is often exactly what we need.

Once we have the foundation of good mobility, we can then build strength and capacity to tolerate rotational forces that we create while surfing.

If you have have back pain as a result of a trauma or radiating leg pain, numbness or pins and needles in your  leg please consult with a doctor or physiotherapist in your area to be assessed.   

Below are exercises that will improve your back mobility, strength and rotational core stability so you can surf at your best.  

Back Mobility

Surf Half Pop-Up / Back Extensions

Thoracic extension in prone
Surf Physio Lower back exercise for surfers


Technique: Lie on your stomach. Place your hands besides your chest like you were about to do a pop up / pushup. 

Push your upper torso off of the ground, as your hips stay relaxed and push up as high as you can go. 

If you are unable to straighten your arms, keep working to restore mobility go a little further each time as tolerated. 

Repeat 10-15 times every 2-3 hours as tolerated  

Regression: Lying propped up on your elbows in sustained extension for 1-3 minutes at a time 

Progressions:  Towel overpressure wrapped around your lower back and the ends of the towel under your hands as you pushup or therapist overpressure on your lower back

Cat / Cow Stretch


Technique: Start on your hands and knees. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.

Inhale through your nose, as you extend 1 by 1 up your spine and look straight ahead. Exhale, as you round your back and push through your hands and push your chest away from the floor

Regression: Perform in standing with hands on the wall at shoulder height.

Progressions:  Perform in full plank position either with arms straight or owith bent arms weight bearing through your forearms

Lower Back Rotation Mobility

Lower Back Surf Rehab Exercise


Technique: Lie on your back with your knees bent up to 90 degrees and your feet on the floor. Arms stretched out to either side of you. Rotate to one side and stretch your top leg long. 

Regression: Rotate both your legs to one side exhale and relax. 

Progressions:  Cross one leg over the top of the other with your foot resting on your lower part of your thigh. Rotate towards the side with the leg crossed over.

Perform with legs suspended in the air with hips and knees bent at 90/90 position. Straighten one leg 

Middle Back Extensions


Technique: Sit in a chair. Place your hands behind your head, with your elbows facing forwards. Arch backwards over the chair as far you can comfortably manage.  You can move your hips forward in the chair if you need to target higher up your spine.

Regression: Lying on a rolled up towel for 2-3 minutes at a tight segment and using nasal breathing to create mobility at stiff segments.

Progressions:  Swiss Ball back arches or foam roller


Middle Back Mobility With Foam Roller


Technique: Perform back extensions over a foam roller for extra pressure to your middle back. As you arch backwards over the foam roller try to keep your ribs at the front down. It can help to place one hand one your lower ribs to remind you. Or if you inhale as you arch back you will tend to focus the area to your middle back rather than your lower back arching.


Progressions: 2 tennis or bounce balls / Peanut to be able to arch over to localise at a specific segment.

Add moving a medicine ball overhead as you arch backwards so as to improve the force as you arch back

Middle Back Rotation Mobility


Technique:  Sit in a chair with your feet wide apart, rotate around to one side as far as you can. Use your hands and arms on the chair to twist around further. 

Lying down on one side with your knees bent up to 90 degrees. Roll your top half back 

Regression: Place stick on top of your shoulders and rotate around to one side.

Progressions:  Increase speed as you rotate to one side. Place band around back to perform when rotating. Add cable to 


Back Strengthening

Lifting Your Upper Body Off The Board


Technique: Lying flat on your stomach with your feet together. Lift your upper torso off the ground and hold for 5-10seconds.  

Regression:  Perform in lying on your elbows and forearms or in kneeling on hands in knees as found in the back mobility exercise Cat /Cow

Progressions:  Lift one leg up at a time. Alternate paddling with resistance bands

Surfer's Hip Hinge


Learning a hip hinge is fundamental to be a be able to deadlift safely with good technique. It’s also a great way to build posterior chain strength of your back, glute and hamstring muscles. These all help develop power in your surfing and help with paddling endurance.

Technique: Stand a step out away from a wall close behind you. Soften your knees by bending only slightly about 20 degrees. Push your bottom back towards the wall as you learn forward with your trunk. Keep your torso in neutral alignment when you lean forwards. To prevent overarching through your back keep your ribs down at the front. And if your back is rounded think about pulling your shoulders down and back towards your back pockets.

Regression:  Half Kneeling hip hinge with stick on back

Progressions:  Hip Hinge and then lift your arms up forwards to counterbalance and increase the work on your back muscles.



Deadlifts are great way to develop a powerful posterior chain (Glutes, Hamstrings and Lower Back). This will help generate power in your surfing manoeuvres. Only perform deadlifts with proper technique. If you are unsure of your technique go see a physiotherapist or personal trainer in your area. 

Technique: Perform a deadlift from waist down to knees. Stand with the bar hands just outside shoulder with full fist grips. Think about holding a piece of paper between your armpit or breaking the bar in half to engage your lats. As you lean forward and perform a hip hinge pause as you reach your knees. If you have good control and flexibility progress to lowering to top of shin, pause then return to knees and pause again, as you lift the bar upwards push through heels and hips to return to an upright position. 

Regression:  Learn Hip Hinge first use stick on back for guidance of posture. Smith machine bar for more controlled movement of the bar or kettlebell deadlift for a manageable load.

Progressions:  Once mastered progress to a Deadlift from the floor to your waist (Requires excellent technique so that you don’t put your back at risk of injury)

Rotational Core Training for Power Surfing

Thoracic Rotation Mobility



Technique:  Get into a deep squat with your arms stretched out behind you. Explode your arms upwards as fast as you can as you jump up to the box.

Regression: Start from a chair if you struggle to get into a squat position.

Progressions:  Depth jump down from box up onto another box.

Pallof Press


Technique: Jump up from the ground perform a 180 degree or a 360 degree turn and land in a squat with good knee and ankle alignment.

Your feet should be shoulder width apart as you land, avoid buckling at the knees and land with your chest over your front knee.


Regression: Decrease height of jump

Progressions: From a box or bench to increase height of jump

Banded Backhand Rotations


Technique: Set up in your normal surfing stance. Place a resistance band under your front foot and in your opposite hand. 

Regression: Land on 2 legs if you are too unstable on 1 leg.

Progressions: Use a BOSU ball to increase the height and length of your jump.  Land on 1 leg with good control, compress into a single leg squat to absorb the force.

Medicine Ball Rotations


Technique: Jump sideways and land on one leg. Increase your height or distance to increase the challenge on your stability.

Regression: Land on 2 legs if you are too unstable on 1 leg.

Progressions: Use a BOSU ball to increase the height and length of your jump.  Land on 1 leg with good control, compress into a single leg squat to absorb the force.

Cable Chops



Technique: Jump sideways and land on one leg. Increase your height or distance to increase the challenge on your stability.

Regression: Decrease height of box

Progressions: Land on a softer surface to increase demand on stability or a firmer surface to mimic the forces of landing in the flats.