Shoulder Exercises For Surfers

Your shoulders are one of the most important areas of your body to keep strong and mobile for surfing. 

They are involved in power production during paddling to get out the back or sprinting to catch a wave. 

Your shoulders also help you to generate strength through pressing down when we duck dive or pop up quickly to your board. 

They can also aid you with balance through cutbacks, powerful top turn re-entries and opening up on backside bottom turns.

Below are examples of exercises that will improve your shoulder strength and develop your paddling muscles.  

Chin Ups

Chin up Surf physio


Chin ups are a fantastic way to develop lat strength. Having strong lats will enable you to develop better paddling power with sprint paddling which will increase your wave count.

Technique: Grab the bar and wrap thumbs under and around the bar onto your knuckles to make a proper fist grip.

Keep your feet together, ideally relaxed hanging in neutral. Some people find it easier to cross legs. I prefer them hanging down in front.

Inhale as you pull your chest up to the bar while drawing your elbows down and back.

Regression: Active/Passive Hanging, Band assisted chin ups, neutral fist chin ups, underhand pull ups or lat pull down machine

Progressions:  1 Eccentric Chin Ups slowly lowering down 2 Using a weight belt to increase resistance.

Cable Pull Downs


Cable pull downs are another great way to develop your paddling power. Especially if you have an imbalance or weakness in one of your shoulders.  Or don’t have sufficient strength to perform good quality chin-ups.

Technique: Position the cable up high at a 45 degree angle down to your shoulder. 

Feet shoulder width apart or in a split stance.

Grab cable handle with palm facing down to floor, elbow slightly bent. Ideally you are not at full stretch you should have arm at 150 degrees flexion or 30 degrees off fully straight over head.

Exhale as you pull down while drawing your elbow down and back.

Straightening the elbow to improve the push phase of your paddling

Control the return of the weight slowly back up to the starting position

Regression: Drop the height of the cable and reduce the angle down if you have difficulty with overhead mobility, Drop the weight

Progressions: Increase weight, Alternate arms, Lying on a bench 

Bar/Ring/TRX Incline Rows

Ring Rows Pull ups Surf Physio


If you lack strength to perform chin ups then this is a great exercise to help develop the muscles that help you with chin ups and also paddling. 

Using a suspension system such as rings or TRX and adjust them to a comfortable height for you. 

Grab the rings or handles make a full fist grip and lean back. 

Pull  yourself upright, then slowly lower back down to the starting position.

You could also perform this if you fatigue to early with chin ups and you can’ get enough repetitions.

Regression: Drop the height of the cable and reduce the angle down if you have difficulty with overhead mobility, Drop the weight

Progressions: Lower the height of the rings so you are more parallel to the ground, this will mean you have to pull up more of your bodyweight.