So you may have heard the old saying, the best way to get fit for - insert your chosen boardsport - is just to do it? I know I certainly have and I have to say I agree with the statement in principle too.
If you are constantly on your surfboard or snowboard or kiteboard then yes, the exact muscles needed for that sport will be getting trained to do exactly what they need to do for that sport.
I have never felt as surf fit as when I lived and worked on the beach and was surfing for 2-3 hours, five or six days of the week. I felt like I could have paddled out at Waimea at that point (I jest somewhat of course!).
If you have the lifestyle and time to engage in your favourite past time regularly, then you probably won't need to do much else to be fit and strong for that purpose. At least not from a recreational participants viewpoint.
If you compete or are a professional then that's a different story as any small advantage you can get in specific strength over your competitors will be beneficial. All professional athletes have fitness coaches these days and boardsport devotees should be no different.
But What If You Don't Get On Your Board That Much?
Ahh, why does life always get in the way?!
As much as you intend to get the kite out when its windy or head down to your nearest beach when the swell is up, unfortunately as you get older this stays as just an intention far more often than it becomes an action. Work, family, and commitments all scupper the time you could have been on your board.
You may still get to surf that epic spring swell for a day or two or take a couple of long weekends in the mountains when there's been a fresh dump of powder but its likely that this becomes the norm as you head northwards of 40 years old and just have too much other stuff going on.
When you do finally get out on the water or deep in the powder you find your back aches, your shoulders scream at you to stop, your knees hurt and your quads wobble with fatigue. And as for the day after, well...........
So What Can You Do About It?
This is where keeping yourself in shape and training those muscles you would be using becomes so important.
Do you want to be that guy or girl in the line up paddling around and searching for that peach of a wave or the person sitting there exhausted waiting for the wave to come to them? Or even worse, be caught inside and taking another set on the head!
First of all, doing something rather than nothing is a good place to start. Even if it is just a run two or three times a week to keep your lungs ticking over. This will definitely help.
But to really notice that difference come the new swell or snowfall you need a structured plan in place that targets the correct muscles. This will allow you to be at the top of your game - despite the time off.
Lets Take A Look At Some Of The Main Muscle Groups To Focus On.
A lot of the boardsports use similar muscle groups so you can definitely follow a general plan if you want to be fit and strong and ready for say surfing and paddleboarding. But if you are preparing for a specific trip like a lot of my clients do then you need to really dial in and spend time on targeting the specific muscles you need for that one activity.
Core, Legs and Shoulders - If you trained these muscle groups for both endurance and strength across different sessions then you won't go far wrong in feeling stronger across a wide range of disciplines.
Core, Lower back, Lats, Shoulders,Traps and Triceps - Whether your Kelly Slater or not, the vast majority of your time surfing will be spent laying on your board paddling. So it is this position you want to keep strong. Virtually the whole of the upper body is involved in a surfers paddle stroke. Throw some leg work in there as well for your turns and you'll be set.
Core, core, core, Back and Shoulders - A strong mid-section is absolutely vital for paddleboarding as it provides the anchor point for every paddle stroke. Train your shoulders and back muscles as well and you will keep the fatigue at bay.
Core and Legs - As you are attached to the kite at your harness it isn't really arm or back strength that you need to focus on but core strength to brace against the kite and leg strength to adjust to the quick changes in the water and waves and landing jumps if you do them.
Legs and Core - Snowboarding (and skiing) is all about the legs. Train your quads, hamstrings and glutes and you will be able to spend 8 hours up the mountain with much more comfort. If you are newer to the sport and spend a bit of time sitting down (!!) then I would also suggest working on some arm strength to enable you to push yourself back up to your feet better as well.
Core, Arms and Legs - Arms are a really important one with windsurfing. Unless you use a harness you will be attached to your sail by holding onto the boom and this takes good arm strength, especially in a long session. You also have to haul the sail back up out of the water when you fall off, so good arm strength is a must. Add to this a strong core to brace when the wind is blowing hard and strength in your legs to cope with the undulations of the water.
There Was A Lot Of Core In There!
There certainly was and that's because all of your strength starts from your core. You can have strong arms and legs but if your core is weak and underdeveloped your true athletic ability will suffer greatly. Your core is the central link in the chain that connects your upper and lower body.
If you haven't read them yet see my two blog posts on 'So What Exactly Is Your Core?' and 'How Important Is Your Core For Boardsports?' for details on just what muscles make up the core musculature and why they are important for each sport.
And Don't Neglect Your Flexibility!
One of the biggest preventors of injury whilst taking part in boardsports, or indeed any sporting activity really, is being flexible and supple. I will be doing an in-depth post about flexibility training shortly so keep an eye out.
This is especially true as we pass 40 years old. As we age, changes in tendons and ligaments mean we lose flexibility in and across our joints unless we constantly take that joint through its full range of motion.
Regular Yoga sessions are the best way to see an improvement or even just maintain your flexibility but even if you don't manage this, 5- 10 minutes every other day of a simple stretching routine will really help you feel loose, supple and actually make you feel younger.
Try This One
This is one of my favourite stretches for your lower body and will really get deep into your glutes, hips and quads.
From a Push Up position bring one leg forward and with a bent knee rest it on the ground
The closer your foot is to your hands the more you will feel the stretch. This can put pressure on your knee so if you have any knee pain take the foot closer towards the hips instead.
Push your straight leg back behind you and lower your hips to the floor as much as you can
Once in position, and if you are able, slowly fold forward over your front leg and get your elbows to the floor
Continue to lay flat if possible and aim to get the tummy down onto your front leg
On each out breath try to sink your glutes/hips as close to the floor as possible without leaning over to one side
You may just want to stay in the first upright position and that's fine. You can work on leaning forward as you become looser
Spend 1-2 minutes, longer if you wish, on one leg and then swap and do the other side
You know what it feels like when you take a big wipeout and get tumbled and thrown around either below the water or in a heap of snow! If you don't stay loose and flexible this is always going to hurt more and put you more at risk of pulling, or even worse snapping something.
I hope that has given you some idea of why we should train on top of just participating in our favourite sports and which muscles to target for your chosen boardsport.
If you would like to know more about my online coaching programme for boardsports and get access to over 220 videos like the one above, take a look at the rest of my website and drop me a line if you think it may be beneficial for you.