What Muscles Does Surfing Work? - Green Iguana Surf Camp

What Muscles Does Surfing Work?

When you start a new sport or have been doing it for a while, it is important to know what types of muscles you are exercising.

What Muscles Does Surfing Work

When in the water, many muscles have to be used – especially when you’re surfing because trying to overcome the waves can be very difficult and most would say this is actually a full body workout.

Exercise is important in most people’s lives to keep themselves fit and healthy and surfing is a great example of this. Being outdoors in the fresh air, tackling the sea and perfecting a very difficult hobby.

So, what muscles are you really pushing to the limit when you surf? Here is all of the information you’ll need about your muscles and surfing.

List Of Muscles Used

  • Triceps
  • Obliques
  • Glutes
  • Deltoids
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Your lower back
  • Rotator cuff
  • Your abs

Most people would not imagine that surfing would use all of these muscles but people forget that even just being in the sea is very challenging without adding surfing into the mix.

If you are thinking of starting to surf then this is also a great way to get into good shape and improve your fitness. Therefore, if you love the sea, you will gain many benefits apart from just surfing. 

There are also different techniques used when surfing which all use different muscles! The next section will cover all of these different techniques and explain how they use all of these different muscles. 

Muscles For Popping Up – The ‘Pop Up’ Technique

When performing this particular technique you are using both your triceps and your chest to lift yourself up. Along with these, it is also a very good ab workout because you are using your core to keep you very stable on the board.

This is definitely something that most people struggle with when they first start. The core strength is very important and something that is usually built upon as you practice.

This also leads into you actually standing on the board which also needs strength in your legs. You need to have strength in your legs to keep you stable on the board without wobbling. This also needs confidence too!

What About Paddling? 

Paddling is what everyone starts out doing to get used to the water and the board when riding the waves. However, it also tends to shock people how much endurance you need to have to be able to do this properly.

What Muscles Does Surfing Work

It uses many of the muscles because you are working against the tide. Most of the surfers time is actually spent paddling in the water and waiting for the right wave! 

It mainly refers to using your triceps and shoulders for this part. You need the strength in those areas to wade through the water and take your board with you. You need to create that strong force to get you through the waves with great motion movement. 

A really important part of paddling is also your posture and there is a particular way to do it. You need to make sure you are not just lying flat on your board because it makes it harder for you to paddle.

You need to squash your glutes together and keep your chest up whilst looking up. You need to be able to get your motion going in your triceps and and shoulders and if you lie flat, you won’t be able to see very well or move well either. 

When Tackling The Wave

When you get to the really fun part of riding the wave, you really want to be focusing on your core and your leg muscles. As you are stood up, you need to keep your body tight and your core strong to keep your stability.

The same goes for your legs and it is all about your balance. You need to make sure that everything is solid at this point so you can focus on where you’re going. 

When touching on the speed you want to create, you need to also use your hamstrings and quads. These two muscles are used to generate power and speed which is necessary when it comes to surfing because you must maneuver the waves. 

What About Your Technique? 

Most surfers start to develop lots of technique the more they practice, like with anything. They also need to improve their flexibility and their endurance because they are vital if you want to be great!

Once you have perfected the technique you can really just enjoy riding the waves. For most people, it is an escape from reality to really lose themselves in the water and is very healthy for the body and mind. 

There is the stereotype of the calm and collected surfers but this is because it is calming for the mind being amongst the water. It is something you can do with others or by yourself.

If you are looking to learn something new, lower your stress levels and become fit and healthy, this is the perfect option. 


Overall, surfing uses basically all of the muscles in your body and it takes time to perfect, but is definitely worth the practise. If you’re looking to become fitter then this is the perfect, calming option for you.

Instead of going to the gym everyday, this could be a different option for you, if you live by the ocean. Take advantage of your surroundings if you are lucky to live by the water.

Or this could be something you try if you are on holiday and have the opportunity to give it a try. This guide should give you a great insight about the different techniques that beginners would need to know before heading out into the water.

Moreover, it also should explain the muscle groups that you will get working when you are surfing. There is definitely A LOT!

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