The pop-up is fundamental to surfing, yet it is not really seen as ‘surfing’ and is often over looked in surf training. An efficient and fast pop-up demands a very specific strength and mobility – ‘surf specific’ strength and mobility. Below are 3 surf-specific exercises to improve your pop-up.
Instead of thinking the pop-up is a means to an end – i.e. ‘a chore needed to do before I can surf’. Think of the pop-up as ‘surfing’ (on your belly and hands). The goal is to already be at speed and in the perfect part of the wave by the time you are on your feet.
The pop-up is the ‘take-off’, ‘the drop’ and the deeper you can take-off the more waves you will get and mastering the late drop means you will have more confidence in the critical part of the wave. The perfect pop-up is not only fast and well timed, it is also efficient, balanced and accurate – allowing the surfer to place his feet in the perfect spot of the board every time without losing speed, balance, board angle or view of the wave.
The objective when training the exercises below is to gain mobility and control, so the tempo must be slow and the focus high. As surfers we must train to improve the movement – the goal is not to do lots of reps to burn calories or to build muscle – it is to improve your movement. Think of the way a martial artist or dancer trains – focused and specific. They also train movements very slowly so that they can gain control, mobility and awareness i.e. practice.
“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”
Practice these movements to ‘master’ them, the recommend reps and tempos are a guideline for you to explore and expand your physical capacity, practice makes perfect.
Exercise 1: ‘Pop-up Push-up’
Start/Finish Position – Prone (on belly): Back is extended (arched) and weight is through your ribcage – like you are paddling. Hands are flat on the floor, close your body, and fingertips are below nipple line – as if you have just finished paddling and are just about to pop-up. Lungs are full.
‘From the start/finish position above; straighten the arms and round out the back at the same time, pause at the halfway position and do the opposite to return to the start/finish position – pause – repeat. 3-5 reps, Tempo 4-1-4-1 (4 seconds up, 1 sec pause at halfway position, 4 sec to come back to a 1 sec pause before repeating.’
Halfway Position – Cat stretch plank: Spine is flexed (rounded), 80-90% of your bodyweight is distributed through your hands, arms are straight and you are pushing your chest away from the floor. Lungs are empty.
For a some detailed analysis of the pop up and pop-up push-up watch these vids:
Exercise 2: ‘Knee to Opposite Armpit’ (KOA)
Start/Finish Position – Cat stretch plank: Spine is flexed (rounded), 80-90% of your bodyweight is distributed through your hands, arms are straight and you are pushing your chest away from the floor. (same as the ‘pop-up push halfway position’ except lungs are full)
‘From the start/finish position; bring your left knee towards your right armpit, try to flex (round out) your spine as much as you can, pause at the halfway position, and reverse back to the start/finish position, repeat on the other side. 3-5 reps. Tempo 4-1-4-1 (4 seconds up, 1 sec pause at halfway position, 4 sec to come back to a 1 sec pause before repeating)’
Halfway Position – KOA Plank: Maintain knee as close to your opposite armpit as possible, 85-95% of your bodyweight distributed through hands, lungs empty.
Remember the goal is to improve your mobility and control of the movements – Practice the above 5 mins a day for 30 days
For more surf-training see: