With the Rip Curl Pro Search taking place at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach this week, we had a chance to speak with Surf Stronger head coach Scott Adams who’s been at the competition to see all the action. Surf Stronger is the leading force in surf specific strength and conditioning programs, and Adams, a former collegiate runner, Ironman competitor, certified strength and conditioning coach, and avid surfer, is a huge proponent of the TRX Suspension Trainer for enhancing performance in the water.
“The TRX is perfect for surfing because it’s such a bodyweight based dynamic movement sport,” Adams says, “practically every exercise is going to involve something that will benefit you, with either a core demand or an aligning of the body.”
The face of competitive surfing has changed. Five years ago when Adams was just starting Surf Stronger, it would take some serious convincing to get any surfer to “train” for surfing, but as the level of competition has risen, so has the necessary level of athleticism. These days, Adams says most of the top pros are incorporating some sort of auxiliary work. Adams’ brand of functional strength training for surfing specifically incorporates movements that map to and compliment the way the body is going to move while surfing, instead of isolating a specific muscle group.
“[You’re] not segmenting the body but using the body as a whole, as resistance, and then incorporating dynamic movements.” He likes using the TRX because he says it increases proprioception, lighting up the neuromuscular pathways that his athletes use in the water.
One of Adams’ favorite TRX exercises is TRX Power Pull, which he has modified to incorporate a squat at the bottom. “With surfing, there is so much compression and decompression of the legs. This exercise maps directly to the way you generate speed or land maneuvers while you’re surfing, by compressing the body and then decompressing up the face of the wave,” This movement engages the transverse plane with rotational resistance, which is similar to the way the body is loaded while performing a powerful bottom turn. At the top of the TRX Power Pull, you are incorporating the lats and shoulders, which translates well to paddling and popping up.
Another benefit Adams sees to TRX Training is that virtually every exercise requires bodily alignment and stabilizing from the core in order to remain balanced. Once an athlete has mastered the basic progression, he can instantly challenge his balance by altering his stability, usually by lifting up an arm or a leg. Adams will often have his athletes perform stability work on the beach as part of a warm up before a session for preactivation.
Surfing is not only a sport that requires core strength, stability and explosive power, but also muscular endurance, especially at the elite level we have been seeing at the Rip Curl Pro Search. A typical ASP tournament lasts several days, during which competitors will surf in multiple heats. Adams doesn’t directly train this endurance in a traditional way, by incorporating a cardio-endurance element (like swimming, biking, or running) rather he builds their durability with functional strength training on the TRX. The result is that they are less taxed while surfing and then able to stay in the water longer.
“A well trained surfer can surf more.” Adams says, “You can surf longer sessions, surf more often, and catch more waves. Ultimately, if you can surf more, you will get more time to hone your surfing skill and that is what will make you a better surfer. We sum it up with our phrase: Better fitness equals better surfing.”