Pilates: the key to high performance surfing

Pilates improves strength, balance and posture, while also preventing and rehabilitating injuries. Simple Pilates exercises will keep you in top shape and quickly boost your performance in the waves.

Also known as Contrology, the physical fitness system created by Joseph Pilates at the beginning of the 20th century is becoming one of the main go-to workouts for surfers.

The reason for the growing popularity of Pilates is its ability to build flexibility, strength and endurance through spinal and pelvic alignment focused exercises and breathing.

The exercises are focused in the middle of the body, providing a strong, balanced posture, reducing back pain and preventing injuries. It also works as a rehabilitating system.

Since full concentration is needed to coordinate breath and the movements, and also to ensure control and flow, mental focus and better body awareness are also two other important benefits.

Paddling out, duck diving, paddling for waves, taking off, managing the surf line and completing maneuvers on the wave face are hugely affected by Pilates training exercises.

The different workouts can be adapted to increase or reduce the difficulty level, as the body adapts to the system.

The huge benefits of Pilates to surf have even led to the creation of a new workout program, Surfilates.

A daily Pilates workout program, made on a simple mat, will add an extra layer of strength and balance to your surfing.

The Hundred

The Hundred is a complete warm up exercise with multiple benefits. It connects the whole body, improves breathing, strengthens the core abdominal muscles and the spine, stimulates the nervous system and also focuses the mind.

It is done by lying on your back, with head and shoulders lifted and curled to the front, arms stretched parallel to the floor and legs straight in the air, pointing up. Only the arms move up and down, in a pumping motion, five times with each inhaling and exhaling, until you reach ten breaths.

The Roll Up

The Roll Up is important to articulate the spine, massage and stimulate the back muscles, as well as to gain more flexibility and strengthen the abdominal muscles.

Start by lying on your back with your legs together and extended, arms stretched above your head.

Slowly start lifting your head and arms and rolling up forward, towards your feet, with your back curled, and belly tucked in. Inhale and return to the initial position, vertebra by vertebra, focusing on the abdominal.

The One Leg Circles

This Pilates exercise focuses on legs and abdominal, contributing to strong legs from the hip bone to the tip of your toes. It also demands focus in order to be well executed.

Lying on you back with arms next to your body and legs straight, bring one leg up, stretched and pointing to the ceiling. The other remains stretched on the floor. Draw circles in the air in front of you, inhaling each time you start a circle and exhaling when you complete it, while keeping your back and the rest of your body stable on the floor through your abdominals, and your chin tucked in.

Rolling Like a Ball

This rolling workout focuses on spine articulation, core strength and balance. It massages the back muscles, stimulates circulation and provides more balance and coordination.

In Rolling Like a Ball you start in a sitting position, then bend your knees and bring them together to your chest. Lift your feet from the floor, keeping them close to the hips, and stand on your sitting bones.

Grab your legs by the lower chin, and then put your head on your knees and roll back and forward. Your back should be curled and your head tucked in, so that you move like a ball.

The Double Leg Stretch

This powerful intermediate exercise builds a stronger core and creates more stability.

Lie on the floor with head and shoulders lifted and legs bent to the chest, with hands holding your chins and forehead touching the knees. As you inhale, extend arms above your head and legs forward in the opposite direction, and as you exhale return to the original position. The head and shoulders stay lifted during the whole exercise, and the low back remains well supported on the floor.

Spine Stretch Forward

The Spine Stretch Forward is a classic Pilates exercise which provides a more flexible and mobile spine, breaking tightness and discomfort in the lower back and legs.

Sit with legs straight and slightly apart, feet flexed up, back straight and fully extended, and arms straight in front of you, parallel to the floor.

As you exhale, roll your chin to the chest and stretch forward, articulating the spine and reaching for the toes, until your arms are parallel to your legs and your back forms a "C" shape. Do not strain your shoulders during the exercise, keep them relaxed instead. Inhale and slowly reverse to the starting position. Exhale as you reach the initial position, inhale and repeat the exercise.

The Pilates Plank

The Pilates Plank is a strength exercise focused on the alignment of the body. It tones and builds up abdominals, arms, legs, shoulders and back muscles.

Begin by standing on your hands and knees, and then slide each leg back, until you are supported by your hands and the ball of your feet.

While performing the Plank, your spine should be stretched, your shoulders rolled back and down, your abdominals pulled in and the pelvis engaged, drawing inward, forming a straight line from head to toe.

Swimming

The Swimming exercise is very important for surfers, as it assures back and hip extension, core and back strength, balance, better breathing and extra endurance while in the water.

To do it, lay face down on the floor, with legs extended and arms stretched in front. As you inhale, raise your upper back and arms off the floor and lift your legs. With arms stretched in front of you and legs extended, both parallel to the floor, begin a swimming motion, alternating arms and legs.

The Teaser

The Teaser is an advanced and challenging Pilates mat exercise. It’s a powerful workout with plenty benefits, like abdominal and body strength, control, core stability, spine mobility, balance and fluidity.

Begin by lying on your back, with both arms stretched towards the ceiling and knees close to the chest.

With abdominals contracted, stretch your legs at a 45 degrees angle and, as you exhale, roll your head and shoulders up and forward, lifting them from the floor, until you reach a "V" shaped sitting position.

Inhale and hold the position, then exhale and return your back to the mattress, vertebra by vertebra. If this is too challenging, try doing it with the legs bent, with the chins parallel to the floor in a tabletop position.

The Side Kick Series

This strong stability exercise is key to strengthening and toning thighs, hips and glutes, so it will surely help you boost your maneuvers.

Start by lying on the side of your body, with legs together and stretched slightly in front of you. The bottom arm is bent, with the elbow resting on the floor and the hand supporting the head. The other hand lies right in front of you, with the palm down on the mattress.

From this starting position, you can perform several leg movements, which should be made without moving your upper body, since the exercise also focuses on core stability.

For example, lift your upper leg at hip height, flex your foot and then swing your leg back and forth, always stretched, without rocking your body as you perform the movement. Repeat ten times and then do the same with the other leg.

Also, discover the best Yoga exercises for surfers and specific surf training workouts.