I have been surfing in southern California for 18 years, and nothing is more familiar to me than the common aches and pains that surfers suffer. Some of the most common areas for surfers to experience pain and stiffness are shoulders, upper back, and neck. Surfing is an upper body dominant sport, and it is also a unilateral rotational sport—that is, unless the surfer is going switch-foot 50% of the time, which nobody does.
If a surfer is not being proactive by continuously re-balancing their body before and after surfing, they will end up with one or both of the following posture imbalances:
- Rotation and asymmetry of the torso and shoulder girdle
- Rotation in the pelvis
Left: Back view of a surfer demonstrates torso rotation, shoulder girdle asymmetry, and pelvic rotation. Right: Three weeks later, after practicing a daily routine of posture exercises. [Collage credit: Maryann Berry]
As you can see, the rotation and asymmetry in his torso and pelvis are greatly reduced in the after photo. He initially came to see me with a herniated disk. Today, two and a half months later, his symptoms have greatly reduced and he is still practicing his exercises every day.
Exercises to Correct Surfer Posture
The following posture exercises will promote muscular and load joint balance prior to surfing, and will also act to remove compensation after surfing. For a demonstration of these exercises, be sure to watch the video below.
- Stand with your feet pointed straight ahead, hip width apart.
- Bend over to touch your toes; simply hang there.
- Drop your head and try to concentrate on relaxing your upper back.
- Do not bend your knees, keep your weight in the middle of your feet toward the ball of foot and do not bounce.
- Hold for ten breaths.
- Lie on your back with your feet on the floor.
- Cross one ankle/foot over to the opposite knee, just above the knee.
- Lift the foot that is still on the floor up until your calf is parallel to the ground and your knee is bent at a 90 degree angle.
- Relax your shoulders, and put your arms out to the sides, palms up.
- As you pull the knee with your ankle on it toward you, press the other knee away from you. Resist the temptation to use your hands.
- Hold this position for one minute on each side.
Sitting Floor Twist
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.
- Bend your right leg and cross it over the left leg.
- Place the left elbow on the outside of the right knee while it is crossed over.
- Roll your hips forward to create an arch in your low back. It is very important to hold the arch throughout this exercise.
- Tighten the thigh in your straight leg and pull your toes back toward you.
- Twist your upper body to the right using your back muscles to rotate your spine.
- Turn your head to the right as your twist your back.
- Hold this position for one minute and breathe then switch sides and repeat.
- Start on your hands and knees, hands directly below your shoulders, knees under your hips.
- Tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the floor into the piked position.
- Try to place a small arch in your lower back.
- Keep your elbows straight, more weight should be on your thumbs and index fingers.
- Keep your thighs tight and then let your heels drop toward the floor.
- Hold for 10 breaths.
Standing Elbow Curls
- Stand with your heels, hips, upper back, and head against the wall.
- Your feet should be pointed straight and hip width apart.
- Place your knuckles against your temples with your thumbs pointing down to your shoulders (golfer’s grip).
- Open and pull back your elbows as far as they will go then close your elbows together in front of your face.
- Keep your elbows up at shoulder level, do not let them drop down.
- Do 25 repetitions.
Have fun, and see you in the lineup!
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this article is to promote broad reader understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.
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