#1 Shoulder Rehab Exercise for Surfers

Patty Paddling in Costa Rica

Shoulders are the engines of every surfer.

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The shoulders carry a ton of load during a surf session: paddling out, catching waves, popping up – its the shoulder muscles that initiate the ENTIRE surfing process.

We tend to take our shoulder muscles for granted on a day-to-day basis, and few of us give them the type of real love they need and deserve. Don’t expect them to show-up and perform when the waves are firing and paddle outs are tough unless you properly train and condition them.

Powerful surfing shoulders requires 2 things…Strength AND flexibility.

  • Building strength creates power (for catching waves), increases endurance (for paddling out) and stabilization (for popping up)
  • Flexibility creates a full range of motion in the joints (for greater power and injury prevention).

> In this post I’m going to show you 2 very important exercises to strengthen and pre-/rehab your rotator cuff muscles. 

Shoulder Muscles – Small but Crucial to Upper Body Movement (ie. Paddling)

Shoulder muscles are small compared to the larger pec and lat muscles that visually dominate the upper torso. But, their importance shouldn’t be undermined due to their size.

The shoulders are a mix of larger muscles used for movement and smaller muscles used for stabilization and to initiate movements for the back and chest.

But, unlike the legs, back and chest…it’s very difficult to do a single shoulder exercise that will strengthen all of the muscles in the shoulders at the same time. You need a good variety of exercises and stretches to properly train and increase strength in your shoulder muscles.

What Are The Rotator Cuff Muscles

The rotator cuff muscles are not outwardly noticeable, as they sit and connect underneath the deltoids, traps (larger, more noticeable muscles of the shoulder) and neck muscles.

The rotator cuff muscles are:

  • Teres minor
  • Infraspinatus
  • Supraspinatus
  • Subscapularis


It’s the tiny muscles of the Rotator Cuff that tend to give most people, and lots of surfers, chronic discomfort and pain, even weakness during paddling.

What Causes Rotator Cuff and Shoulder Injury

Barring some type of physical injury, most shoulder discomfort, weakness and/or pain is actually more of a chronic issue stemming from overuse, improper training or the absence of a regular stretching routine.

From my experience with clients, I see our “modern day lifestyle” having the most impact on causing a wide range of shoulders issues. By “modern day lifestyle” I mean, too much time spent on computer/ipad/mobile phone causing major shifts in our posture and alignment.

As we stayed slumped at our desk over laptops and mobile phones, our head juts way too far forward, our shoulders round forward and our entire upper torso leans forward. Over time, this begins to create a more permanent negative effect by altering our posture and body alignment. This is the now one of the root causes of low/upper back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain.

Low and upper back pain and neck pain can easily be relieve following a proper stretching routine each day. For lower back pain, CLICK HERE and you can try these 2 Super Stretches that I demonstrated on my personal training website.

For the shoulders, I actually find that incorporating some simple shoulder rehab exercises into your weekly training routine is the best prescription to prevent shoulder injuries.

#1 Shoulder Pre- and Rehab Exercise for Surfers


It’s best to perform these as part of your weekly routine. The point is to PREHAB the body so that an injury due to overuse or poor posture does not create any chronic pain that could potentially keep you out of the water or moving slower than normal.

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