A Surfer’s Guide to Shoulder Health

Surfing is a wonderful activity for fitness, fun and general wellbeing but can certainly come at a cost for those who aren’t putting into some time and effort to their mobility and functional strength. Too many surfers are either out of the water, or probably should be, because of various aches and pains. One of these being shoulder injuries. Now there are various reasons why the shoulder can be getting affected – paddling technique, rotator cuff strength, lacking mobility of the thoracic spine etc. So I wanted to put together a few key exercises/ideas that you can do at home for optimal shoulder health. Apart from having poor technique, these will improve the control, strength and function of your shoulder.

1. Lower Trapezius muscle activation/endurance:

Too often we see super tight/tense/overactive Upper Trapezius and Levator Scapula muscles in people with shoulder pain. Typically, if the lower aspect of the Trapezius muscle isn’t firing then the Upper section will begin to dominate. Also having these muscles fire allows the shoulder to be more stable whilst the actual ball and socket joint goes through it’s normal range of motion.

  • Prone Y lift – 6-8 reps x 3-5 second holds x 2 sets (for activation) x 4 sets (for endurance)

2. Pec muscle mobility:

Keeping in mind a difference between mobility and stretching. Our Pec muscle is one of the main power muscles in the paddling stroke which therefore means we need to be super strong and have endurance whilst also maintain adequate muscle tension/length. We can do this by have the muscle engaged and using resistance whilst taking it through its full range of motion with eccentric (lengthening of muscle) and concentric (shortening of muscle) elements within the same exercise.

  • Supine Pec Fly – 10-12 reps x 3-5 sets (slow eccentric phase of ~5 seconds)

3. Thoracic Extension:

The thoracic spine is an integral moving part of the the body generally, and especially with the paddling position. Yes! You heard correct, ‘moving part’ – this means that unlike some people’s expectation of the spine being an immovable object or having to remain still, we want the thoracic spine to extend and flex as much as possible. This allows the shoulders to have a great platform to perform on, rather than having to force into large range because the thoracic spine won’t move.

  • Wall Angels – 15-20 reps x 2 sets

4. Rotator Cuff strength/endurance through range:

The rotator cuff is essential in providing stability and control to the glenohumeral joint (ball and socket) and needs to be active throughout movement to ensure that the joint rolls and doesn’t hinge/pinch. Maintaining a strong and active rotator cuff will give the shoulder a good injury free environment but also allow all the other muscles around to work in synergy.

  • Abduction External Rotations – 10-12 reps x 3-5 sets (ensure shoulder set down and back in between each rep)

There is obviously a lot more to the shoulder, and a lot more exercises and factors that contribute to a healthy shoulder but these above exercises are a great starting point to keeping you out in the water and able to paddle through those 2-3 hour sessions.

Get into it!

If you have any niggling aches or pains and want to get checked out, book in to see one of our physios today - book online here or call us on (08) 9448 2994!

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