Twenty years ago I started windsurfing. I practiced and learned until I could finally rip it up in worldcup wave conditions like Cape Town, Tarifa and Pozo. Doing so, I learned the hard way that a good workout is essential to be fit when conditions are epic. A surf specific workout also reduced my number of injuries significantly. In this article I share with you what I have learned along the way. I researched the topic and tried many different exercises. Of course I also share with you the lessons I learned while I consulted sports physiotherapists, chiropractors and other specialists to get me the best windsurfing workout.
So? What are the exercises that I do to stay in my best windsurfing shape? I do exercises that, like while windsurfing, require coordinated muscle activity from multiple muscles. I combine exercises for more power with exercises to increase stability and coordination. Core, back, leg and arm muscles get most focus. Sandbag squats, pikes and pull-ups are among my favourites.
I have tried many exercises and found out that there are a few muscle groups that I’d never heard of, that can improve sailing en prevent injuries a lot. It turned out that I could train much more effective than just doing biceps curls, sit ups and a some bench pressing. Many guru’s tell very different things so here is a bunch of experience with a lot of YouTube instruction video’s to show you exactly what helped me.
Before you read on I must say that if you have injuries or pain, of course you should see a physician. I just share the lessons that I got from my research and experience. Nevertheless I hope you find them very beneficial. For your convenience I added links to YouTube Video’s where expertise is shared so you can learn from there.
What training result do I want and why?
To find out what exercises to do I first dug in to the question of what exactly I wanted to accomplish. Maybe you recognize yourself searching for a way to increase biceps strength after having a sour biceps from windsurfing. I used this approach until I took a course in training effectively. There I learned to look at my body as a system of cooperating elements.
I train like I sail: using different muscles at the same time in a coordinated way.
Have you ever just used one single muscle while windsurfing? I haven’t! So I started to learn exercises that include many muscles at the same time. And in a way that is similar to holding a sail en using your body as al ‘linking pin’ to transfer the power to the board while balancing.
I train not only to get more power in big muscles but I also aim for better coordination.
After a friend of mine ran a marathon and couldn’t bent his knees for 3 weeks, we learned that just training big muscles, like your quadriceps, might not be the most efficient way. Apparently your body has all kinds of muscles and tissues to stabilize joints and prevent injuries. I now new to add a few exercises for that to.
I train muscles that keep everything in place like my core and my rotator cuffs.
I consulted 2 physiotherapists and a chiropractor because of an injury in my biceps tendons. All gave me different diagnosis and treatment. Nothing worked. Research of my own pointed out that a biceps tendon can get injured because your shoulderblade muscles don’t hold the blade in the right position. That can create a situation where the tendon is grinding between arm bone and shoulder blade. There was nothing wrong with the tendon. So threading it was useless. This example stresses the importance of training muscles like the core muscles and the rotator cuffs to hold everything in place. I took a course on core stability training and all of a sudden I could overtake a guy on the water that had always been faster than me. That is motivating isn’t it? (don’t say NO, I know you like to overtake a other windsurfer 😉 )
Examples of exercises training different muscles at the same time in a coordinated way.
The Sandbag squad. Regular squads are great training for legs and back. But, If you want to give your big back muscles (latissimus dorsi, largest muscle in the upper body, you might know it as the ‘wing’ under your arm that helps moving your upper arm to your body. Comes in very handy while pulling a sail). Watch a video that I found helpful on YouTube.
I hold a sandbag (half my bodyweight) in front of my belly. Pulling the shoulder blades back and giving tension to all my core muscles this exercise not only trains the legs and the lower back but also strengthens the core and the upper back muscles. I do 3×10 reps.
Biceps pulls. I like to train my grip strength together with my arm and upper back muscles. Personal trainers told me that 3 x 10-15 reps of an exercise helps building strength and endurance (10 gives more strength, 15 more endurance). Since I can’t do 3×10 pull ups I found a very efficient way to build this up.
I use a TRX suspension trainer. This very simple device, that fits easy in every travel/work bag I have, allows me to do many exercises with my bodyweight. I just hang on the handles and pull up. Changing the angle in which I stand I creates more or less workload. Again: a video that helped me (2:50)
One handed biceps pulls with rotation. This one makes me use a lot more muscles than just pulling my biceps. A YouTube video by the inventor of the TRX shows how to do it far better than I can explain. I like to train all the muscles that keep my body strong as a whole while working out like this. a YouTube video that helped me (5:30)
Examples of exercises that I use for better coordination and stabilization.
My example showed a case of knee injury that could have been prevented if my friend had not only ran a lot. As he learned later, from a sports physiotherapist, his large leg muscles got tired after 35 km / 22 mi of running. Then his knees became less stabilized by them and so they got injured. I learned that 2 simple exercises can really strengthen the tissues supporting my knees. Not only do I have less chance on injury. My gibes go much smoother now my legs are more stable and I go faster in choppy waters!
Bosu Ball Squad.I use a Bosu Ball for the exercise since standing on it feels just as wobbly as standing on a low volume windsurfboard. And that is exactly what I need! If you don’t have one you can do the second one. Again a video explains more than a 1000 words. (3:34, but the first 3 min are about safety so I consider them of value)
Putting the Bosu Ball with the round side on the floor I stand with 2 feet (shoulder with) on the hard flat surface. Now I make 3×10 squads. I do it near a rail that I can grab in case I fall (never happend, but I have safety as my number one priority). To increase difficulty and effect I do the same exercise but now on one foot. I feel the tissues around my knees burn a little after .
Single leg Squad (with 90 degree jumps). The exercise without any gear is simple. This video shows how to. I increase difficulty by jumping up and turning 90 degrees in the same time. Now every muscle must work harder to stabilize.
Examples of core and rotator cuff exercises.
While windsurfing I use my body to transfer power from my boom to may board. If I had really strong arms and legs only. I would probably either hurt my back, or just not be fast and stable on the board.
Crunch to pike. Planking seems to be good for my core strength. Since I had the TRX suspension trainer anyway I decided to use this for more effective core training. I learned this in a special course. a YouTube video that helped me (6:48)
I feel this really gets my core muscles working, Not just the belly ones, but also my gluteus and back muscles. It gives me the power to let my body really be a stiff linking pin that transfers power from my boom to my board.
Rotator cuff exercises. Take a few seconds to think about all the power training you ever did. How many reps did you do in total? How many of those had a motion where upper arm was turning outward? Most people find, when they analyze their workout that the arms and legs have a lot of push and pull movement direct to and from the front of the body. I found that training the rotator cuffs is an important part of having strong stable shoulder.
This YouTube video demonstrates the exercises far better than I ever could. Click here to watch a physiotherapist explain. (7:07, but watching the whole video was wortht it to me)
I use a elastic band for it and that works great for me.
What else can I do to get in my best windsurfing shape?
This blog was meant just to inspire you when looking for a few exercises that help you windsurf faster, longer, harder and with less chance on injury. I learned a lot taking a course on the subject, cosulting specialists and just watching Youtube Video’s. Of course, if you want to be sure you have a safe and great workout program that fit your needs you can consider consulting an expert.
I find it helpful to do some mountainbiking in addition to these exercises. Especially interval training on the bike gives me a feeling that I can sail longer and more explosive.
Perhaps you knew most there was in this blog. I hope everybody who reads it gets one or to moments of inspiration out of it. In case you have something to add, perhaps you are a physiotherapist or a trainer of some kind I am happy to hear from you via the comment section. Maybe we can add extra value for the future readers of the blog!