Pre-surf warm-up for Hips and Lower Back

June 22, 2021 4:55 pm / Category: Sports Performance , Swimming

Surfing requires a lot of flexibility and strength. Generating strength and power for turning requires joint mobility and muscle flexibility to transfer your momentum from your legs to your trunk and upper body. Joint mobility refers to how much your bone moves in the joint capsule before the slack is taken up by the surrounding capsule, ligaments, and tendons. Muscle flexibility refers more to muscle length and elasticity. Dynamic flexibility is your ability to actively move a joint through the full range of motion. Limitations in either joint mobility or muscle extensibility will affect your ability to move freely. 

A lack of muscle flexibility and joint mobility is a big risk factor in developing muscle injuries. When it comes to flexibility and mobility, you either use it or lose it. Since the majority of us work 5 days a week, most of us can’t surf every day. Sitting for 6-8 hours per day will certainly lead to muscle restrictions and joint stiffness through your hips and your back.

Spinal rotation and hip mobility are key to generating powerful turns. As you move through your turn, joint stiffness and muscle restrictions will limit the power of your turn. Turning requires a significant amount of joint mobility as well as flexibility through the hips and ankles which then transfers to your upper body through your lower back up your spine to your shoulders and neck. Forcing a restricted joint through a powerful turn can lead to injury. Tight hips can increase torque to your lower back or knees and overload the joints and muscles which can result in pain, injury, or instability. Similarly, a tight or stiff lower back may result in excessive strain on the surrounding muscles, joints, and discs. A warm-up specifically targeting your hips and back before surfing will help your body move freely and reduce the risk of injury while transitioning through powerful turns. 

Before getting in the water for a 6 AM dawn patrol Saturday morning, you want to make sure your body is moving freely to prevent injury. After 40 hours at the office during the week, take the time to spend 5 minutes before paddling out to free up the joints that have not been moving all week. 

Here are a few warm-up exercises to loosen up the hips and back to you moving before getting out in the water. You want to make sure your whole body moves freely before forcing it into a big hacking turn. 

Pigeon stretch

Start on hands and knees, bring the front leg into external rotation keeping the knee in line with the hip, aim to keep the shin perpendicular to the thigh. Keep the back leg straight with hips square with equal weight in both hips. Perform on both sides.  

This is a great stretch for the external rotators and hip flexors to open the hips. I do not recommend this stretch for anyone with a knee injury since it does put stress on the knee. This is easily modified to do in the water between sets, you can do it with your leg on your board or by crossing your leg over your knee in the water bringing your knee towards your chest while floating in the water. 

Bretzel stretch

Lay on the side, keep the bottom leg in line with the trunk with the knee bent 90º, the top leg bends 90º at the hip with the knee flexed 90º. Place your arms into a ’T’ to rotate your spine. Perform on both sides for 30″-1′. 

This is a great stretch for opening up the lumbar and thoracic spine as well as the shoulders. You may feel tighter on one side than the other. Doing 5-8 deep breaths while doing this stretch will help the body relax and enable the back and shoulders to open up. 

Low Lunge

Start in a push-up position, bring your right foot forward between hands, keep your knee stacked over the ankle. Keep left leg back extending while sinking the hips by driving your heel to the ground. Make sure to keep back flat and feet pointed forward. Perform a series of 5 on each leg alternating sides. 

Crescent Lunge Twist

From the low lunge position, move your right hand inside of the right foot, look up towards your raised left arm. Raise the left arm and gaze up while twist body to the left. Repeat on the opposite side.

The Low Lunge and Crescent lunge twist are good hip openers and provide dynamic mobility to the spine for standing up on your board. 

Downward dog to upward dog

Start on hands and knees with hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips. Lift your hips up and back to bring your body into an inverted ‘V’ while driving heels to the ground and keeping back flat. Press your hands to the floor pushing your shoulders away and gently rotating outward into your hands. Keep your head/neck relaxed. 

The transition from downward dog to a push-up position, hold for 2-3 seconds, then transition to upward facing dog position by shifting weight forward to lower the body while keeping elbows squeezed against the rib cage. Turn feet pointing down into plantarflexion, then press up keeping shoulders stacked over hands and squeezing shoulder blades together to open the chest. Legs should be engaged ‘hovering’ over the ground, not resting on it. Repeat this sequence 5 times.  

Be careful to avoid over-extending through your lower back, don’t move through pain. 

This sequence is helpful to mobilize the spine, wake up the shoulders and your core. 

Also, remember that physical therapy can also be a preventative approach! A licensed physical therapist can help evaluate and assess you for any mobility restrictions or muscular imbalances and recommend a proper program!

Clay Simons

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