April 1, 2011

Powerful legs can help stabilize you as you push off the lip of a wave or simply make sure you’re still standing as you enter and exit big glides. They can also keep you from dancing off the nose or tail of your board in a critical situation. In order to be successful in all the above, you first need to be familiar with what muscles to fire to make your legs work both together and independently. Take the surfer stance on an SUP for example, your back leg is in charge of thrusting, pushing, stabilizing and helping you carve as you paddle. Your front leg may share in that, but you push more on the front leg to increase your board speed or when tackling the heavy white water as you paddle back out to the break. The following progressive approach to your SUP-specific leg training will go far in all types of conditions and will help you improve your overall performance, your paddling style and technique.

Training Note: It’s your choice if you wear shoes or not, or if you train on an unstable surface such as the beach (which is more challenging). I try to train barefoot so that I can mimic the feel of the board. If working with weights, be careful not to drop them on your feet! Everyone’s training needs and experience will vary, so the number of sets/reps you perform is up to you. Typically, if you are just starting out, try 1-3 sets with 10-12 reps each, making sure you are always in perfect form.

Exercise 1: Leg Squats in Surfer Stance

Equipment: weights (optional), INDO Board (optional), INDO 12″ or Gigante Disc (optional), SUP board (optional)

Progression Variables: arms in front of you, add weights, inflate disc to full or perform leg squats on your SUP board on top of an INDO Gigante Disc with weights.

SUPFitness Legs3

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With your body in an upright position, gaze forward and take your surfers stance, making sure to keep your knees slightly bent. Hold this position then go into a squat. Pretend you’re getting tubed and hold this for a good 5-10 seconds for an extra burn! Now, gently clasp your hands in front of you to change the force production over your legs and challenge your balance.

Progression I: INDO Board on Gigante Disc

Mount the INDO Board on top of the Gigante Disc (using caution). You can also use the INDO Board 12 ” disc and/or choose to add dumbbells. For this progression, I’m using 20lbs weights in each hand.

SUPFitness Legs3b

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Progression II: SUP Board with Gigante Disc : with/without weights (VERY ADVANCED)

Inflate the Gigante Disc as desired (more air = more action!) and place it under the center of your board. You may want to remove your fins for this exercise. Place your leading foot towards the nose of board and support the weights on your shoulders, then place more weight forward to change the force on your front leg. Hold this for 5-10 seconds and return to upright. Repeat.

Exercise 2: Standard Leg Squats on an INDO Board and Gigante Disc

Equipment: weights or kettle bell, INDO Board, INDO 12″ or Gigante Disc

Progression Variables: add weights, keep weights on shoulders, add kettle bell, more air in Gigante Disc

SUPFitness Legs3c

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This will make the standard squat more challenging and increase your leg strength tremendously.  Assuming the standard squat start position, hold a heavy kettle bell or dumb bell with straight arms and tall posture, keeping your eyes forward. Be mindful of keeping your knees tracking over your second toe so if your feet are too wide, bring them in. I like to hold each squat for at least 5 seconds to get that deep burn of new muscle being laid down! Awesome! Repeat. I’m holding 25lbs here and that’s plenty. Progress by placing weights (I use 20lbs weights) on each shoulder which will lend a different force to your legs. Try the weights to the side of your body, and then on top of your shoulders and see how it feels.

Exercise 3: Single Leg Lunges on One Foot on an INDO Board and Gigante Disc

Equipment: weights (optional), INDO Board, INDO 12″ or Gigante Disc

Progression Variables: weights at your side or on top of shoulders

SUPFitness Legs3d

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Begin with one foot placed on the INDO Board on top of a Gigante Disc. Make sure that the foot and leg behind you on the ground is facing forward as well. Maintain good posture all throughout the movement as you bend your front knee to 90 degrees. The leg behind you will also bend to 90 degrees, but do not let it touch the ground. Hold, if desired, for 1-5 seconds. Then, keep your front knee tracking over the 2ndtoe and drive through your foot on the INDO Board as you push back to start. Repeat same leg. Keep it up and stay tuned for next week’s Power exercises for SUPer strong legs!


All the information presented in the SUP Fitness section of is for educational and resource purposes only. It is there to help you make informed decisions about your fitness training. It is not a substitute for, or an addition to, any advice given to you by your physician. Suzie Cooney, CPT, and Naish International strongly recommend that you consult your doctor and get medical approval before beginning any fitness and/or exercise program. You are solely responsible for the way information in SUP Fitness is perceived and utilized and you do so at your own risk. In no way will Suzie Cooney, Naish International or anyone associated with Naish International be held responsible for any injuries or problems that may occur due to the use of this website or the advice contained within.