Best Exercises for Paddle Strength

Anybody who has surfed knows the feeling of jelly arms all too well, wanting to catch one more wave but not being sure you can actually paddle out again. We’ve put together a list of some of the best exercises for paddle strength, allowing you to get more power paddling into a wave and surf for longer. 

If you are planning to visit us and learn to surf in Bude, then these exercises will have you in great condition to start your surfing adventures! You won’t need any special equipment, just yourself and a little motivation.

Diamond Push-ups

Diamond push-ups are one of the best exercises for strengthening your paddling, working your shoulders, arms, back, and core, as well as your glutes. It’s a tough one, but you will see the pay-off quickly. 

  • Start in a push-up position, but bring your hands under your chest with your thumbs and forefingers making a diamond shape.
  • Lower yourself slowly and with control until your chest is nearly touching the floor. Keep your core engaged and your back straight. Don’t let your elbows flare out to the sides.
  • Exhale and push back to the starting position.
  • Do this for 14 reps.
  • If you cannot do this in a full push-up position (it is a tough one!) lower your knees until you feel stronger to do a full push-up.


Inchworms are great for strengthening your upper body and stretching out your lower body, as well as being a good exercise to improve your paddle strength, you can also add inchworms to your pre-surf warm-up. 

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then bend down and place your palms on the floor in front of you.  
  • Walk your hands forward as fast as you can, into a high plank position, keeping your shoulders in line with your waist. 
  • Walk your hands back again and stand up straight, completing one rep.
  • Do this exercise for 14 reps.

Floor Tricep Dips

Tricep dips are great for strengthening your arms for paddling, they also work your core making your overall balance which will improve your surfing!

  • Sit on the floor with your feet flat, and your hands on the floor behind you near your glutes.
  • Lift your hips off the floor and slowly bend and extend your elbows, lowering yourself towards the floor (without touching it)
  • Keep your abs engaged and focus on your arms rather than raising and lowering your hips.
  • Straighten your arms again to raise yourself back to your starting position.
  • Do 14 reps of this exercise.

Push-ups with Rotation

Another great exercise to improve your overall surfing ability, working your upper body for strength and your core for improved balance. It also improves your waist mobility, making it a perfect all over work-out!

  • Start at the top of a push-up position, with your hands centred under your shoulders.
  • Lower yourself down slowly, bending the elbow, into a deep push-up.
  • As you rise back up, twist your body and hold in a side plank with one arm in the air in line with your shoulder. Hold for a breath and then return to the top of the push-up position.
  • Repeat, alternating arms on the rotation.
  • This is a tough one so don’t worry if your abs are shaking, that just means it’s working!
  • Repeat for 14 reps.


Swimmers are great for improving your paddle strength, working your shoulders and back to gain key strength for surfing. 

  • Lie flat on your stomach, extending your arms out in front of you.
  • Lift your hands and feet off the mat, feeling your abs and back tighten. 
  • Slowly lift your opposite hand and foot, alternating as though making a swimming motion.
  • Do 16 reps, with one rep being one life on either side. 
Two happy, smiling man heading into the sea, carrying their surfboards, ready for a surf lesson in Bude, Cornwall

Of course these are just a small selection of exercises that can help strengthen your paddle technique for surfing, but they are a good introduction to the muscle groups you will be using. 

If you are brand-new to surfing, or want a refresher and a little more guidance, our fully accredited surf coaches can help you become the best surfer you can be! Book surf lessons in Bude, Cornwall here.

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