The perfect bodyweight cross-training program for surfers

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While nothing beats time in the water, cross-training offers several important benefits for the body, mind, and overall surfing performance. However, surfers might not want to purchase gym or yoga studio memberships, and finding the motivation to cross-train when the waves are flat can be challenging.

What surfers need is a quick and hassle-free training program that takes less than 10-minutes per day and requires no equipment. The objective is to keep fit and flexible so that when the waves are pumping, we surf our best.

Introducing bodyweight exercise expert, Mark Lauren

Bestselling author and elite military trainer, Mark Lauren, has released a new book called Strong and Lean. It provides a regimen that will help surfers achieve a stronger, leaner body and features a comprehensive yet simple fitness philosophy backed by Lauren’s personal and military experience. With Mark’s workout, surfers can achieve a most muscular and lean body with just a small sacrifice of time and no fancy workout gear.

Strong and Lean, encapsulates two decades of unparalleled experience to accomplish what most people thought was impossible: the ability to immediately begin your workout wherever you are – from living rooms to hotel rooms to yards – and finish nine minutes later. Let’s catch up with Mark to discover more about how his approach can boost surfing performance.

Mark, congratulations on your new book, STRONG AND LEAN! What inspired you to write this book?

Thank you! It’s been 12 years since I published You Are Your Own Gym; the bible of bodyweight exercises. I’ve been blessed with a lot of very unique experiences and massive amounts of feedback since releasing that first book. I wanted to distill everything I’ve learned into the simplest and most effective guide possible.

STRONG & LEAN applies Western, cutting-edge sports science to the Eastern World’s wisdom, and couples that with three decades of unparalleled experience, so you only have to put in 9 minutes a day, a few days a week. Never before has there been such a short, low-impact program that comprehensively and methodically covers all the muscle groups, joint functions, and athletic skills you require to get and stay strong, lean, healthy, mobile, and injury free.

Bodyweight exercises certainly make sense for surfers. Can you talk us through the benefits of bodyweight exercise?

Bodyweight training is super convenient, which makes it much more likely that you’ll stay consistent. Driving to and from a gym to do strength training and then cardio is a big sacrifice of time. If we want a behavior to continue, we should minimize the cost and maximize the reward. Learning to train with your bodyweight lowers the cost and eliminates the excuses. Consistency is king.

Bodyweight exercise also does much more to improve real-life performance than other forms of exercise, because you’re becoming proficient with useful movements. It’s an excellent tool for developing an athletic body that moves well.

Surfers tend to develop strong shoulders and lats but weak lower backs and legs. What are some of the focus areas in your book that can help surfers develop a more well-rounded fitness?

Strong and Lean is a comprehensive and balanced program made up of 9-minute workouts. Each 9-minute workout has 3 exercises that are repeated for 3 rounds (3 x 3 = 9). In the first two 6-week cycles, all workouts have one exercise from each of the following movement categories- floor exercises, mobility exercises, and standing exercises. 

Floor exercises are used to improve posture by strengthening your glutes, core, and upper back. Mobility exercises lengthen and strengthen your entire body by challenging you to move your arms and legs around a neutral spine while in planking-type positions. Standing exercises strengthen your legs and hips while improving control of weight shifting. 

In the third 6-week cycle, 9-minute strength workouts appear that are made up of pushing, pulling, and hip-hinging exercises. 

Including the short warmups and cool downs, all your needs are covered head to toe. The program uses 50 carefully selected exercises. 

People tend to think that workouts should be long and heavy. You’re suggesting that 9-minutes per day can be enough to build momentum. What are the benefits of shorter, more targeted workout sessions?

Just enough is enough. Especially in the beginning, the most common mistake is doing too much. You end up using a lot of unnecessary time and energy, and then you have to deal with all that muscle soreness, which again makes it less likely that you’ll continue. It’s about efficiency.

These 9-minute workouts are surprisingly tough, especially in the later weeks. I create a smooth on-ramp for users by adjusting exercise difficulty, work-to-rest intervals, and total workouts per week. 

The program starts with just three 9-minute workouts per week. Each exercise is done for 40-seconds, followed by 20-seconds of rest before starting the next exercise. Later in the program, you advance to much harder exercises, train 5 times per week, and perform each exercise for a full 60-seconds without any rest between exercises.

As someone who has trained the special operations community, what are some tips that can elevate performance? What should surfers and other athletes prioritize?

Always prioritize fundamentals. Fundamentals are the things that get used the most, and everything is built on them. They are the essentials. Focusing your energy on improving the skills most often in use gets you the most for the least. It’s about efficiency. Don’t be seduced by shiny things. 

It’s like Michael Jordan said, “Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.” When I was on a team, as a special ops guy, we were always working on our ‘fundies’. For me, nothing has changed. 

Are there any surfers who you think have achieved optimal fitness, especially as they get older? Kelly Slater and Laird Hamilton come to mind… 

Surfing requires smooth transitions between lying, kneeling, and standing positions. The essentials of athletic ability can be found in that skill set. It’s what we learned first in life, and it’s what we lose last before we become dependent on others and die. It’s my opinion that improving and maintaining those transitions is one of the most important functions of a good exercise program. Strong and Lean checks that block.

Three tips for anyone wanting to improve their surfing, using your approach?

Start small and progress gradually. The program has a good selection of movements that will make you more athletic if done correctly. Take your time, stay consistent, and focus on movement quality. Pay attention to the details and position properly. Learning to get into better joint alignment is what will make you a better surfer. 

Any final thoughts?

What is useful strength other than the ability to maintain ideal alignment under stress? Strong and Lean improves your mobility by getting you into better joint alignment. It then increases your strength by making it progressively harder for you to stay there. Strong and Lean is all about positioning. My guess is that surfers understand that better than anyone else. 

Strong and Lean by Mark Lauren

Available on Amazon

Mark Lauren’s website

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