What Muscles Are Important To Train For Wakeboarding?
Wakeboarding is a thrilling watersport that combines elements of waterskiing, snowboarding, and surfing. It involves riding on a wakeboard while being towed behind a boat or cable system.
If you rent a boat in Costa Rica, you can try it for yourself! Here on Lake Arenal, our boats will pull you along as you skim across the deep blue mesmerizing water – waters so clear and fresh, you won't mind falling in!
It's a high adrenaline, popular watersport that's excellent for beginners. Attached to a board (similar to a snowboard, if you’re more familiar with winter sports) with a firm grip on the rope, you're locked in for a thrilling yet physically demanding experience. For most, the demanding physical element is actually the most difficult to cope with – not the wakeboarding technique itself.
To cope with the physical element, we've created a list of the essential muscles that you should train for wakeboarding, and the exercises best suited for it.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news – abdominal core strength and stability are essential for wakeboarding.
Wakeboarding requires a strong and stable core – particularly when you’re still getting to your feet and finding your balance, making micro adjustments to your positioning as the boat moves forward and pulls you up and out of the water. Abdominal strength is also crucial when you're attempting to create balance and control while performing tricks and maneuvers.
There are numerous exercises that will whip your abdominals into shape in no time. The dreaded plank is number one on the list. Holding a plank for 30-60 seconds in a set of three will tighten and strengthen your core muscles rapidly. Diversify your workout by rotating planks to add a challenge and replicate some wakeboarding core movements. Bicycle crunches, leg lifts, crunch, and the supine dead bug also train the abdominal muscles really well.
Additionally, yoga is excellent for enhancing your core strength and overall balance. There are excellent tutorials on YouTube that are perfect for the yoga novice.
Next comes your shoulder muscles. Strength in this area is essential, particularly as the movement of the boat forward creates tension in the rope and the need for upper body strength kicks in. Strengthening the deltoids, rotator cuff muscles, and trapezius muscles can enhance shoulder stability and prevent strain. Shoulder strain injuries are common in wakeboarding, especially during the initial lift out of the water.
Training your upper body for strength involves resistance training with the perfect mixture of compound and isolation exercises. Weights should be higher, and sets include fewer movements. For strength and power, it's recommended to complete six to twelve reps using weights around 40–85% of your one rep maximum. How much of a percentage you opt for depends on how hard you want to train.
Compound exercises perfect for training the muscles needed for wakeboarding include bench presses, push-ups, dumbbell lateral raises, the Arnold press, and the overhead press.
Don't forget the gold standard of mixing compound movements with isolated ones. Isolated shoulder exercises to incorporate into your shoulder workout are the seated dumbbell rear delt fly, the cable rear delt fly, the wide-grip upright row, and the dumbbell front raise.
Note that the focus should be on strength training your shoulder muscles rather than thinking about muscle mass density, as is the focus with every area of the body you work out for wakeboarding. You'll naturally find that lean mass accumulates through the sport.
Wakeboarding involves lots of pulling and twisting movements, which engage your back muscles. Strengthening your back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi (lats), rhomboids, and erector spinae, can improve your endurance and prevent injuries. Again, many of the motions wakeboarding produces can easily damage muscles and ligaments if the strength isn't there.
As with your shoulder workout, you should focus on mixing compound and isolated movements – although compound exercises are the best for creating generalized strength because they focus on multiple muscles simultaneously.
Compound exercises for your back include deadlifts, pull-ups, bent-over rows, seated cable rows, and the farmer's carry. You'll find these exercises target other areas of the body. Deadlifts, for example, train the back, shoulders, glutes, and legs.
Isolated movements are great for targeting the muscles you know you'll use the most when wakeboarding. Some of the best isolated exercises to try out include the straight arm cable pulldown, back extension, and dumbbell pullover.
Depending on who you are and what you like to train, leg day is almost as uninviting, if not worse, than training abs. Exercising legs is more physically demanding than exercising any other body part, and science and anatomy can tell you why. The legs are notably larger and naturally stronger. They burn massive amounts of energy during workouts; workouts can force the body into an anaerobic metabolic state faster than any other muscle group you train. The anaerobic state means you're burning energy quicker than the oxygen travels to the muscle.
Thinking about wakeboarding, your leg muscles play a vital role in providing stability, power, and control. Compound exercises will again reign supreme, although your body might not be thankful for them! The most grueling – yet rewarding – exercises include the Bulgarian split squat, barbell squat, Romanian deadlift, front squat, barbell glute bridge, and the leg press.
You better believe there are many isolated exercises to go with your compound essentials. The best include the leg extension, leg curl, Nordic hamstring curl, hip abduction, hip adduction, and calf raises.
Incline walking is also an excellent way to build leg muscle strength and endurance – incorporate the Stairmaster or treadmill incline walking into your workouts to see speedy strength improvements.
Arm strength goes hand in hand with grip strength, something we'll talk about in the next section. Wakeboarding involves gripping the handle and performing various tricks requiring arm and grip strength. But you want to isolate the two to create a complete workout and prevent one area from being neglected. For example, if you only focus on arm strength, you'll fail to strengthen your grip as effectively as possible.
For the most effective arm workout, include compound exercises focusing on the biceps, triceps, and forearm muscles, pull-ups, close grip chin-ups, bicep curls, diamond push-ups, and bench dips. Isolated movements include the concentration curl, preacher curl, seated bicep curls, and single-arm cable preacher curls – basically all the curls!
Grip strength is essential, perhaps even the most essential element to successful wakeboarding. The ability to keep a strong, tight grip on the handle with the rope attached will ultimately define your success – let go, and you're in the water. Multiple exercises will specifically target grip strength – lifting weights, particularly completing movements focusing on arm strength, is one of the ways.
Alternatively, the following are renowned for increasing grip strength – dead hangs, reverse bicep curls, battle ropes, plate pinches, farmer's walks, and kettlebell swings. Compound and isolated movements aren't necessarily a thing with grip strength. However, these exercises will also strengthen your wrists and arms in the process.
Practice Wakeboarding To Develop Your Muscles And Strength
One of the best ways to train the most crucial muscles activated during wakeboarding is the sport itself. A baseline level of strength and flexibility is needed to prevent injury – but once you're in the water, you'll begin to feel the burn in your muscles like no other workout. The sport will tone your entire body in one session, perhaps leaving you aching slightly the next day.
Wakeboarders report that the abdominal and leg muscles feel the burn the most. For that reason alone, you should always stretch pre-session to prevent injury, particularly in your arms, shoulders, and back, and post-session to prevent lactic acid build-up and the dreaded delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). At Volcano Watersports, you can rent one of our boats and spend the day practicing and building your muscular strength and endurance to your heart’s content, under the guidance of our expert instructors.
The Perfect Training Split For Wakeboarding
Anyone who isn't new to the bodybuilding and weightlifting world will know about a training split. It's the process of creating a training program that splits training body parts into different sessions and days. The most popular – and best-suited to wakeboarding – are push, pull, and legs. Following a push, pull, and leg split will ensure you target each muscle wakeboarding challenge.
However, one or two key elements seem to go missing from the training split – cardio and abdominals. Abdominals should feature in every other workout and cardio in all of them. Cardiovascular endurance is just as crucial for wakeboarding as muscular – incline treadmill walking, yoga, and the Stairmaster are great ways to improve cardiovascular endurance without feeling like you're training for a marathon.
Wakeboarding is physically demanding; there's no denying that. Professional wakeboarders are fine-tuned athletes that train hard in and outside the gym. Muscular endurance and strength equals are just as essential as the technique you need to master to be successful at wakeboarding – something you'll naturally build when trying out the sport, whether it's for fun or for competition.