Bodyboarding is a “complete” surfing water sport. It requires the use of your whole body, though depending on your level of riding you may need to be more aware of and condition different muscle groups.
The leg muscles are the first group you will want to condition. Used for swimming from shore out to where the waves break, paddling into waves, and also as leverage for turning while riding the waves. Leg positioning and movement during high performance bodyboarding tricks is also used to control your momentum. No leg strength or stamina makes for a very short surf session.
I am including the feet here because sometimes you may get foot cramps when swimming. In my experience this is usually an effect of either your bodyboarding fins not fitting properly or leg muscles tightening up from overuse /exhaustion which in turn pulls on the muscles in your feet.
The arms are typically used for paddling, though not as exclusively as with traditional surfing. Personally, I use arm paddling primarily to give the legs a rest from kicking during extended “paddle outs” or for extra boosts of speed when paddling for a wave. Arm strength will also be needed for performing advanced bodyboarding maneuvers that are exclusive to this water sport since you must hold on to your board as you flip, twist, spin–sometimes all at the same time–and fall out of the sky when doing aerial moves.
Since for most riders the majority of the time will be spent lying with the stomach on the bodyboard, the “ab” muscles must be able to support and direct the weight of your body. Also, when doing advanced maneuvers like airs, rolls, ARS’s, and flips you will be freefalling onto your stomach. Strong abdominal muscles will help keep the wind from getting knocked out of you and the quick recovery you will make insures that you will not lose speed upon impact.
Weak stomach muscles will also put extra responsibility on the back muscles to absorb the impact of hard landings. If you find you have recurring back pain after doing advanced bodyboarding moves, I can tell you first hand that improving your ab strength may likely reduce or eliminate your back problems.
This brings us to the last group of muscles I will talk about…the back muscles. You should have a strong back regardless of your skill level, but advanced moves require a lot of twisting, arcing, and body english that can only be accomplished with a strong, flexible back.
So now that know what muscles to condition for this water sport, it’s time to start enjoying the wide world of surfing. Grab a board and fins, and go out and have a great bodyboarding session. Enjoy!