Training Room: How Pro Surfer Michael Dunphy Builds Power and Dynamic Stability

It’s sometimes overlooked just how much physical endurance is necessary for pro athletes to get to where they’re at. Such can often be the case for surfers, who make their craft of riding waves look so seamless, effortless and, well, like an art form.

But arguably, surfers are some of the hardest working athletes out there. And pro surfer Michael Dunphy can certainly attest to that. The Quiksilver team rider has been putting in the work, competing against some of the best in the world for a shot at qualifying for the WSL Championship Tour (CT). However, to take his game to the next level, he also puts in time at Costa Mesa, California’s Surf Ready Fitness with trainer Paul Norris.

We caught up with Norris to hear more about Dunphy’s routine, and how it plays a key role in elevating his surfing.


“Studies show that surfers need anaerobic training, which means they need to be powerful but not for longer than 2 minutes,” Norris tells ASN. “Implementing a power training program will not only improve your turns but will also increase the amount of waves you catch. It’s important that max effort is applied to each rep but also plenty of rest time between exercises.”
Windmill Slams:

“This is a great exercise for developing hip, leg and core power,” says Norris. “Surfers have to transfer weight back and forth between their legs when driving down the line as well as hitting the lip.

“This exercise trains the body to transfer energy from side to side as well as forcing the limbs to work together. This exercise is specific to surfers driving through the lip with their legs and then having to regain balance to link turns together.”

KB Squat Jumps:

“This exercise is designed to recruit more muscle fibers in the lower body and in turn make them more powerful,” he says. :When you add weight to an explosive movement, the body has to kick into high gear and ‘overwork’ those specific muscles. Every athlete should add this exercise into their power routine.”

Rotational Box Jumps:

“This is the perfect exercise for surfers looking to get better at doing airs. This specific movement requires a lot of torque from the trunk as well as aggressive arms,” explains Norris. “When you swing your arms across your body, the body will rotate a lot more naturally. This movement is great for body control and space awareness.” 

Rotational Slam Ball Tosses

“Every surfer needs to have a strong core,” Norris emphasizes. “This specific movement helps train the core to move a lot more explosively. And in turn, the hips become a lot more explosive and work with the core seamlessly.” 


“My thought process on these exercises is that you’re starting with a dynamic exercise followed by a stability exercise,” says Norris. “So essentially you’re training the body to be powerful but with balance, or to maintain balance when adding a strength or power movement.

“I love these exercises because they carry over to surfing and help the athlete improve in all facets of moving.”

Single Leg Bosu Hops:

“The most common injuries in surfing are ankle and knee tweaks as well as hip and shoulder impingements,” he says. “This exercise helps strengthen the ligaments and tendons in the ankles and knees.

“This is one of my favorite exercises because we’re strengthening those specific joints, while also training the core to work harder as well as lighting up our proprioceptors.”

Rotational Squat Jumps on Bosu:

“Every surfer needs stability training in their program so this is a great exercise to work that focus, as well as hone in on body control,” says Norris. “This specific movement helps with landing airs because it teaches you to swing your arms to rotate in addition to landing softly in a squat.”

Banded Pallof Press on Bosu:

“This is a great core and stability exercise. It’s also an anti-rotation move that forces the athlete to really engage the core. The beauty of the Pallof press is that it challenges and strengthens the stabilization action of your abs,” Norris explains. “That’s because when you do this exercise, it forces your core to resist the rotation or compression of your spine, which forces your entire core to engage.”

Check Turns:

“This is a lower-body stability move, as well as an endurance exercise,” Norris tells ASN. “The goal is to maintain your balance while transferring energy from side to side. It burns out the legs and raises the athlete’s anaerobic threshold.”

Banded Squat Jumps:

“This movement is great for body control and space awareness. It teaches the athlete to spot their landing and trains them to land softly,” he says.

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