Mobility training with surf strength, conditioning and mobility coach Michelle Drielsma


Michelle is a master of movement. Sharing her knowledge with top performing athletes from surf, snow, and land disciplines. Her holistic view of strength and conditioning, allowing the body to move and perform at its prime, should be an important addition to any surfer’s training regime. We chatted to her specifically about shoulder strength and mobility.


Who’s ready for the weekend? Here’s something my mum couldn’t believe I used to do to get from one side of the room to the other as a kid. Now with four ankle weights I have finally made progress 😉💪. This is most definitely not an exercise you should be trying to replicate, and it really has zero training purpose, but I hope it entertained you all the same. 🎧 “I Wish” By Stevie Wonder X Disco Police. #sydneystrengthconditioning #movement #ankleweightsforthewin

Posted by Sydney Strength & Conditioning on Thursday, January 17, 2019


Michelle Drielsma’s strength and mobility programs have been featured in Women’s Health, GQ, The Inertia, Surfer Today, Still Stoked, and more. Author of Fluid Surfer – The Surfer’s Bible to Endless Performance & Injury Prevention, Michelle gives us the rundown on how to improve shoulder strength and flexibility for female surfers.

This isn’t the first time we have featured Michelle on Still Stoked. After attending her gym for some one-on-one surf mobility training 3 years ago, we were inspired to learn more about mobility in an effort to become a better surfer. She spelled it all out for us in this detailed mobility article that is well worth a read. A trainer to many of the top pros, Michelle is a wonderful source of knowledge and her online courses are well worth getting involved in if you are interested in improving your surfing.


Shoulder strength and mobility for female surfers

Adventure sports are not only physically taxing, the adrenaline they cultivate also serves to stiffen up the body. One of the best ways to improve your athleticism and overall physical wellbeing for long term enjoyment is to become more mobile.


What is mobility?

Mobility is a combination of flexibility and strength. It allows you to control any given joint range of motion. To improve skill in any given sport and maintain your physical integrity throughout the years to come, you need to have sufficient mobility to allow multiple movement possibilities. Having a greater amount of mobility allows for greater movement efficiency as well as allowing you to stay more relaxed when under physical stress.


Many people still have the impression that mobility training involves simply lying on a foam roller or relaxing passively into a stretch.


Surf training mobility and strength exercises


Becoming mobile takes time, dedication and graded strength efforts. Treat your mobility pursuits similar to a strength training session. I often spend a whole hour working on my own or my client’s mobility and we do not fail to raise a sweat. Many people still have the impression that mobility training involves simply lying on a foam roller or relaxing passively into a stretch. We have preferable joint angles which are stronger than others, typically mid-range joint positions such as when your hip is bent to 90 degrees. In order to improve our hip flexion mobility and hip extension mobility, we must build strength at our end-range hip flexion and end-range hip extension. These are both typically weaker positions. This is generally uncomfortable and effortful. Yet when done right you will reap the rewards in less time than standard, passive stretching.


surf training and stretching
Michelle working with pro surfer Freya Prumm


The different qualities to having the full range of joint motion are muscle flexibility, muscle strength, soft tissue suppleness, joint integrity and smoothly gliding joints. We can achieve these with the following practices:


Improving Mobility

#1 Passive stretching – Long duration stretching over many years is a proven method in getting more muscle flexibility. Yet it is not always time efficient or appropriate before sports or training. It can sedate the nervous system. If you are already very flexible, you will benefit more from full-range joint strengthening. There are ways you can incorporate muscle stretching into your mobility program that is effective and time efficient when combined with the techniques below.


#2 Active stretching – Developing tension within a stretched muscle/tissue, similar to PNF stretching yet with specific time and strength input parameters.

#3 Opposing tissue contraction – developing tension within muscle/tissue opposing that being stretched to pull yourself deeper into a stretch actively.


See our handy guide to pre-surf and post-surf yoga for more info on these types of stretching


#4 Soft tissue therapy – massage by yourself or a therapist. My illustrated book Fluid Surfer is great way to delve deep into this.


#5 Joint mobilisation and manipulation by yourself, or a therapist. My book Fluid Surfer also has safe, self-mobilisations you can learn and start applying today.


#6 Regular mobility and strength training which you can access online through my surf-specific online mobility program ,teaching you all of the techniques above into one compact library, categorised into different body areas.



Below are three techniques that will greatly enhance your shoulder health, whatever your chosen sport is


Pecs / Chest Push & Lift


Overhead Shoulder Shrugs

Note: If the “Overhead Shoulder Shrugs” position is too strong of a stretch for you, you can complete a similar version of this technique standing near the corner of a wall. Reach your hand down the middle of your back and use the wall to gently push your elbow. Slowly get closer to the wall with your chest and with time, your goal over time is to be able to touch your armpit to the wall.


Shoulder Clock Floor


Note: If this position is too strong of a stretch for you or you are feeling a pinch at the front of your shoulders, complete this without weight and reduce the size of your circle (your hand does not have to be touching the ground). The weight plate helps stretch the arm into a deeper range of movement as well as providing a small resistance to conservatively challenge each new shoulder position with light strengthening. Wherever you are at, this technique will serve to restore blood flow and mobility to stiff and sore surf shoulders.


Stretching while strengthening

You will notice that these techniques involve a muscle stretch.  But they also involve strength efforts to improve nervous system “acceptance” of deeper ranges of motion. Your nervous system will try to protect you. This will tighten your muscles and tissues when stretched out of typical range of motion. By increasing your strength in deeper ranges of motion, your mobility will effectively improve.

You can also increase your mobility by engaging in mutli-angle, multi-directional, multi-plane movement. Getting a good home bodyweight strength and movement program can be all you need. This will get your nuts and bolts greased, strong and working well.



Why start now?

Mobility is also very important for injury prevention. Incorporate some mobility training to prevent injury. That is easier than it is to wait until you are injured. It is hard to try and become more mobile to fix the problem. Give these three shoulder mobility techniques a try every day for a week and let me know how you go.


Still Stoked highly recommends Michelle’s strength and mobility programs, starting from $29 AUD a year!

Definitely check out more from Michelle Drielsma on here website, Facebook and Instagram

I am a writer and wanna-be big wave surfer. Surfing is my muse. I write about it and how it’s teaching me to live better. I hold certification as a nutritionist, personal trainer, yoga instructor, and lifeguard instructor. My story “100 Days in Mexico” of how a solo road trip surfing my way through Mexico changed my life can be found here


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