Staying Flexible In and Out of the Saddle
As everyone knows, a large portion of the United States New Year’s Resolution is to “be more active” and “go to the gym more!”. Well yours should be to! But geared towards becoming a stronger rider by focusing on your body when you are not on the horse. Riding takes a set of very unique muscles that most people don’t normally use every day. 2018 should be the year to strengthen all these unique muscles to help you become a stronger rider. It would be very hard to name all the muscles that riders use while riding, since our bodies are doing an immense amount of work all over to help us stay on the horse. I will be honing in on just a few of them, and ways that you can strengthen these muscles. The circuits below should be repeated three times! You can choose to do all of them during your workout, or pick the workout based on the muscle you want to make stronger.
*Disclaimer I am not a medical professional or a certified personal trainer! I am just an experienced rider who is passionate about health and fitness and wanted to share some tips :)
Gluteus Maximus: Also known as the butt! The Gluteus Maximus is the largest muscle in the butt, which also consists of the Gluteus Medius and the Gluteus Minimus. While riding this muscle can help give the rider power to send and drive your mount forward and keeping yourself and your mount centered and balanced.
Example Gluteus Maximus Circuit
Repeat circuit 3x or 4x for an extra challenge!
Weighted Walking Lunges: 24 reps (12 each leg)
-Start by grabbing a set of weights that you are comfortable with. Start off by doing a basic lunge and place one knee in front of you at a 90 degree angle, and the other one behind you straught back. Repeat this by switching to the next leg, and continuing to move forward with each lunge.
Single Leg Hip Thrust: 20 reps (10 each leg)
-Start with one foot bent on the ground, and the other laying flat on the ground. Push yourself up with your bent leg and keep your leg straight when you are raising. Keep the leg being raised straight and try not to bend it!(Picture shown to the left)
Weighted Step Ups: 24 reps (12 each leg)
-Grab a set of dumbbells or one single barbell and head to an elevated area. A chair can be used or a stool or step found at the gym. With your weights ready to go, step up on the surface with your weights. Repeat 12 times for each leg.
Barbell Hip Thrust : 20 reps
- This exercise is to be done at the gym where a bench and barbell is accessible. Start on the side of the bench with your elbows/forearms resting on bench and your legs extended out in front of you in chair position. Position the barbell across your lap laying on your hips. Once ready grab a hold of the barbell and push the barbell up with your legs and hips.
Gluteus Medius: a muscle none of us probably think about when we are riding, it is also sometimes referred to as the “The Forgotten Butt Muscle”. This muscle is located on the outer surface of the pelvis and is one of the three muscles included in the buttocks. A strong Gluteus Medius will allow the rider to have better control over their mount while using leg aids correctly. A rider with a weak Gluteus Medius, but not be able to use the leg aids properly and steer towards using incorrect muscles like the knee or foot to guide the mount.
Example Gluteus Medius Circuit
Repeat circuit 3x or 4x for an extra challenege
Side Laying Clam: 20 reps(each side
-Start off by laying to one side, with your legs stacked on top of each other and your arms placed on the floor in front of you. Bring your heels together on top of each other, and make a bend in your legs. While keeping your heels together slowly peel your knees away from each other, and then back together.
Donkey Kicks: 20 reps
-Get on all fours and raise your one leg up in the air with a bent knee and lift it about an inch while keeping it in the position(like shown in the picture below)
Banded Side Lying Leg Raises:20 reps
-This exercise can be done with or without a resistance band! Start standing up straight with access to a wall or stable item to lean on. If using resistance band place around your ankles. Slowly move your one leg laterally off the floor, while keeping your other leg stable. Repeat on the other side and make sure you aren’t moving to fast!
Fire Hydrants: 20 reps
-Get on all fours, keep one leg bent on the floor while the other leg is lifted up in the air to the side at a 90 degree angle. Life the bent knee in the air, parallel to the ground. Repeat on the opposite side.
The Abdomen: Having a strong core is extremely important for riders, on and off the horse! As we all know, owning horses requires a lot of heavy lifting including feed, muck buckets and hay bales. There are four main muscles in the abdomen; The internal oblique muscles, the external oblique muscles, the rectus abdominis and the transversus abdominis. Below is a general sample circuit to strengthen all the muscles in the abdomen.
Example Core Circuit
Repeat circuit 3x, or 4x for an extra challenge!
Side to Side toe taps: 30 reps
-Sit in a slighlty upright position and reach for one side of your toes, and then do the same thing on the opposite side.
Bicycle Crunch: 40 reps (20 each leg)
-Start by lying on your back, hand behind your head legs laying flat on the ground. The opposite elbow will come up and touch the opposite leg, and then to the other side. This exercise might be easy for you, but for it to really work this exercise must be done slowly!
V sit and hold: 30 seconds
-Start sitting in an upright position. Raise your legs off the floor while keeping them together. Your body should be positioned in a “V” shape.
Leg Raises: 20 reps
-Lay flat on your back, and while keeping your legs together slowly lift them from their place on the floor to about 6 inches below the ground, and then back down. Focus on going slow and really targeting those muscles!
Transverse Abdominus: This is the deepest muscle layer of the abdomen, which plays a vital role in rider stability. The muscle also aids the internal muscles by compressing them, when we are exhaling while breathing. It stabilizes the trunk of our bodies, which always use to have better posture and balance while on the horse. Below are some sample exercises on how to isolate and really work on strengthening the Transverse Abdominus .
Example Transverse Abdominus Circuit:
Repeat circuit 3x, or 4x for an extra challenege!
Opposite Hand/Arm Lift: 20 reps
-This exercise is a lot harder than it looks! Lift the opposite arm simultaneously as you lift the opposite leg and focusing on keeping your core tight to keep you balanced.
Plank: 30 seconds
-Make sure your back is flat, and your butt is aligned with the rest of you body and it is not higher than anything else.
Glute Bridge: 30 reps
-Lay on your back to start off. Then by squeezing your glutes and inner thighs lift your self up to a bridge position as high as you can lift yourself, then lower down and repeat.
Russian Twist: 50 reps (25 each side; can be done with weights for an extra challenge!)
-Sit upright with your legs lifted off the floor and rotate your body to one side, and touch the floor and repeat on the opposite side. Go slow and work on completely turning your torso and touching the ground!