Strength and Muscle Training for Equestrian and Jockeys

How to Get Fit for Horse Riding

jockey riding horse
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Weight training for athletics has largely been regarded as the domain of strength sports like football, baseballsprinting, and field sports like shotput and discus. It's easy to see why: these sports feature well-muscled athletes who rely on power and strength for performance.

Over time however, other athletes have added weight and strength training to their practice regimens, since particular aspects of many sports require both power and strength like jumping and shooting in basketball and driving in golf, for example.

Weight Training and Horse Riding

Horse riding, whether competitive equestrian, racing, recreational or competitive, can probably be improved with weight training to enhance strength, control, and balance, especially around the lower body and core (mid-section).

Professional trainers realize that just about any sport requires power and strength, so strength training is utilized to help people like marathoners and long-distance cyclists who traditionally did not weight train because it was considered to be of little benefit.

Horse riding requires strong legs and adductor thigh muscles in order to control the horse, as well as a strong set of abdominal, shoulder, and lower back muscles for position and rein control.

General Preparation for Weight Training

Weight training or resistance training, used intelligently, can promote and enhance these athletic characteristics. Since all athletes have individual needs, a generic program like the one that follows will need to be modified for individual style, age, goals, facilities available, and so on.

If you prepare on a seasonal competition basis, you can adjust your intensity and volume of weight training on a cyclical basis, building up to competition season. If you do not have seasons, a year-round program with cross-training breaks every few months should work well.

As a general rule, and for all of the following programs, don't do the workouts prior to a ride.

Do them later in the day after actual horse work, or well before, or on an entirely separate day if possible. You need to be fresh for competition riding. Nothing you do should limit your ability to practice technical skills in the environment in which you would normally compete.

Basic Strength and Muscle Program

The following weight training program is a general strength and muscle program with equal emphasis on upper and lower body and core. Do 3 sets of 12 exercises:

Weight training isn't just about the exercises you do, but about how you do them. Be sure to take these tips to heart as you build your basic strength program:

  • Rest completely from high-intensity strength training one week in five. Light gym work is OK.
  • Use your judgment. Don't sacrifice technical skills training for weights work if you have limited time available.
  • Try to allow at 1-2 days between a strength training session and competitive riding.
  • Always warm up and cool down before and after a training session. A medical clearance for exercise is always a good idea at the start of the season.
  • Stop immediately if acute pain is noticed during or after an exercise, and seek medical and training advice if it persists.

Summary

For professional results, a weight training program is best supervised by a personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach. If you're new to strength training, you should read up on the fundamentals of weight training.

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