Off-horse exercises to get in shape
Equestrian fitness expert Nicola Stuart (top) offers up four off-horse exercises riders can do to work their muscles isometrically – just as they do when they’re in the saddle.
As simple as it sounds. Use the wall to perform a squat to build core stability and strength in your legs. Aim for one minute as a first marker – after that it’s up to you. However, I’d say it’s probably more efficient to add a weight on top of your legs to make it harder rather than staying there for longer.
- BACK AND SHOULDERS AGAINST THE WALL
- FEET HIP-WIDTH APART
- THIGHS AT 90 DEGREES
The muscles at the side of your torso and hips are your anti-rotation muscles, which help to keep you straight and also keep you out of trouble if the horse starts travelling in a direction you weren’t expecting. You can do this exercise with both knees down, the bottom knee down, two straight legs or, if you’re super-advanced, lift the top leg – pick what’s right for you to increase or decrease difficulty.
- ELBOW UNDER SHOULDER
- STACK HIPS ON TOP OF EACH OTHER
- CREATE A DIAGONAL STRAIGHT LINE WITH YOUR BODY
The plank is a classic exercise, so you probably know it already. Form is key though, as is breathing throughout. Again, you can hold for extended lengths or you can make it harder by adding a weight on to your back.
- BACK FLAT
- BELLY BUTTON TO SPINE
- ENGAGE GLUTES
- BREATHE THROUGHOUT
You move a little in this as you lift and lower your body, but the feet stay where they are. Get it right and the hip flexors at the front of the back leg will be lengthened and working isometrically, which is exactly what they do when riding in your dressage or flatwork position. Improving your hip-flexor strength will make them more stable in a two-point seat.
- RIBCAGE OVER PELVIS-NEUTRAL SPINE
- BOTH KNEES AND FEET FACING FORWARD. LOWER TO CREATE TWO RIGHT ANGLES WITH YOUR LEGS AND THEN LIFT BACK UP TO LEGS EXTENDED