Work That Butt and Ride Better

Here are 5 steps for one great exercise that can help your riding.

In this excerpt from Fit to Ride in 9 Weeks!, certified fitness trainer and riding coach Heather Sansom provides the steps to one great exercise you can incorporate into your regular fitness regimen that focuses on body areas and patterns specific to riding.

Since riding is all about a rider’s vertical spine moving together with a horse’s horizontal spine, all riders of all genders can benefit from developing the strength and suppleness needed to ride well while minimizing strain and injury to self or horse.

Try this exercise from my 9-week Fit to Ride program:

Back Step Lunge with Overhead Reach

Goal: 5-10 reps each side.

Muscles Worked: Gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps, erector spinae, deltoids, latissimus dorsi, transverse abdominis.

The first goal of this exercise is to continue to train correct folding at the hip, while building quadriceps (thigh) and gluteal strength. The other goals are: to increase your ability to engage your back muscles in integrated movement; improve shoulder strength; and increase your body’s vocabulary for multitasking. Yes, these are a lot of accomplishments for one simple exercise!

  1. Start by standing in your athletic-neutral stance: legs wide, knees slightly bent, core engaged, spine neutral.
  2. Shift your weight almost completely onto one foot as you hinge at the hips slightly forward.

    Photo by Carrie Smith

  3. Now that you have freed one foot from weight-bearing, reach it back until you can touch the floor with your toe behind you and descend into a lunging position.

    Photo by Carrie Smith

  4. Ensure that most of your weight is on the front thigh—the one you shifted your weight to in the first place.

    Photo by Carrie Smith

  5. Once you are in the lunge position, reach your arms up directly overhead to stretch your torso upright using your back and shoulder muscles. If you have impinged shoulders, you will not be able to lift your arms high. This is okay: the movement and coordination are the important parts of this exercise. If you are quite athletic, you may wish to hold free weights to add to the workload for your shoulders.

    Photo by Carrie Smith

    Photo by Carrie Smith

Only use an amount of arm lift (or weights) that allows you to maintain good form in the exercise. You should not be wobbling or weaving. If you lose your balance, hold a wall or object and only lift one arm on one side at a time.

Be patient with yourself, since each step of the exercise asks something new of your body. It is better to start slowly, rather than rush and train undesirable or compensating muscle patterns. A common error is for people to shift their weight back as they reach the second leg back. This places your weight in “no-man’s land” in the midair and causes you to lose your balance. Training your body to be very aware of which leg you are on, and where your body mass is, is very useful for learning better feel for horses under you. If you are unaware whether you are shifting your weight off the front leg, use a mirror or have someone observe you.

This excerpt from Fit to Ride in 9 Weeks! by Heather Sansom is reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books. Your can order Fit to Ride in 9 Weeks! here.