Strength and Muscle Training for Equestrian and Jockeys

jockey riding horse

Glowimages / Getty Images

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

Whether competitive equestrian, racing, recreational or competitive, horse riding 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 to control the horse and 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 personal style, age, goals, facilities available, etc.

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, don't do the workouts before a ride for all of the following programs. Do them later in the day after actual horse work, or well before, or on an entirely separate day if possible. It would be best if you were fresh for competition riding. Nothing you do should limit your ability to practice technical skills in the environment you would typically 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: Rest 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.
  • Alternate training: 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.
  • Listen to your body: Stop immediately if acute pain is noticed during or after an exercise, and seek medical and training advice if it persists.

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.

By Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers is a personal trainer with experience in a wide range of sports, including track, triathlon, marathon, hockey, tennis, and baseball.