5 Exercises for Collapsing Up the Neck!
Having a photo like this is never the best look is it?!
Or one like this?!
You got a bit close, went a bit up the neck, thought you could save it but nahhhh you were gone!
Many riders especially jumping & eventing riders struggle to not collapse up their horses necks & keep control of their bodyweight. Especially on the landing of fences or if your horse is a big jumper. This can be for a number of physical reasons from a lack of lower leg stability, poor glute & leg strength, poor ankle mobility, having too much angle through your hips, lack of core strength, poor upper back strength to name a few! So the more you do to work on this the better & most of the reason for riders having this issue is down to their own movement, not your horse!
In this case, if you're struggling with collapsing any training is going to be better than nothing and it will certainly help your riding! But what we want to make sure is that the training you are doing is actually going to directly benefit and improve your riding and is specific to the strength that you need when in the saddle.
If this is you then working on your position off-horse should be an absolute definite over the winter. Now is a great time to identify your weak areas and work on improving them for next season. As you get used to working different muscles & areas of your body with different exercises you'll likely find where your strengths & weaknesses lie & then your programme can have more specificity as well as obviously considering how you feel when riding! If you know your lower leg is weak from how you feel jumping then that is something you know you need to focus on strengthening now.
These would be my go-to exercises to help you stop collapsing now & for anyone who struggles with this these will hugely help!!
Hip thrusts work to strengthen your lower body muscles through hip extension predominantly the gluteal muscles. For riders who struggle with going up the neck, it can often be because your glute muscles are weak. Our seat is the powerhouse of our movement when riding and if you don't have the strength to hold your seat in the position it should be in, then it's probably due to your glute muscles needing more strength. The hip thrust is great as by elevating your shoulders you get a greater range of motion through the hips, therefore, working the glute muscles harder. Start bodyweight & in time add weight or a bar to your hips. These give you bang for buck & should be in every riders training programme!
2-BANDED FACE PULLS
All equestrian disciplines are posterior chain dominant sports. Think about it, when you are riding does the front or the back of your body work more? You might think the front due to your core and also your thighs but actually, it's the muscles on the back of your body that do the most.
These include your core muscles, inner thighs, hamstrings, glutes muscles, lower back and upper back muscles! Sometimes we may work our big back muscles enough but it's important to also strengthen the smaller upper back muscles such as the rhomboids & trapezius. The back's role is to help protect and stabilize your spine while providing shoulder and back strength. So if your neglecting your upper back strength your not going to have a strong posterior chain or good posture.
When these muscles are weak collapsing forward is going to happen as well as not having the strength to resist being pulled forwards. If your body weight becomes unbalanced that is then going to unbalance your horse too. Working on your upper back and shoulder strength will help to develop a better posture and avoid those dreaded rounded shoulders. Keep your shoulders down and really think of squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades as you pull the band to your ears.
Wall sits are when you hold a static squat position against the wall for a period of time isometrically, they are great for increasing lower body strength and stability and work all of the lower body muscles as well as your core. They are not just a leg burner!
Doing wall sits regularly will help to build your endurance to hold your two-point position. If you think about the position you are in, in your 2 point seat the wall sit replicates this brilliantly! Adding these into your training will elevate your stability & strength through your legs to hold your own body weight. You have to keep your core muscles engaged to keep contact with the wall so these are a great bang for buck leg & core exercise! Control your breathing to help your muscles work & be able to hold the position for the time
In my opinion, the best anti-extension core exercise out there. If you struggle with collapsing forwards or poor posture when riding then your lower back probably ends up doing more of the work than it should be a lot of the time!
If you don't have the strength through your core muscles but also the ability to control your pelvis then your lower back is going to end up compensating and your pelvis & spine will end up in an extended position. This is not what we want as then the lower back is taking all of the load! A deadbug works your core muscles by teaching you not to let your back extend into that position maintaining stability & a neutral pelvis. As well as working the sling muscles & working co-ordination it is one of the best exercises for Equestrians as uses the same muscles worked when riding! This must be included for all riders. Start bodyweight & as your form & control improves you can add weight etc
So by now if you've read to this point you've probably realised it's not just all about your core strength. The core is of course still an important element hence why this is another core exercise! Plank pullthroughs teach you to resist rotation through the hips and spine as you move the weight under you. The aim of this exercise is to be able to drag the weight or block underneath you keeping your ribcage and hips locked down and avoiding any rotation. The role of the core is to also stabilise the spine like the back muscles so we want to make sure the core work we're doing is functional to this aspect! Learning how to avoid rotation will keep your balance when riding, help you to absorb shock better, be able to maintain a neutral pelvis & make you a stronger rider all round. This is functional core training at its best so add this in!
These are my top five exercises to begin with and they will help build your posterior chain strength, strengthen your legs, increase your glute strength as well as elevate your core strength. Stop bodyweight focus on moving with good technique and form and then in time increase the load used and the reps and sets performed for maximum gains! I hope this was helpful and any questions please ask