5 reasons all riders NEED to be resistance training
Following on from last week's blog about professional riders & their training you obviously know the importance of adding resistance training into your programme. But do you actually know what resistance training does?
It's easy to look at a gym or a home-based session and follow it but it is important to understand what you are actually doing to your body physically & mentally when you are resistance training and how that is going to help you progress and cause adaptations to your body to make you fitter, stronger and faster!
So first of all what does resistance training actually do?
In a nutshell resistance training makes us stronger riders but it has many more benefits than just physical strength. Many of us as females are often scared of weight or resistance training as we think it's going to make us big and bulky. It's true lifting weights builds muscle but as females, we don't have the same hormonal make-up as men. Our testosterone levels are much lower so it's actually incredibly hard for women to actually build muscle.
When we do resistance training we are using an external load to apply a force to the body in order to elicit a response. When we lift that load and generate the force our bodies respond as we are causing stress to the muscle, they react to that stress by becoming stronger. Over time if you continue to apply enough stimulus to the body you will continue to elicit this response & get stronger! So in a nutshell that is how resistance training works, so how does it benefit us?
1; Increases muscle mass & bone density
In time with resistance training both our muscle mass and bone density increase and in turn we get stronger over time; this is the process of resistance training and progressive overload. Resistance training isn't only dumbbells or barbells it's any form of external resistance that you apply to your body so that could be a band, your own bodyweight used as a resistance, or a cable.
There are lots of different ways to resistance train and lots of different tools you can use depending on where you train but as long as you have some external resistance to work with that is going to make you stronger. If we're always lifting light weights then we are not going to elicit enough of a response in order to get stronger so it's important that you lift at a high enough intensity (heavy) which in turn will create stress in the muscle and cause the adaptation to become stronger.
As women, we should all be hugely aware that as we age our bone density and muscle mass decrease and this can often lead to females suffering from more bone breaks in older age and as riders is that something we should all be super aware of. Things like osteoporosis or arthritis are more common in women and resistance training can really help to make your body as strong as possible and offset that as much as you can. It's something I am mindful of as a female as I know there is osteoporosis is in my family and it can sometimes be genetic so it's one big reason I strength train.
2; It builds & shapes our physique making us confident
Resistance training shapes your physique too. Talking about aging as we age if we lose muscle mass we end up with a skinny fat looking physique which is not really what most women are going for.
If you want to have that toned and lean defined shape you need to make sure you have a good amount of muscle mass and resistance training helps you to maintain or build that. When we are talking about tone or lean we are talking about showing off the muscle tone underneath the body fat.
Resistance training does that for you & builds the muscle & in turn, it massively boosts your mental and physical confidence, from a physical point of view if you know can lift heavy loads, say 100kg off the floor, you're going to feel positive and strong in yourself about what you can achieve. Equally, if you know you look good and your body shows that you're going to feel much more confident and happy in your own skin which as females is incredibly important. Having low self-confidence & poor image is an issue for many riders. We always say riding gear is not the most flattering and for those of you who want to look amazing in your show wear then you should all be resistance training! Trust me it works wonders for your confidence
3-Resistance training boosts your metabolism
Resistance training raises your metabolism as you are carrying more muscle and when you carry more muscle you burn more calories. That is why men typically have a higher calorie allowance than us because they have a higher muscle make up hence they burn more calories throughout the day. But we can increase our own metabolic rate through weight training and it's a great tool to aid fat loss, as you increase your metabolic rate you reduce your body fat which is a win-win all round! Studies have shown after weight sessions your metabolism stays elevated for up to 38 hours hence you're able to burn more calories.
4-Reduce chances of cardiovascular disease
Studies have shown weight training can help to reduce illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, when you are working with weights you are challenging both your anaerobic and aerobic systems so you're working your lungs and heart. A survey of 4000 adults revealed that strength training actually had stronger links to reduced cardiovascular disease than endurance activity such as running or cycling!
This can really help to decrease the chance of developing cardiovascular disease and is another fantastic reason why we should be strength training. There's lots of evidence out there as well to show that resistance training massively boosts your endurance as well as your strength, as you are stronger your ability to resist fatigue is higher therefore you can keep going for much longer! That is seriously important when we're talking about riding especially things like jumping a taxing showjumping or cross country round at your best.
As long as you are lifting enough load to cause stress to the body and elicit a response it doesn't really matter whether you train around your maximal power range, so low reps and high sets or if you go for 15-20 reps with a more moderate load.
As long as you create enough stress that is the key to causing an adaptation. In terms of training, it is known as hypertrophy so we are training the muscle to become bigger and stronger but you must be hitting that sweet spot between the minimum and maximum recoverable volume that your body can adapt to. If you get that sweet spot right then you will find you get bigger and stronger because the muscle fibers will grow due to this response. But like I said at the top remember we are not men, we do not have enough testosterone to suddenly become the Hulk so don't let that put you off resistance training!
5-Injury Prevention & reducing our risk of injury
Injury prevention in my opinion is the biggest reason every rider should be strength training. Lifting weights improve the strength of your muscles, muscles, ligaments & bones. The stronger your body and bones the stronger your structure and the less likely you are to pick up an injury. Stronger muscles and tendons help hold the body in proper alignment and protect the bones and joints when moving or under impact so you are stronger in general.
Obviously, when we are talking about horses we all know falls and accidents can happen outside of our control but the more you can do to make your body as strong as possible so if you were to hit the floor then surely you would?
You have a better chance of reducing the damage to your muscles and bones if you're stronger & training can really help to improve imbalances and wonknyess as well which again when we're talking about injuries can often come from overloading one side so this is another reason that resistance training can be really beneficial for riders of all phases.
I hope this helps you to understand how it could benefit you & change both your riding but also your health & body! It's so important we train for long-term health & wellness as well as performance goals. Don't get put off by thinking you're going to become big or bulky and let the process happen and I promise you, you'll love the results. That's resistance training and what it does in a nutshell if you have any questions feel free to message me and good luck with your journeys! Katie