Full Week of Rider Workouts
When it comes to the training side of rider fitness there are so many unanswered questions!
How many times a week should I be training? Should I be doing cardio or HIIT? Do I need to be adding in weights? What exercises are best to help my riding? Do I need to go to the gym? What can I do with 20 minutes?
The whole fitness space is a total minefield when you first get started & there are so many options out there it's hard to decide which method or direction is going to be best for you. There is no right or wrong when it comes to fitness & training but there are a few rules I would always go by;
1-Do no harm; your training & exercise programme should make you stronger & fitter not make you sore or more fatigued. Inevitably during a training journey niggles and injuries can happen but on the whole your programme should only better you not make you worse physically.
2-Enjoy what you do; pretty simple, if you enjoy what you do you're going to stick to it and you're going to be more likely to put a better effort into every session you do! Life is too short so make sure whatever you decide to do you actually enjoy the task
3-Make sure what you are doing is specific; What I mean by this is making sure your training is going to have a direct benefit to your goals whether that be riding/lifestyle/personal. Is your training & programme actually leading you to your goals & specific to your need & wants?
Except for those rules as such, the training world is pretty much your oyster and you can decide what you want to do. I know for a lot of you you'll be stuck in the camp of not having a clue where to start or what is best to do so I'm going to share my training week with you and explain how I programme a full week of training for riders of all disciplines and levels. Hopefully this helps you to give some ideas of what to focus on and some inspiration for your own training! Obviously, this is an outline of the programme design I follow & my core principles. My own programme & clients are bespoke to what we need individually so this will need adapting & personalising to you but use this as an example outline!
Day 1; Strength-based session; this can be done at the gym or home, every training session begins with 5-10 minutes of dynamic mobility focusing on warming up the hips, spine & shoulders.
Depending what lifts & exercises we are doing in the session dictates which mobility movements will be prescribed! It is really important to do a full-body dynamic warmup so that your joints and muscles are warm and ready to go.
Warming up properly reduces your chance of picking up an injury. I always like to add in 2 to 3 exercises for activation as well with that be some core work, glute work or upper body work just to get the body primed and ready to make the most out of your strength and movements! Banded movements are perfect for these!
Day 1; Strength-based session;
A1; Core; Deadbugs 3-4 sets x 40 seconds alt sides
A2; Sumo Squat 3-4 sets x 10-15 reps
60 secs rest between sets
B1; Sa Banded Row 3 sets x 12-15 reps e/s
B2; KB Side Lunge 3 sets x 8-10 reps e/s
B3; Banded Pull Apart 3 sets x 10-15 reps
Rest 60 seconds
8 MIN AMRAP; as many rounds as possible within the time
-Deadbug Hold x 30 seconds
-Kneeling or Incline Push Ups x 8 reps
-Skaters x 10 reps e/s (20 total)
N.B; where you see A1/A2 for example this means the 2 exercises are done back to back in a circuit style. So you do deadbugs directly into squats then rest then go into the next set. Pairing exercises in supersets is a great way of keeping your workout time effective but also getting as much work done in the time as you can and keeping your training intensity high!
Day 2; Strength or Run
If you can do so I would suggest you space your sessions out across the week as this gives the body plenty of recovery time! So today I would go for a run or do an aerobic session, this could be a swim, HIIT session, a cycle, whatever floats your boat & gets your heart & lungs working. If time is an issue then just stick to day 2 being your 2nd strength based session.
The intensity of the cardiovascular work you do depends on your experience & training level. If you're relatively new to training go for 20 to 40 minutes of steady state or easy effort aerobic training. If you're more experienced you can add a bit of speed play in for example a run might look like the following;
10 Minute Warm Up
4 x 800m efforts @ effort 7-8
2 minutes walk recovery rest
5 minute easy jog home
Day 3; Strength-based Session 2
The most important thing with a strength programme is making sure the programme is specific for your needs & goals but also it is well balanced. If we over work one body part or muscle group in the long run this could lead to overtraining and imbalances which could potentially create an injury.
For some of you, you may have a bias towards a particular muscle group or movement for example if you struggle with your posture when riding there will be more of a bias to focus on pulling and posterior work but on the whole your programme should be relatively balanced.
If you look at the exercises below they are opposite to the session on Monday. For example squats work the muscles on the front of the legs whereas a bridge or hinge pattern works the muscles on the back of the legs so we are working the opposing muscle groups to make sure the programme is balanced, we are not overworking the same muscles & this will avoid excessive soreness too. If you design your own sessions/training week this is how I would suggest you select movements session to session!
Day 3; Strength-based session 2;
A1; SA Shoulder Press 3-4 sets x 10-12 reps e/s
A2; Hip Thrust 3-4 sets x 10-15 reps
60 secs rest between sets
B1; KB/DB Pullover 3 sets x 12-15 reps
B2; Suitcase R Lunges 3 sets x 8-10 reps e/s
B3; H/K Banded Face Pull 3 sets x 10-15 reps
Rest 60 seconds
3 rounds for quality
-Side Plank Hold x 30 seconds e/s
-Wall Sit Hold x 30-40 seconds
-Down Ups x 10
Take rest as needed
Day 4; Active Recovery/Rest Day
Rest days are an important part of your training week. Just like your horse if you train all of the time you're going to make yourself sore & tired and eventually you're not going to feel very sound! When you take rest days depends on how used you are to training, your training age and your weekly schedule but it's imperative to have at least 1 full rest day a week.
If you have 2 rest days you can make your midweek rest day an active rest day so adding in some mobility, foam rolling, yoga or a long walk would be perfect. Focus on what is going to benefit you most, if you know you're stiff and tight then adding in some extra rolling and stretching would be a benefit but if you're feeling pretty good and your main goal is weight loss then focusing on expending more energy through a long walk would be the best option! Just give your body an easier day and enjoy it. Rest days are an important part of your training programme so respect them!
Day 5; Strength/Resistance Based Session 3;
This session is still primarily focusing on your strength but we're going to have a little bit more of an endurance/anaerobic work aspect to get your heart rate up and get your lungs working. This is really important and will help to increase your endurance and stamina for both on and off horse performance.
Again if you need more of a bias toward particular movements or exercises then change up the exercises to suit you best!
Day 5; Strength/Resistance Based Session 3
A1; KB/DB Hip Hinge/Romanian Deadlift x 3 sets x 12-15 reps
A2; Standing Banded or KB Row 3 sets x 12-15 reps
A3; SA Banded Pulldowns 3 sets x 10-15 reps e/s
60-90 seconds rest between sets
B1; Reverse Lunge to High Knee Hold x 8-10 reps e/s
B2; Plank Pullthroughs x 40 seconds or 20 total reps
60 seconds rest
2 mins work 1 min rest x 3 rounds
Frog Pumps x 15 reps
Deadbugs x 8 reps e/s alt sides
In the remaining time as many Inchworm walkouts as you can!
Day 6; Run/Aerobic Day
Again this is totally up to you what training or type of activity you want to do. Swimming, running & cycling are all fantastic for riders & work similar muscle groups to when riding so have the specificity we're looking for.
It depends on what discipline you compete in too. If you do pure dressage then you need to primarily focus on your steady state aerobic fitness whereas if you're an event rider you want to make sure you have some anaerobic more intense work in there. For example, when going cross country there are going to be short sharp bursts of intense activity followed by longer periods of aerobic activity so we need to make sure we condition our bodies to this type of work.
Whereas in dressage you are simply using your aerobic capacity throughout so focusing on steady-state work would be more applicable. Part of this is what you need but also what you enjoy!
If you train in the gym or are lucky enough to have kit at home you could make this into a conditioning day. This is one of my favourite ladders to test both your mental and physical capacity. Pick two machines I would personally go with something like the row machine and a bike and follow the following;
Bike 10 Calories
Bike 20 Calories
Bike 30 Calories
Bike 20 Calories
Bike 10 Calories
Sounds simple but it will get you working for sure! If you are going to swim or run on this day maybe go for a steady state longer duration for example you could run a further 10% on the distance to the week before or you could add in a fartlek run if you already did an easier effort earlier in the week.
So aim for 30 minutes total run time, easy 5-10 minutes to start then along the way add in various efforts across the run at various speeds/intensities. It's a great way to challenge your speed & anaerobic capacity.
Obviously, adapt the plan to what works for you & day 7 is always a full rest day. No scheduled activity at all! Keep moving, riding & walking but that is it. Remember compared to the average person our rest days as horsey people are pretty full on so respect that!
If you can only committ to 2 sessions a week then rotate betwen day 1 & 2 for the next 4-6 weeks. There is no need to change exercises or workouts up too often, the best way to decide when to change your workout is if you find that you plateau physically or mentally you get a little bit bored of what you are doing or if you're no longer finding that you are progressing.
That would be a good time to change! Remember just like when you teach your horse a new skill your body needs time to adapt to the stressor and improve over time. If you only have time for say 2 x 20 minute sessions a week then use the outline of the sessions above but shortern the sets or reps or you could do the exercises from the A & B section in one circuit, put 20 minutes on the clock & work through as many rounds as you can in the time.
This plan can be adapted between home & the gym & there is no right or wrong! I hope this helps you to have some ideas on where to start with your training. You want to make sure that you include both strength & aerobic work but the most important thing is that your programme is specific to you & works for you to give you the results you're looking for but also is realsitic for the time & lifestyle you have!
If you have any questions on this week of training or about your own training schedule then please feel free to leave a comment and I am more than happy to answer any queries you may have. I hope this helps you on your training journey and best of luck for the rest of the season