How working on your own mobility will improve your riding
Mobility, flexibility & suppleness is an area many riders always say they want to work on. As you get older you may feel like your body is ageing too; your joints feel sore, your muscles feel tight & the exercise & activities you used to do with ease become more taxing.
As we get older our mobility can reduce & become more compromised. This can be due to the effects of ageing as well as years of holding poor postures & too much sitting. Riding after a few weeks out of the saddle, may make you super sore the next day, squats may feel really hard work & you feel stiff whilst doing them. When you were younger your mobility would have made the same tasks feel easier & your recovery may have been a lot faster.
This does not spell disaster for your mobility & suppleness but it is an area that we do need to focus on and make a conscious effort to work on improving. Flexibility is defined as the ability of a muscle/muscle group to lengthen passively through a range of motion such as stretching whereas mobility is defined as the ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion. So mobility is about the amount of movement you have around a joint as you move as opposed to how flexible your muscles are & their ability to stretch.
Working on mobility within a strengthening programme is very important as it gives you the ability to improve your movement through a full range of motion with control; keeping you executing movements safely, meaning you reduce your risk of injury & it will help to protect your joints. Working on flexibility alone will not give you huge benefits as ultimately even though you may be flexible you will not be strong in those muscles.
Pilates & yoga can help to improve flexibility but if you're looking to improve your overall movement & active range of motion then you're better focusing on using foam rolling & myofascial release paired with a progressive training programme & focusing on your control through the eccentric phase of the movement (when the muscle lengthens). Using these practices together you will find this will be really effective to help improve your mobility & movement.
When we are talking about mobility we are focusing on movement & moving well! Moving as well as possible & as we discussed before as athletically as possible will allow you to be able to ride better, as well as help to prevent injury which is what we are training to do as riders. Helping you stay injury-free & safe is the NO.1 goal! When your mobility improves your stability, in turn, will also improve which is important for us not only in the saddle but also as we age through everyday life, you don't want to be rolling out of bed every morning feeling like a brick do you?
The less efficiently you move the less efficiently and effectively you will ride which in turn will make your riding much harder & overall the demands of riding will become incredibly hard work & taxing & your performance may suffer.
When we exercise we are ultimately placing more stress & demand on the body, especially when using load (eg barbells/dumbbells). Without a focus on mobility & stretching, you could find that the exercise will actually lead your body to end up tightening. Within your training programme, you need to concentrate on taking time to stretch & focus on improving your range of motion. If you lack good mobility then your body may start to compensate & you may become unaligned due to your body not being able to adapt to the stress of training & handle it correctly. Poor alignment & tightness may mean that over time other muscles end up taking on the load to compensate for the restrictions elsewhere which in turn will slow your progress down & worse case could lead to injuries.
Improving your mobility will mean you improve your range of motion which will mean that you are able to move better, with greater power & generate a better force which will make you a stronger rider. Incorporating a focused mobility routine into your training programme will be beneficial for your riding whatever level you ride & compete at & will only help to make you stronger & ride better and make everyday movements easier.
Using a mobility routine pre & post riding, as well as around your training sessions off the horse will really help you to move better & allow you to be able to perform your work much more effectively. I would always suggest to riders to start by focusing on improving hip & thoracic mobility as these places are often areas of tightness & discomfort for riders. Working on improving your movement through a dynamic range of motion will really help to "untighten" these areas & get you moving better.
Without adequate mobility you may find your body can't handle the demands placed upon it through your riding & training and although your muscles may feel stronger your movement won't be as good as it could be. Try taking yourself through 10 reps of each movement for 2 circuits & aim to take yourself through the routine twice per week, to begin with. Mobility is your groundwork & without enough groundwork, you may find that in time your body will compensate in other areas & potentially cause more harm than good. Give this routine a go & see how you feel after 4-6 weeks of consistently incorporating into your routine.
1- Kneeling hip circles
2- Mobility Lunges
3-Hip Lower Back Crossovers
4-Downward Dogs into Rockbacks