My 5 favourite rider core exercises
Core training should be a staple in every rider's training programme. I’ve been through the reasons why core strength is so important for riders of all disciplines & the movements you want to focus on to improve your core strength & stability in the saddle before. You can check out that blog here!
Your core’s role is to stabilize you in the saddle, resist movement created by external forces, which when your riding is your horse of course! Making sure that your deep & superficial core muscles are strong & working as they should be is essential. Your body works as one full unit so when we’re talking about core we’re talking about all of your muscles that connect to your pelvis including your glute, lower back & hip flexor muscles alongside your abdominals & six-pack.
I always focus on exercises that help you to build the 3 foundational core movement patterns;
Anti lateral strength
The above replicate your movements & muscles worked in the saddle & help to strengthen & improve your posture. Forget the crunches & sits ups (as I've said many times before!) & focus on core exercises that target all of your core muscles, have you moving through a dynamic range of movement to help build your stability & balance in the right places.
If your core is weak or you don’t have sufficient strength you’re going to struggle to maintain a good posture, balance & a stable seat when riding. So here are my 5 favourite core exercises you can use in your training;
1; Bear Crawl
The bear crawl is a brilliant full-body movement that will get everything from your shoulders to your abs to ass working! The aim is to move with intent & maintain tension, keeping a stable neutral spine throughout; think of no bums in the sky. Imagine you’ve got a glass of gin on your back & the aim is not to spill it! You're also working your anterior & posterior oblique slings here too that are constantly working together to provide clear aids & transitions when you’re riding, so this hits everything riders need!
I love a deadbug but too often I see them butchered & done with zero intent or tension. The main focus is to make sure your ribcage & spine remains in contact with the floor throughout so you’re resiting your spine extending.
Think about breathing in through your nose into your belly then exhaling as if you’re blowing out through a straw back into your belly, the more you can control your breath the better your ability to brace your core will be & really get those deep muscles working. Once you have developed strength in the static hold & can maintain the posterior tilt with your pelvis, keeping your back in contact with the floor you can then progress to adding in some dynamic movement. Extending your opposite hand & leg gets your anterior sling system working-it will test your brainpower as well as your physical strength!
The pallofpress is all about resisting the pull & force of the band just as you would if your horse was to pull hard on the reins or decide he’s going the opposite direction to the one you’re intending on!
As you press the band out, think of punching it out with force, when your arms are fully extended you want to pause & make sure you can feel the correct muscles working. The band will be pulling you towards its anchor point & you’re resisting the pull, focus on keeping shoulders down & pushing your weight into your heels so you can maintain a neutral spine & really make your core stabilise you against the resistance. Start in a half-kneeling position as against the resistance, this will be your most stable position.
4; Side Plank Rotation
Side planks build your anti-lateral strength, so resisting collapsing into your hip for example in a canter strike off or landing after a jump. First of all, you need the strength to hold a stable side plank position maintaining alignment through your ribcage & hips. Once you have mastered this you can then add some dynamic movement into the equation. This rotation works your oblique muscles, (the side abs) which are responsible for generating rotation through your trunk. Essential for riders when turning & twisting so you need to make sure these are strong. It’s a challenging movement & you should really feel your hips, shoulders & lower body all working to stabilise you whilst you do your rotation, think of threading the needle under & make sure the rotation comes from your side & hips!
Supermans are a hyperextension movement working the posterior chain & are fantastic for any rider who struggles with lower back pain or posterior chain weakness. Your glutes, shoulders & erector spinae muscles generate the movement here. You need to have a good level of mobility through your thoracic spine as well as strength here to generate the lift. Focus on lifting from your shoulders & glutes & use your breathing to help you, inhale as you lift exhale as you lower. You can progress to lifting one side at a time or opposite limbs to build that oblique chain strength. You should feel your lower back working but it should not give you pain.
Those are some of my favourite core & abdominal training exercises so be sure to add them into your training programme alongside your compound movements. Focus on moving with good form & feeling the correct muscles working then in time you can work to increase the reps or sets done to build strength & progress.