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Upper Body Workout for Riders

Upper body strength in riders is an important component to be the best & most effective you can be in the seat, whatever your discipline. Shoulder stability is responsible for much of our movement in the saddle & how effective we can be with our aids & maintaining a strong upright posture.


Often in riders, the muscles on the front of the body such as the pectorals (chest) & abdominal muscles become very tight & shortened which in turn can cause our shoulders & upper back to become hunched & lead us to struggle to maintain a good upright posture when riding. Your shoulders become rounded & tight & this can be down to a number of lifestyle-related reasons like how you sleep, stress & daily habits such as sitting at the laptop.


You've probably all been yelled out by your instructors "shoulders back" or "sit up" but if you don't have the strength there it doesn't matter how many times you're yelled at you're not going to be able to do this & support your own weight.


If you're constantly tipping forwards you're going to end up pushing your horse onto his forehand as your weight is going in front of his centre of mass causing him to be on the forehand. Some people will try to rectify this by excessively leaning back but then what tends to happen is you put your lumbar spine (lower back) into excessive extension, end up behind the horse's movement which then you'll probably find ends up hurting your back as well as affecting his movement.


What you want to focus on strengthening is your weak upper back & mid-back muscles. This will help to improve your posture alongside lots of thoracic extension & rotation work which will encourage your T spine to open & in turn create better mobility through your shoulders & upper back.


Poor posture is something that has to be worked on long term & is often lifestyle-related. Constant rounded shoulders adds strain onto your muscle tissue & spine which in turn could lead to worse issues so you really want to improve this as much as possible & start working on it now!


If you only focus on strenghtneing the muscles on the front of your body you're going to excaberate the problem as the muscles will become even tighter & shorter. We want to focus on the correct muscles on the back & front of the body that are working when riding;

  • Trapezius muscles (lower & upper traps)

  • Deltoids

  • Rhomboids

  • Lattismus Dorsi

  • Abdominals

  • Erector Spinae

If you focus on these muscles using compound exercises as below you'll end up training the smaller muscles, like your arms, along the way. This upper workout is super effective & quick for those of you who are time short. 18 minutes & we focus on hitting all of these muscles as well your core! Aim to get through as many rounds as possible but always keep good form & controlled movement!


10 Minutes AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)

15 x H/K Banded Rows

10-12 x SA DB or KB press each side

30 seconds Deadbug hold





8 Minutes AMRAP

8 x Supermans

15 x H/K Banded Face Pulls

15 x Banded Pulldowns





List rounds completed down within the time, as soon as the timer goes you stop & then aim to beat your score next time! Enjoy

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