Have you got the power?

In the sec­ond part of their se­ries on tness for rid­ers, writer and pho­tog­ra­pher DUSTY PERIN and sports phys­io­ther­a­pist STACEY LINGMAN ex­am­ine the im­por­tance of strength and bal­ance

NZ Horse & Pony - - In This Issue -

In part two of a se­ries, we take ex­er­cise out of the gym and into the sta­bles

Last month we talked about stretch­ing and ex­i­bil­ity, and this month we are delv­ing into the im­por­tance of strength and bal­ance.

One com­mon mis­con­cep­tion is that rid­ing is a whole body work­out, but this not true! When you ride, the mus­cle groups used are al­ways the same, whilst cer­tain oth­ers don’t see any reg­u­lar ex­er­cise.

And if you think sta­ble chores will round out your full body work­out, think again. A typ­i­cal day in­volves lift­ing buck­ets, groom­ing, and mov­ing a wheel­bar­row, but it is not sus­tained ac­tiv­ity. Let’s face it; you are not do­ing bi­cep curls with a full bucket of wa­ter for 15 reps or squat­ting dead­lift sets with a full wheel­bar­row!

ere is a di er­ence be­tween daily ac­tiv­ity and ex­er­cise. Ex­er­cise is a sus­tained ac­tiv­ity, and when pushed to the max­i­mum lim­its it be­comes a work­out. Sta­ble chore ac­tiv­ity is good (and cer­tainly beats be­ing seden­tary), but with­out over­all tness you are more sus­cep­ti­ble to in­jury.

Our body is good at adapt­ing to ex­er­cise, and will use the least amount of e ort to com­plete the task while con­serv­ing en­ergy. You need to con­stantly change things up, or push the lim­its of weight or reps; oth­er­wise your tness will not im­prove.

A rider with ex­cel­lent strength and bal­ance is an as­set to their horse. e more con­trol and power you have over all your mus­cles, es­pe­cially the core, the bet­ter you will ride.

When you get fa­tigued, you im­pede the per­for­mance of your horse. A per­fect ex­am­ple of this is when you’re out of shape and you get le be­hind go­ing over a jump. ree things hap­pen: you pull on the horse’s mouth, your weight isn’t over their withers, and you op down in the sad­dle near their kid­neys. Do that enough times and your horse will start to have jump avoid­ance is­sues.

We have two ma­jor types of mus­cle bres within our bod­ies, known as slow and fast twitch.

Our slow twitch mus­cles are as­so­ci­ated with strength and en­durance like an Ara­bian. The fast twitch mus­cle bres give us strength with ex­plo­sive power, sim­i­lar to a thor­ough­bred horse.

In this ar­ti­cle, we are con­cen­trat­ing on our fast twitch mus­cles. Don’t worry; you won’t look like a weightlifter af­ter­wards, but you will de­velop the ex­plo­sive power you need to stay with your horse over ev­ery jump and through ev­ery gait tran­si­tion.

Phys­io­ther­a­pist Stacey Lingman knows a quite a bit about strength and bal­ance. In ad­di­tion to be­ing a suc­cess­ful am­a­teur nat­u­ral body­builder, she spent eight years in the NZ Army re­serves where good phys­i­cal strength was a re­quire­ment.

Are there any sim­ple tests we can do to see where we are in terms of our base­line bal­ance and strength?

In phys­io­ther­apy, we use the bal­ance er­ror scor­ing sys­tem (BESS) which as­sesses pos­tural steadi­ness. You could try an adapted ver­sion of this as fol­lows:

Stand in bare feet, heel to toe with your dom­i­nant foot in front, with your hands on your hips for 30 sec­onds

Re­peat the above, this time with eyes closed

Re­peat a) and b); this time a one-legged stance on non-dom­i­nant foot. There is no pass or fail on this test. In­stead, it gives you a good base­line mea­sure­ment for your own bal­ance and strength, so you can test to see if you are im­prov­ing over time.

Strength is of­ten mea­sured by a one rep max­i­mum (1RM); the amount of weight you could safely lift for one rep­e­ti­tion. For ex­am­ple a fe­male weightlifter, who weighs 60kg, per­form­ing a dead­lift could quite com­fort­ably man­age a lift of 37kg. This is a dif­fer­ent type of lift from pick­ing up bags of feed and would re­quire a gym en­vi­ron­ment.

A bet­ter way to test your strength is to use your own body­weight, and per­form as many press-ups and body­weight squats as you can do to fail­ure. This will give you a base­line of your cur­rent strength and show where you need im­prove­ment, up­per body ver­sus lower body.

What are the ma­jor ar­eas we need to work to get a more bal­anced, well­rounded body strength?

Fo­cus on core and lower ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles as well as good scapu­lar con­trol and head pos­ture. As we get older, or we sit at a com­puter for long pe­ri­ods, we tend to bring our­selves into a for­ward-head pos­ture with for­ward shoul­ders. We shorten our pec­toral mus­cles, and can lose strength through our rhom­boids, ser­ra­tus an­te­rior and ro­ta­tor cuff.

I cur­rently have a client who rides dres­sage and has had lower back pain. She no­ticed from the com­pe­ti­tion footage that she was sit­ting up­right, but ob­vi­ously not en­gag­ing her core.

Core strength is a ma­jor part of rider strength, sta­bil­ity, pos­tural con­trol and re­duc­ing in­jury.

To main­tain a strong core and spine you could work on lower core ex­er­cises to ac­ti­vate the trans­verse ab­dom­i­nals, deep breath­ing ex­er­cises to en­gage those core mus­cles, and pelvic sta­bilis­ers as well.

To build strength are we bet­ter off to do more reps with lighter weights or fewer reps with heav­ier weights, and how do we de­ter­mine what kilo weight to use?

The gen­eral rule of thumb is 8-10 reps for strength and 12-15 reps for en­durance. If you are look­ing to build strength, aim for a weight that you could lift 10 times but by the last two reps you are strug­gling a lit­tle. Then re­peat that for three sets. As you get stronger, in­crease the weight in­cre­men­tally.

If we don’t have ac­cess to weights or a gym, are there other strength-build­ing ex­er­cises we could do at the barn?

Press-ups, body­weight squats, lunges, planks, side planks, re­sis­tance bands for hip ab­duc­tion, burps and curl-ups. Just to give you a point of ref­er­ence, when I was in the Army re­serves, en­try level fit­ness for women re­quired 35 curl-ups and 8 press-ups.

How many days a week should we do strength train­ing?

If you are rid­ing con­sis­tently, I’d ad­vise strength train­ing three to four times a week. It needs to be achiev­able! Al­ter­nate your strength train­ing days to give your body time for re­cov­ery and to build mus­cle.

The more con­trol and power you have over all your mus­cles, es­pe­cially the core, the bet­ter you will ride

BE­LOW Get­ting left be­hind is more likely to hap­pen if you are un­fit and fa­tigued BOT­TOM An adapted ver­sion of the Bal­ance Er­ror Scor­ing Sys­tem

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