The horse isn't the only athlete involved in a ride. Whether you're out on the trail, navigating barrels, participating in dressage or show jumping, you're getting a full-body workout that engages you in ways you didn't even know were possible. After all, you're straddling and managing the energy of a large, powerful animal.
Regular riders know that a strong core doesn't only provide you with power and control, it keeps you upright on the horse and saves you from the pain that can sometimes plague your back due to poor form. Your abs are part of your core, the area that spans from your hips to your thighs. Use abdominal exercises, along with other core-training exercises, to help you ride your strongest and best.
Train your abs three to five times per week with these moves. Balance out your ab workout with specific moves to strengthen your paraspinals, too. Bird dogs and cobras are samples of these back-strengthening moves.
Ab bracing helps you find your abs, as well as learn how to contract them effectively as you're riding. During bracing, you activate all three aspects of your core: the deep transverse abdominis, the side oblique muscles and the superficial rectus abdominis. You learn how to stiffen and stabilize your center to give you the stability you need to conquer jumps, rough terrain or the jolt of a trot.
Do the Move: Lie on your back and bend your knees with feet planted in the floor about hip-distance apart. Breathe in and draw your back toward the floor and your abs toward your spine. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds and relax. Repeat eight times.
During bracing, visualize your abs contracting as if you were going to field a punch or kick to your belly.
Leg slides add subtle movement to the bracing action. This trains you to keep your abs engaged even when your feet are in stirrups and used for direction, acceleration or grip.
Do the Move: Lie on your back as you did for bracing. Breathe in and draw your abs in toward your spine, spine to the floor. Keeping the abs engaged, exhale and slide your right leg straight out. Inhale and bring the leg back in to a bent-knee position. Repeat with the left leg to complete one repetition. Alternate for about 20 repetitions.
The bicycle crunch trains your obliques, the muscles at the sides of your abdomen. These are responsible for twisting and side bending, as well as for stabilization of your hips. They'll help keep you balanced on the horse, so you don't slouch or tilt your pelvis too far forward as you ride.
Do the Move: Lie on your back and elevate your legs, knees bent at a 90-degree angle directly over the hips; shins parallel to the floor. Place your hands behind your head for support. Slowly extend your right leg as you twist to bring the right elbow to touch the left knee. Switch sides. Complete 20 pairs of the exercise.
V-Sits with a Hold
The V-sit strengthens your rectus abdominis by flexing you at your hips. Hold at the top of the pose to build abdominal endurance, which you need to sustain proper posture for shows and long trails.
Do the Move: Lie on your back with your legs extended on the floor and your arms reaching overhead past your ears. Contract your abdomen and simultaneously lift your arms and legs up to touch to form a "V" shape. Pause at the top for two counts and lower back down to the floor to complete one repetition. Aim for eight to 10 total reps.