So, I’m acting on a request this week, I was asked about good core exercises to do on a gym ball.
Now there are loads of great exercises you can do with a gym ball and they will all be beneficial in some way. However for the purposes of this I am going to focus on some very Riding specific exercises.
The great thing about gym balls is that they are unstable and require complete balance to stay on them. As riders we can use them to determine whether we do sit level on our horses and then whether we can move our bodies and still stay level.
If we have any notable asymmetry, weakness or tightness this will cause other muscles to compensate when we move and in this instance you will probably fall off the ball-it’s tough love I know!
A gym ball can be bought pretty cheaply these days; supermarkets etc. have them for under a tenner. When you blow it up it needs to be firm enough to sit on without squashing itself in half but not so solid it doesn’t squash at all.
Also, it is completely ok to hold onto something doing any of these exercises and to gradually take your hands away.
Please make sure you stay safe, have a soft landing should you fall but be careful and don’t do anything you are not ready for.
Note: I'm totally aware of how unsubtle I am holding the clicker to operate my camera-or am I holding 1 imaginary rein.....
And I have 3 layers of clothing on it was cold that day so I am not carrying twins as it may appear at some angles!
Firstly, if you are not used to the ball just sit on it with both feet on the floor and get used to how it feels. If you do not have a particularly well-functioning core or have prominent imbalances in your body this in itself will actually be quite a challenge-trust me I’ve been there!
Once you are comfortable with that try lifting one foot off the floor.
Then repeat on the other side. Is one side easier than the other? Is one side more stable? Does a hip lift or tilt on one side more so than the other? Does the ribcage tilt, twist, lift or dip? Does the whole of one side displace when a leg is lifted? This will give you some clues as to what happens when you are riding and you use your leg.
If you have mastered that take both feet off the floor. Ensure you stay sat upright as I have seen many people tell me they can do this and then lean back to help balance-perhaps they do this on their horse too…..
If you can’t stay balanced, notice what happens as you tip off. If you always fall the same way for example then you may be leaning more this way, try leaning a little more the other way and see if this helps.
Once that is comfortable for you try getting on the ball in more of a riding stance. I like to try these two ways.
Firstly by sitting astride the ball as if it were a horse
and secondly astride but with air between you and the ball as if at the top of rising trot.
I find it is pretty obvious if you aren’t level at this point! Try to replicate your riding position as best you can. As well as being level through the hips, look for ensuring your sternum is over your pubic bone to keep you level back to front, and keep your tailbone tucked under.
If it helps hold some imaginary reins, you’d be surprised how many people need to do this in order to balance, what do you think this means about their riding and rein contact if they need reins to balance-real or imaginary?
And lastly once you are a total pro on those try four point kneeling on the ball. (Make sure you have a soft landing should you fall!) If you want to really show off you can lift one arm or leg – or indeed one of each! Jockeys and most eventers tend to have no trouble doing this exercise!
So these may not seem like “core” exercises in the traditional sense, but I promise you practicing these and getting comfortable holding them, maybe being able to watch tv, hold a conversation etc. without falling off will have far greater benefit to your riding than any plank or crunch exercise I can give you.
I may cover some of those soon as they do have their benefits but for now let’s see how we get on with these!
I'd love to see your pictures if you try these!
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