Improve Your Two Point Seat

Last week we looked at beginning to work the lower back.  This week the exercise I am going to go through will work your low back but I feel it also has a lot more benefits specific to horse riders that I would to go through so that you can fully appreciate its benefit in your exercise programme.

The exercise in question is The Deadlift. Now in all sense and purposes the Deadlift involves picking up a weight from the floor and putting it back down again-simples! Well Kind of-there is a little more to it than that.

The Deadlift actually works loads of muscles right from your calf up to your shoulders and many things in between so it is a great exercise to get maximum work in minimum time. Of most interest to Equestrians I guess is that they target the low back, legs, bum, abs and your shoulders. So think strong Core and Lower Body to do the obvious stuff like stay on and provide power with good shoulder retraction for a steady rein contact-I know awesome right!

There is also one other thing that the Deadlift brings to the Equestrian Fitness Table and that is the Hip Hinge. The very act of completing a Deadlift involves maintaining a strong, stable Core whilst hinging forward at the hips-you know what else involves that action………………………..Jumping! Also in Canter we actually make a very small seated hip hinge in order to move with our horse. Now we know why I’m a Deadlift Fan.

In a Jumping Position as your horse lifts you hinge forward at the hips whilst staying stable on top in order to keep balanced. If you don’t hinge at the hips you end up too far forward and on the horses’ neck over the jump. This obviously has a couple of potential outcomes. One being that your horse does not lift as much at the front due to your weight, or two if you are really unlucky and he pecks on landing……………….well you’re already out the front door.

If you are an Eventer, the Hip Hinge is pretty much your permanent position on the Cross Country Position. Whilst galloping and approaching fences you will be hinged slightly at the hips, lifted from the saddle-so imagine if your body was primed to be really strong in this position?

For us regular, less adventurous folk the along with the benefits of being overall strong the hip hinge comes into play in the Canter. Now it is a very small one but I can assure you if your hips don’t hinge you will struggle to move with your horse in Canter so it is well worth working on this element to add it to your armour.

Deadlifts can be a little intimidating if you are not a gym bunny and even then if you are not au fait with the Weights area, so there are a couple of different variations that you can do to get a similar effect if the heavy weights area is not for you.

Obviously traditionally it is done with a barbell however Dumbbells or Kettlebells can also be used.

If you are an absolute gym avoider then you can also do a hip hinge with a resistance band-attached to a door or other solid object.

Stop The Lean Back

For the past couple of weeks we have been focusing on the core starting with the abdominals and then the obliques. This week we are going to start looking at the low back.

There seems to be quite a bit of fear around working the low back as any kind of ache here is seen as a danger. Firstly, your spine is not that fragile-I’m pretty sure any of you that have fractured vertebrae etc. took a pretty bog whack to do it! Secondly, if your legs are killing the day after a spinning class or a hard core riding lesson (is it just my instructor that missed a career as a bootcamp trainer….) then we might moan a bit but it doesn’t scare us into thinking something is wrong; so why should your back be any different?

Your lower back forms part of your core and being strong in this area actually helps to prevent back pain. Your back is also your main shock absorber whilst riding-anyone who spends a lot of time in sitting trot or canter may have found they had back pain afterwards, this is where a strong low back can help you. It also common to see riders leaning back particularly in sitting trot; this is due to them trying to brace against the movement, which again can cause back pain.

If the muscles are strong they will be better able to absorb this force meaning you will brace much less in these paces-which in turn will make you ride lighter and with a better position as the tendancy to lean back will also have gone.

So as I know this can be new for people we are going to start with just one basic exercise that can be done at home with no equipment.

Back extensions.

Lying on your front, face down with your hands in line with your shoulders, elbows going back. Lift your upper body focusing on forward rather than up. Just come as far as is comfortable and return to start position. Try working up to 3 x 10 reps.

These should be done slow and with control, do not force the movement there is no particular height to aim for just what feels right for you. If you do find it a little uncomfortable to start with try taking your legs further apart and squeezing your bum a little.

Perfecting Your Turns and Circles

After the last two weeks discussion on the core I want us to look at the often forgotten core muscles…..the obliques!

These are the muscles at the side of your waist. They help you to rotate and bend as well as being an integral part of a spinal stability.

When you are riding (or carriage driving in fact) they are the muscles that help you to maintain your position on turns and circles and maintain straightness in lateral work. As you turn your body you firstly need the strength to make the turn but also the strength to keep your spine stable. This is what a strong set of oblique’s can do for you.

I can tell you this not only from a Biomechanics Coach point of view but also from a rider view having spent a fair bit of time recently doing Canter Circles adding a leg yield to spiral in and out-my oblique’s are now made of steel! (Thanks Amanda!)

To be honest this sounds crazy but if your horse falls out through his shoulder try thinking about switching on your waist muscles on that side and see if that helps to correct it…………………….

Now onto to creating your own obliques of steel.

Seated Rotation.

Sitting on your seat bones with feet flat on the floor. Engage your abdominals and lean back to about 45⁰ if you can. Your spine must stay straight, and not curve as you do this. Take your hands to shoulder height in front of you and make a “Charlies Angels Gun” (it doesn’t work if you don’t…….). Keeping your spine straight and your feet and knees still, rotate your rib cage to the left and then the right. If this is too easy try lifting your feet off the floor-don’t let them rotate away as you turn.

Oblique Crunch.

This will be like no Oblique crunch you have done before. It is way more subtle than that. Lying on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor. Take your hands at the back of your head – do not pull at your head though just support it and keep your elbows out at all times. Now recruit your abdominals, breathe in and as you breathe out and imagine you are taking your left bottom rib towards your right hip, breathe in and repeat on the other side.

This one requires a resistance band or if you are a member of a gym then a cable machine.

Standing Rotation.

Standing with feet hip width apart, side on to the band/cable so that your arm furthest away just reaches the band at a partial stretch. Bend your knees slightly so you are a half squat. Take the band in both hands and start rotated towards the band. Recruit your abdominals and pull the band across your body to rotate the opposite way. Repeat on the other side.

As always I love to receive your emails, and I am also taking names for people interested in small group Equestrian Focused Fitness Classes when my studio opens at WN8 9QP. Just drop me an email with your preferred dates and times.

Can You Move and Stay Still?

Last week we looked at recruiting your deep core muscles whilst riding.

Hopefully you have been practicing the recruitment pattern and have a good grasp of how to activate your deep core muscles.

Did you try it out whilst riding?

Today we are going to try keeping that activation and move some limbs at the same time.  Obviously when we are riding we need to maintain a strong middle whilst giving leg and rein aids. For example If you can’t move your leg back lightly to give a leg aid without unbalancing your seat you are also going to unbalance your horse-pretty sure that won’t be the aid you were intending!

Now in order to keep this simple I have used simple, no equipment floor exercises. However there are some great versions that can be done on a gym ball that I guess would be considered more riding specific  and I will cover these another time. (Probably when the studio is ready!)

So, we are going to challenge our core with moving limbs 3 ways.

Standing – Lying-4 point

This covers the basic positions you will need to progress the challenge of the exercise.

First we will find neutral spine.

Neutral Spine is the natural position of the spine when it has all of its natural curves at the neck, middle and lumbar region.  This creates the strongest position for the spine.

To find neutral spine I find whether standing or lying, tilt the pelvis back so your seat bone go up, then tilt it forward so that the seat bones go down. Now find the mid-way point between these-your seat bone should be pointing down-this is your neutral spine position.


Stand feet hip width apart. Establish neutral spine, the knees should be soft. Use the abdominal recruitment patter from last week. Draw in from the waist and up from the pelvic floor, breathe in to prepare and as you breathe out bend your right knee and lift the foot off the floor to hip height. Breathe in to return it to the floor. Repeat on the other side. Once you have mastered this add in an opposite arm lift too. So as you lift your right leg your left arm floats up to level with your ears. Ensure you maintain your neutral spine throughout. Got it-now try it all with your eyes closed!


We are essentially going to do the same exercise as above but this time lying down. So begin lying on your back, knees bent feet flat on the floor. Establish Neutral spine. Recruit the core muscles, breathe in and as you breathe out float one leg up to 90⁰. Breathe in and repeat on the other side. Once you have established this pattern, do it in reverse. Start with both legs at 90⁰ and drop alternate feet to the floor. If you still need an extra challenge add in the opposite arm, so right leg drops, left arm floats over the head to the floor maintaining neutral spine throughout. If you struggle with this make the movement smaller- maintaining alignment is more important than range of motion on these exercises.

4 Point.

Starting on all fours. Find neutral spine. This time as you breathe out take your right leg behind you as if to tap your foot on the floor. Repeat with the other leg. Now once you have established that take your opposite arm forward in line with your ear. Maintain neutral spine throughout.

I’d love to know if you try these out how you get on.