I think most of us know as riders that how effectively we ride comes down to how effectively we can use our bodies, but often we get stuck when we just can’t seem to get our bodies to do what we want.
I definitely drive my Carriage Driving instructor mad (pardon the pun) with his constant requests to sort my right arm out! I have to explain to him that it’s not that I don’t understand what he’s asking it’s that there is a blockage between what I’m asking my arm to do and it actually doing as it’s told!
The thing often when we are trying to learn something new our bodies will try and do it any way it can, even if that means using different muscles to do so. I have seen this a lot with riding in that many riders get away with using different muscles than is correct and it all works fine for a while, but then one day they try and learn something new –(particularly true in Dressage as the movements get more technical as you go up the levels) and they can’t do it because they really needed to be using those foundationally correct muscles and they have previously gotten by using different ones.
This is why I am stickler for learning things correctly first time around now! If I am trying to perform a lateral movement say and I can’t achieve using the exact aids I should be, I keep practicing until I can rather than previously when I’d just apply more force here and there to get it now, as I know at some point further down the line I will come unstuck and only have to re-train those muscles again anyway, only this time when they’ve been doing a the wrong thing for hundreds of rides!
Of course this is all well and good but how do you learn to use those correct muscles in the first place?
Well this comes down to body awareness and what the fitness industry would call “mind muscle connection.” Basically can you send a message to a muscle in your body and make it contract without using lots of other muscles around it?
Here’s a simple fun way of playing with mind muscle connection.
Standing up, can you contract just your right glute? Can you contract just the left one? Think Magic Mike style pec dancing!
You might find one side is easier than the other?
Try it again with right and left quad, and then right and left hamstring.
A great one for riders is right and left oblique’s as these can be switched on and off to control turns, circles and some lateral work.
So, have a little play with these this week, and you can try out whichever part of your body you like. Just pick a muscle and try to activate it individually-this is harnessing your mind muscle connection!