When I ask my clients what they want to work on to improve their riding often they will say things like my legs need to be stronger or the old classic I need to improve my core. I take these things into account and design their programmes accordingly.
However a large part of what we actually do is full body movements. That’s not because I haven’t listened it’s because just working on a single part of the body in isolation is unlikely to improve its performance on the horse.
When you are riding the whole body has to work together synergistically in order to stabilise all the joints and enable them to absorb the movement of the horse and still be able to move limbs or your seat to apply aids. So just having stronger legs or abs won’t necessarily make it stronger on a horse if it isn’t able to work together with your back, arms etc.
This is why when we’re training we focus on exercises that yes may appear initially as say a leg strength exercise if it were a Squat; but in fact if done well will also use your glutes, your back and abdominals, then if your were holding a weight may also use your arms and shoulders.
An overhead press is another great example which we may do as a push press. The legs are required to drive the weight up, the back and abs are required to keep the middle stable and then obviously the shoulders and arms will kick in to finish with a stable overhead position. If these muscles don’t all activate together as a team then you won’t perform the lift correctly.
If we are doing abdominal work it will usually involve a breathing pattern to work on incorporating the diaphragm, then there will more than likely be a movement of the arms and legs too whilst maintaining a stable torso.
This is something I want you to take into account for your own off horse exercise. If your goal for your workout is to improve your performance on horse then you should be focusing on exercises that require your whole body to work together, and leave the isolation exercises to the body builders.