I’ve come across a couple of professionals in the Equestrian sector recently who are of the opinion that gym work and/or weightlifting is not useful or indeed could be detrimental to riding. The problem I have with this is that the people saying this are not exercise professionals, ( as in they are not Personal Trainer, Strength and Conditioning coaches or Sports Scientists) and they are basing their opinion on people they’ve seen who for whatever reason have issues that may not have been helped by their gym training. There is no mention of how these people moved or felt before or whether they were working with a professional in their workouts.
The thing is I’ve seen plenty of people who aren’t riders go solo in the gym and end up finding themselves in more pain and/or injured because they had no clue what they were doing. It’s not the gym equipment that was at fault, it was the application that was wrong.
The thing is as riders it’s not just the riding we have to be fit enough for. It’s all the other stuff!
A bag of feed weighs 20kg so do we really think that there is no benefit to someone get stronger so that, that 20kg feed bag isn’t such a big deal anymore. To be trained to carry that bag of feed with good technique and have the strength to move it without being worn out means your less likely to be injured and you’ll have more energy for the rest of your jobs and the riding.
If you’re fit enough that you can muck out your stable, do any other yard work, fetching and carrying then ride without being overly fatigued you will not only feel better day to day, you’re also less likely to injure yourself in the process. You’ll also of course ride better because you aren’t knackered!
I think the belief that weight training is bad for you comes from seeing it done badly. None of my clients over the last 10 years has gotten stronger but less flexible in the process. In fact they’ve all moved better, had less pain and better body awareness as a result of their training.
That’s because we don’t just focus on how heavy they lift or how much they sweat or if they’re crawling out of the session at the end and unable to walk for days. That’s not productive nor beneficial to an Equestrian.
A well balanced gym programme could have some heavy lifting in there, but it will also have some lighter accessory work to build weaknesses and balance out asymmetries as well as some conditioning of the heart and lungs (that’s cardio but not necessarily a long run!)
We warm up and prepare with mobility and activation exercises and we deal with any niggles that might have occurred in the past week-there’s often something when a horse is involved!
So, if you do train at the gym in a bid to improve your performance riding, or to help manage pain or injuries bear these things in mind when planning your sessions.
And if you’d been put off because you thought it wouldn’t help…….my cocky answer is “you’re wrong!” but in all seriousness if you plan it well and if you’re able to; work with a professional who truly understands your needs (might be one you’re reading now……) you absolutely will get results.
End of mild rant!