Your gluteals, in case you are not sure, are your bottom muscles, and they are vital to any rider’s performance - they help you with your leg aids, and changes in position in the saddle, as well as working with your core to have a light but effective seat in the saddle. If your glutes are weak, not only can it affect your performance, but it also can cause a range of niggles or issues around the knee, hip, back and even foot. But fear not, there are a whole range of different ways to work your glutes, and I shall share some now -
The best way to start working the glutes, is lying on your side, doing a range of isolated exercises, such as the clam, forward leg raises, leg circles etc. This is because we have isolated the glutes, making it hard to use other muscles instead. If your glutes are weak, and have a habit of not firing up when needed, they can be a bit cheeky and bossy and make other muscles do the work instead, so always start isolating them so you can teach them to get off their butt (excuse the pun) and start doing their job. The simple rules with this range of exercises are - core on, and the rest of the body still. If you feel the glutes working, it’s working, but if you feel other muscles working, then the glutes are being lazy again
4 Point Kneeling
Once you have got the glutes fired up, and working, another great exercise to introduce is kneeling on all fours and moving one of your legs about - lifting to the side, extending the leg diagonally etc. This is very useful as it requires you to use your core, and stabilise your pelvis to make sure you are activating your glutes. Simple tips to make sure this exercise is being done correctly - core on and keep the back in neutral, and think about the leg movements being controlled by the glutes, rather than the foot
Now you have perfected the others, and the glutes have got the motivation and strength to get a bit more involved, lunges are a great exercise to help straighten them further, when done correctly. You can do a whole range from walking, backwards, sideways, curtseys, etc. The lunge is a great exercise for riders as it helps develop your stability and control around the hips, helping to even out any asymmetries you may have between the left and right sides of the body. Simple tips for lunging are - knee behind toe on the front leg, weight always on the front leg, and bend from the hip rather than just using the quadriceps
Finally the beast is added - the squat. Squats are a fantastic exercise for riders as they help develop pelvic control and movement, but I have saved them to last, as weak glutes are very lazy during squats, and squat technique is quite hard to get right for some people. Here is a little video on how to squat. Once you have mastered the basic squat you can jazz them up a little - single leg squats, low squats, sit down squats, side moving squats etc. But always remember, move from the hip, weight through the whole of the foot, and think about using the glutes to stand up and lift the hips up
If you would like more help strengthening your glutes and learning some new exercises to help develop your riding, email us and we can chat about what areas you want to work on, how much time you have and help you decide which of our products will benefit you the most.
Working in marketing for Uptown Eventing’s E store I get to see brand’s new ranges well in advance of their release dates. With a competitive marketplace designers are constantly evolving riding wear, adding in new styles, colours, tech and performance features. A very hard task in many respects as there are still many riders who prefer a classic, traditional look, and official bodies, such as British Eventing are only just tweaking the rules, to allow brighter colours and more contemporary design at their events.
So who knew all the core strength and balance work would prove so useful at Badminton? Sadly, I wasn't riding, but I was staying in the lorry with friends on the campsite, which has been an annual event for a few years now. It's a great way to spend the week, and the people who run the campsite do a fantastic job.
In common with lots of people (I think!) I've always taken flipflops to wear in the campsite showers, but have sometimes found it quite a challenge to balance myself on one leg for a prolonged time when doing the whole 'drying myself/getting out of flip flops and into clothes and shoes' thing. This year - no problem! I think the (quite difficult!) single leg squat and hop in week eight's programme has helped a lot. It's odd the things which make you realise how far you have come!
Well, at long last I have completed week 7 to what I think it an 'acceptable' standard - hurrah! I've done the pyramid workout three times, as well as the intermediate core workout and I am relieved that I have finally managed to galvanise myself to do it properly.
I think my main problem has been trying to fit everything in - and not scheduling when I will actually do the programme. I'm much better if I get up early and exercise, but if I'm honest, it is sometimes just a bit too tempting to stay in bed! However, I've come to the conclusion I am much better to plan ahead when I will do the programme and then I can't convince myself that 'I really will do it tomorrow' and go back to sleep...
Because I have been working in London a lot, I've been doing a lot more walking to and from the office. Yesterday I worked out I'd walked about six miles, which was a surprise. It has meant, though, that I've had to adopt the 'trainers and office gear' look, which I am never quite sure about, but there are lots of London commuters doing the same, so it's not so bad.
I am feeling a lot fitter, and trying hard to be very symmetrical when I ride, as this has been one of my main problems. It's always interesting to see other riders though, and I had a great opportunity last weekend when I did some dressage writing at Weston Park BE for my trainer Sue, who was judging a section. It was really great to see horses and riders who looked like they were perfectly in harmony and happy - the best of them looked like they were working together through the test and made it look easy. I'm also in awe of the riders who have multiple rides - they must be very fit and super-organised to successfully manage all three phases with very different horses, never mind remembering different dressage tests for different levels!
To have a strong core you need to strengthen your 6 pack
Yes your core is made up of your 6 pack (rectus abdominus), however it is just one muscle of many. They work togther to function as your core. As riders, our 6 pack is not of high importance - it is a power muscle, which is not relevant most of the time when riding. However it does provides a support function, so needs to be as strong as the other muscles.
When trying to engage your deep core muscles, you must press your back into the floor
No no no, please don't do this! Your spine, as we have learnt, is an 'S' shape, so by pressing the back into the floor, we are stretching out the curves and flattening, so the vertebrae that make up your spine are no longer in alignment. Instead think about keeping your spine in neutral - where the pelvis is parallel, and not tilted forwards or backwards, and the spine has its natural curves.
When trying to use your core, we should brace and suck in our stomachs
Yes we do need to engage our TrA, but gently so that it is activated, but not so much that we are engaging everything so that our core becomes tense and immobile, we restrict our breathing and we lock down the pelvis. When your core is on correctly, you should feel it working but should still be able to breathe easily, move naturally and easily move the pelvis. This does take practice though
Lots of Ab Curls, Sit Ups and Planks will give me a strong core for riding
Yes these exercises do strengthen your core, but as riders, we need more functional exercises. When we are riding, our core is working whilst we are in a seated position - holding our body up, and allowing our pelvis to move. The other exercises are working with gravity in a different way and don not require the same pelvic control. A good core programme will incorporate a range of exercises that will function your core in a variety of positions
The Swissball is the best way to start strengthening our core
Yes the swissball is a great tool for working your core, but ONLY once the basics have been grasped. If you hop on a swissball before you can fire up your core properly, keep the spine in neutral and the pelvis controlled, you will just reinforce old habits. Start with the basic floor lying exercises and progress on to the ball once the basics are well established.