JUNE 2019 THE RIDER /47 Rider Fitness: Getting Better Thigh Strength

back pain, groin strain, and even balance issues or wear and soreness in the knees. A common feature of these problems can be lack of strength in your outer thigh. Or, more accurately, weaker outer thighs relevant to ten- sion in the inner thigh area. This does not always mean strength in the inner thigh area. Many riders suffer from

lower-crossed syndrome, which is a tension pattern well documented in re-

By Heather Sansom

Improve Posture and So Much More with Stronger Thighs

Hi Everyone! This month we are taking

a look at strengthening your thighs. This month’s tip builds on the series we started at the begin- ning of the year referencing ba- sics of rider posture, stamina and body control. In the past two newsletters we looked at cardio- vascular stamina, as well as sup- pleness (flexibility and strength) in your core area. In particular, we focused on reducing tension in your ribcage to improve your alignment (straightness) on turns. We also built tone in your rectus abdominus muscles which sup- port upright body posture. When you think about it, all of these areas are mirrored in your horse: his core supports his back; he needs lateral flexibility to achieve straightness and even gaits; and, cardio-vascular training supports holding it all together to the end of your workout. When it comes to thigh

strength for riders, many riders (and non-riding helpful profes- sionals) assume that most of the strength you need is to squeeze your horse to apply leg aids, or to hold yourself out of the saddle (i.e., in raised seat disciplines). Many common issues across dis- ciplines are affected by your thigh strength, such as tight hip flexors and collapsing pelvis, pinching knees, tension in the hips, locked seat-bones, lower


is often left out is exercising the outer thigh to strengthen it. It seems counter-intuitive. After all, you do not go around on your

sources about the problems of a seated, sedentary lifestyle known as the ‘sitting epidemic’. The culprit is a cluster of muscles, some of which are shown below in the unmounted and mounted il- lustrations from my book Fit to Ride in Nine Weeks.

Illustration by animal and por- trait artist Marg Henderson, published by Trafalgar Square

in my book Fit to Ride in Nine Weeks

Most riders realize that

stretching inner thighs is very important. For many, they are re- minded because of pain. No-one wants to ride with pain. How- ever, the piece of the puzzle that

The good

news is that there are so many ways to lat- erally train your thighs and hips. There are many op- tions. You can find them in Pilates workouts, strength- and-tone fitness classes, yoga, and with a simple search online. One of my favourites is an out- ward push using ex- ercise tubing or bands. Lying on the ground is an easy way to start. Stand- ing upright and walking forward with successive out- and-around motion with alternate legs can be more fun (and do-able in the barn). You can also

just do more repetitions if you don’t have a resistance option. I recommend working your way up to two sets of thirty repetitions

core integration and pelvic posi- tion as much because the floor is a handy guide. In the standing version, you do need to be pre- pared to intentionally integrate your core while controlling your hip and spine position more pre- cisely.

SIDE LYING LEG RAISE Happy Riding and Training!

© Heather R. Sansom, PhD.

Leading Equestrian Fitness since 2007. Fitness, Wellbeing, Biomechan- ics. Available for clinics & individu- alized online coaching. Personal Trainer, Riding Coach, Recreation Therapist Fitness, biomechanics and riding instruction. Personalized Coaching Available online Check out the 9 week rider fit- ness plan book- available in print or as a download!:

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horse lifting your legs out to the side, unless you are a Thelwell cartoon or a character in a West- ern movie. Actually, lower- crossed syndrome is a such a problem in the general popula- tion because most people (not just riders) do not go around lift- ing their legs to the side in daily life. However, it is strength and tone in the muscles on your outer hip and thigh that creates the conditions for a relaxed, neutral leg with an upright posture. Illustration by animal and por- trait artist Marg Henderson, published by Trafalgar Square in my book Fit to Ride in Nine Weeks

at least five days a week if this is a problem area for you. By the time you can reliably perform a few sets of thirty repetitions with resistance, you can resume a maintenance schedule (perform- ing the exercise a couple of times per week). The image below is from

my Killer Core for Riders work- book, showing a simple lying leg raise. However, note the rider’s leg alignment: feet and knee-caps are parallel to one another (not pointed out or up); and, there is a straight line between the rider’s ankle, hip, and shoulder bones. In the lying version, the rider does not have to concentrate on

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