Rider Fitness: Easy Moves for a

Strong & Stable Core and Hips

By Dr. Heather Sansom The exercises for this month’s tip are taken

directly from my Killer Core Workout for Riders (available on my website, or downloadable from Amazon). Now that you understand the basic foundation of postural alignment from last month’s tip, it’s time to prepare your body to maintain that stability. What we want to do as riders, is maintain stability in the core, not an exact position or pos- ture. What this is about, is being able to change your body position or movement as needed, in order to maintain the ergonomics or biomechanics of your ride (with safety for your back), in constant response to the horse’s changing position. Having a stable core is not about making your posture rigid. The theme of this second workout is about key moves you can do to build all-round core strength, especially in the muscles around your pelvis area: lower abdominals, low back, sides of your hips (gluteus medius) and that ‘girdle that protects your lower back and keeps your hips and shoulders con- nected, the transverse abdominus. In other words, we’re working on the first steps of serious stamina for your core area, especially in the parts closest to your hips. Your structural integrity (alignment) is chal-

lenged with every step that your horse takes, and everything that you do for horse care. It isn’t about holding a position, but about maintaining an er- gonomic relationship between your joints- espe- cially in your spine. Solid lower body and hip area core strength helps you keep a solid and balanced seat without tension. That solid seat is like an an- chor for your upper body and your legs. With sta- bility that you can maintain over the thousands of hoof-steps of your ride, you can have the same leg strength for aids and the same ability to stay with your horse’s centre of gravity at the end of your ride, as you had at the start. For this month’s tip, I’ve selected two exer-

cises from Week 2 of the Killer Core Workout for Riders. The complete workout includes: crossover crunches and slow bicycle crunches to promote cross-body co-ordination; side plank and side crunch for lateral stability; leg lowers (and the bi- cycle crunches) for lower abdominal/low back strengthening; bridge rolling an exercise ball and supermans for backline strength; and standing on one leg with free leg movement to promote hip sta- bility and balance. The two exercises I’ve selected are the leg lowers, and the side crunch. The reason I’ve selected them is because

they look deceptively easy, people do them with poor technique all the time, and correct technique is essential to targeting the muscle areas you want to train. The leg lowers are particularly tricky for riders because leg lowering and raising has the po- tential to worsen psoas (hip flexor), leg position, and low back problems if executed poorly. If ex- ecuted correctly for a rider, it is an immensely use- ful exercise for supporting the lower back. The side crunches (with a side leg lift) have a similar negative impact on the lower back and psoas with poor technique, but are very useful for training lat- eral leg and hip strength if done correctly.

Leg Lowers Start by lying on your back with your legs

straight up in the air. The exercise is to use gravity to strengthen

your lower back and abdominals. Many people are familiar with leg raises, which is different. By lowering your legs slowly while paying

close attention to maintaining your core tone and back position on the floor, you will need increasing engagement of the low back/low abs. Lower your legs about 4 inches at first, and

hold this position for 6-10 counts. As you are able to complete the number of

repetitions for this weeks workout, you will be able to increase the effort by lowering your legs a little further.

It is critical to stop the exercise the moment

you feel your back lifting off the floor. When you get to that point, the muscles you are training have fatigued, and you have shifted out of training and into overloading your lower back, which con-

Craig Hunter and Family and Staff tributes to negative strain.

Leg lower step one: remember to bend your knees to start raising your legs. Do not raise them while straight. This protects your lower back while rais- ing the legs into the air. The important part of the movement is slowly lowering them.

Side crunches do not look like much

from the outside, and as you do them you will have a feeling of not accomplishing much, based on the relatively small movement in- volved. Start by lying on your side so that there is a straight line between your ankles, hips, shoulders, and ear, with a bend in your knees. Raise your leg until your ankle is level with or slightly above your hip (with bent knee). Your foot should remain parallel to the floor.

The common error is for the toe to

point to the ceiling. The issue is not foot po- sition. The issue is that this error causes a ro- tation in the leg, which results in you using your psoas to hold the leg up, resulting in in- creasing tension and tightness in your psoas. You want that psoas to stay soft and unengaged, letting the muscles on the sides of your hip and leg do the work of holding that leg up. If you are aligned correctly from heel,

hip to shoulder with your abdominals en- gaged for a true neutral spine (don’t allow your lower back to hollow), you will only be able to bring your lower ribs a very short dis- tance toward your hip bone. The alignment is critical to this exer-

cise as it trains your body for straightness with lateral loading (the effort of lifting your torso). Using your arm to reach past your hip- bone can be a helpful technique for maintain- ing alignment.

Side crunch basic position showing align- ment:

Active crunch portion of the movement: SIDE CRUNCH 3 Safe and Happy Training!

LEG LOWER PHOTO 1 Leg lower step two:

© Heather R. Sansom, PhD.

Leading Equestrian Fitness since 2007. Fitness, Wellbeing, Biomechanics. Available for clinics & individualized online coaching.


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LEG LOWER PHOTO 2 Side Crunch (with Static Leg Raise)

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