We already get a lot of core and lower body work as riders, but if you start working on strengthening your muscles out of the saddle, too, you’ll see the results in your riding. Weight and resistance training isn’t just for the guys; everyone can benefit from it. And no, building some muscle won’t make you bulky. Muscle actually burns fat, so increasing your muscle mass will tone you up and make your ride in the saddle all the easier. Think: better posture, stronger legs, and less cringing when your trainer has you hold the two-point position.
All of these exercises are simple enough to do in the comfort of your own home–or at the barn, if that’s how you roll. If you don’t have any weights, don’t sweat it: find something around you with some weight that’s easy to carry, like a full water thermos, a bucket, or a bag of carrots. Get creative!
Check out these core-strengthening, arm-toning, butt-busting moves that are as good for your riding as they are for your body. You’ll be feeling the burn, but we promise, it’s worth it.
They might look easy, but don’t let be fooled; few exercises burn your thighs as fast as a wall sit. This move really works your leg, hip, butt, and lower ab muscles (and it’ll have you really appreciating chairs).
To do this move, stand in front of a flat wall, facing away. Lower down as if you’re going to sit in a chair and stop when your legs make a 90-degree angle. Keep your legs together and your back pressed to the wall. Hold this position for as long as you can, or try doing a set of 3 wall sits for 1 minute each.
Want to spice up your wall sits and get an even deeper burn? Try lifting one leg and keeping it straight out in front of you as you hold this pose.
Love them or hate them, planks are a timeless exercise because they work nearly every major muscle group in your body–not just your abs. Doing planks consistently will help to tone your entire body and strengthen all of the muscles you use in riding–which, let’s be real, is pretty much every muscle.
To do a traditional low plank, rest your forearms and palms on the floor. Rest your weight on your forearms and toes for as long as you can. You can also ball your fists as you hold this pose, but this can increase the tension in your shoulders, so we recommend erring on the side of caution and keeping your palms flat on the ground. Planks might seem like a no-brainer, but make sure your bum stays low as you become tired so that you keep your body in a straight line, parallel to the floor. Otherwise, you’ll just end up doing downward dog (although yoga’s great for you, too!).
For a slightly easier version of this pose, hold a high plank instead by keeping your forearms extending and off of the floor, resting your weight on just your palms and toes. Suck in that tummy, and hold!
Planks are amazing for your body, metabolism, and riding strength. Read more here about all of the benefits of doing planks. To get in the habit of doing planks on the regular, try holding one every morning right when you get out of bed in the morning. Looking for some extra motivation? Make a rule for yourself to start your day with a 1 or 2-minute plank hold before swiping through your emails or scrolling through that cool new equestrian profile you found last night on Instagram.
This move strengthens your arm, shoulder, and upper back muscles and feels like a nice stretch. Over time, these presses can help tone your arms, better your posture, and have you sitting stick-straight in the saddle. Hello, eq class.
To do an overhead press, hold a dumbbell or other weighted object behind your head with your elbows bent, keeping your upper arms straight and pointed upwards. Press the weight up by extending your forearms, enough that you see the weight lifted just above your head when facing a mirror. Complete the movement by slowly lowering the weight back down behind your head and shoulders.
Try starting out with doing 3 sets of 15 overhead presses. Gradually, as you strengthen your upper body, you can swap out your weights for heavier ones.
Resistance Band Squats
Like wall sits, squats work your legs and hips, but adding in a resistance band specifically targets your glute muscles, making them work extra hard.
When doing squats, make sure to keep your torso up and your knees facing outward as you lower down and push your bum out behind you. Keep your weight in your heels instead of the balls of your feet to stabilize yourself. To add in your resistance band, wrap it around your legs, just above your knees. That way, as you lower into your squat, you’ll feel an extra burn in your thighs and butt.
The great thing about resistance bands is that they are easy to carry around and can intensify a workout without having to add in any weights. These bands are ideal for travel and away-shows because they’re so easy to pack; they take up virtually zero space in a suitcase. They’re also perfect to use when you don’t have access to a gym (or just don’t want to go!) but still want to get in a good workout or stretching session. You can find these at a variety of stores, from Target to Amazon, and they usually come in a pack of different strengths (and colors–just saying).
Want more butt-burning resistance band exercises? Read on.