15 Minute Rider Plank Workout
Short on time? Try this workout to build your core strength and position next time you're in the saddle.
Equestrian riders often focus on the conformation and fitness of their horses but often neglect the personal components fitness. However, a stable, strong rider is an asset to all horses in any discipline, from dressage, vaulting, reining and eventing. One of the most crucial areas for a rider to strengthen is the ‘core’, as it helps in maintaining the effective positions, balance, and overall communication in the saddle. We’re all short on time, here’s a quality core focused training workout, designed specifically for all equestrian disciplines.
But Why Planks?
I mean crunches are overrated, overused, and don’t incorporate enough core muscles. However, Planks are an effective and versatile exercise that targets your core, your shoulders, back, and even your legs. A strong core helps in maintaining stable positions when riding, improving your suppless, and giving you better connection with your horse. Let’s jump into the four exercises that make up this simple 15-minute workout.
1. Dumbbell (DB) Renegade Row
The Dumbbell Renegade Row is a versatile exercise that provides an array of benefits for equestrians. This compound exercise enhances upper body strength, particularly in the back and shoulders, which is essential for effective rein control and posture while riding. Additionally, the rowing motion closely mimics the action of pulling on the reins, making it directly applicable to your riding skills. The Renegade Row also engages the core for stability, aiding in a stronger, more balanced seat.
Begin in a high plank position with a dumbbell in each hand, positioned under your shoulders. Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your heels. Brace your core and shift your weight towards one side of your body while keeping your hips square to the ground. Lift the dumbbell on the opposite side towards your hip, engage your lat muscles and keep your elbow close to the body. Lower the dumbbell back to the ground and repeat the movement on the other side. Alternate sides for the desired number of repetitions.
You should feel this engaging multiple muscle groups, including the latissimus dorsi (lats), ‘traps’, deltoids, and the biceps for the upper body. The core muscles are also engaged for stabilization, and the quads/glutes to help maintain the plank position.
- Maintain a strong, straight plank throughout the exercise; avoid sagging hips or lifting them too high while pulling.
- Keep your hips square to the ground as you row to engage the core properly.
- Focus on engaging your lat muscles as you pull the dumbbell, not just your arm strength.
- For beginners or those struggling to maintain balance, consider performing this exercise with your knees on the ground and without dumbbells as a safe modification.
2. Suicide Plank
The Suicide Plank is an challenging core-strengthening exercise that brings a host of benefits. With a dynamic range of movement, this exercise challenges your core stability, balance, coordination and strength. Strengthening the core contributes to a more secure seat, improved posture, and better control of your aids. It also incorporates elements of upper body strength, which is beneficial for rein handling and overall control of your horse.
Start in a standard plank position, with your elbows and forearms on the ground and your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Engage your core and then carefully lift yourself into a push-up position, first planting one hand on the ground followed by the other. From the push-up position, return to the original forearm plank, one arm at a time. This completes one repetition. Continue this movement, alternating the leading hand with each rep.
The Suicide Plank engages multiple muscle groups but primarily targets the core for stability. The chest, shoulders, and triceps are heavily involved in the "up and down" movements. Furthermore, the glutes and quads play a supporting role in maintaining the plank position throughout the exercise.
- Ensure your body maintains a straight line from head to heels throughout the exercise to engage the core properly.
- Keep a tight core throughout the exercise; don't let your hips sag or raise too high.
- Focus on controlled movements rather than speed to ensure you are engaging the correct muscle groups.
- Start with fewer repetitions and build up as you become more comfortable with the form and movement.
3. Mountain Climber
Mountain Climbers are an excellent conditioning exercise that offer specific advantages for equestrians. This exercise enhances cardiovascular fitness and endurance also known as stamina, which are crucial for maintaining energy and focus during long rides, competition and riding multiple horses. The dynamic movement engages the core, leading to improved stability in the saddle, and also strengthens leg muscles, enhancing lower body control and effectiveness of aids.
Start in a high plank position, with your hands positioned directly under your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Engage your core and lift your right knee towards your chest as if you're trying to ‘climb a mountain’, then immediately switch and bring your left knee towards your chest. This counts as one repetition. Keep alternating legs at a consistent pace.
This core for stability, but the exercise also works the chest, shoulders, and triceps for upper body strength. The quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves are engaged as they help to stabilize your position.
- Keep your hands directly under your shoulders to maintain good form.
- Ensure your hips remain low and level throughout the exercise; avoid bouncing or rotating them (for this exercise).
- The focus should be on engaging your core throughout, not just ‘running in place’.
- Maintain a quick but controlled pace to maximize cardiovascular benefits.
- For beginners or those looking to reduce intensity, slow down the pace or perform the knee drives in a slower manner.
The T-Roll is a fantastic exercise that combines elements of strength, balance, and mobility, all of which are important for riders. This exercise strengthens your core, which is crucial for maintaining a stable seat and effective aids in the saddle. The rotational component also improves your shoulder stability, overall body awareness and control, factors that can contribute to better self carriage and communication with your horse. This exercise also engages the shoulder and back muscles, which promote better posture and upper body strength for more effective rein control and pressure.
Begin in a high plank position, with your hands underneath your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Brace your core and shift your weight onto one hand. While keeping your core engaged, lift the opposite hand off the ground and rotate your torso, extending your arm towards the ceiling making a "T" shape. Hold this position briefly before returning to the starting plank position. Repeat the movement on the other side, rotating and extending your arm up.
You’ll feel your core muscles engaging for stability. Your shoulder and arm muscles are stabilizing when holding the plank and during the rotation. The obliques get engaged during the twisting motion, and your back muscles contribute to maintaining the T posture.
- Keep your body in a straight line when in the plank position; avoid letting your hips sag or lifting them too high.
- Maintain a strong, braced core throughout the entire movement to stabilize your spine.
- Keep the weight-bearing arm straight (but not locked) to support your body during the rotation.
- Choose a controlled, deliberate pace for the exercise to ensure proper form and maximum benefits.
- If balance is a challenge, you can widen your foot stance in the plank position for more stability.
Sets and Repetitions
- Do 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps on each side for about 3-4 sets total.
- Complete exercises 1-4 once before repeating another set of the exercises.
- (If needed) Rest for 20-30 seconds between sets.
Timing Your Workout
If you perform each set and rest period as described, the total time for the workout should be about 15 minutes or less. Making this an efficient way to build core, upper and lower body strength when you’re ‘crunched’ for time.
A strong, connected and engaged core can drastically boost your riding capabilities, enhancing your balance, stability, and so much more with your horse. It's worth dedicating a small chunk of time to these plank exercises to experience a more controlled and effective ride. Better Fitness, Better Riding.