Dressage Strength – Improve Your Posture + Balance In the Saddle
Here I share how you can improve your dressage strength out of the saddle. This will ultimately help you seat more even and balance in the saddle.
As dressage riders, it’s important that we are constantly working on ways to improve your riding seat and specific dressage strength. These little improvements over time are what are going to help you become the best rider that you can be.
I remember at pony club being told to sit up, shoulders back and heels down and I often hear instructors use these words today. All though these words are great its so important to understand that peoples interpretation of these words vary and often you see all sorts of different outcomes yet the same words are used.
So in order to get a good understanding of what a good position feels like, it should start off the horse and the begin with good body awareness, creating a good neutral spine and feeling what that actually feels like. It is then from this neutral spine that strength, stability and riding can be improved.
Once riders have got a great understanding of what neutral spine is they can then work on strengthening their entire body. Often dressage riders think it is all about the core, and don’t realise our body works as an entire unit, yes your core is the central hub, but everything is connected. If you don’t have a strong core everything else gets connected and vice versa. If you have areas that are weak other muscles and ligaments have to make up for that.
Your entire bodies biomechanics need to be working and it is little by little, bit by bit that you improve this over time. Having specific dressage strength helps you to be able to move freely with the horse and stay in control with the movement.
Here are some great exercises to help you improve your dressage strength
These exercises are nice and effective. All should be done from your neutral spine and if you do these 2 times per week you will begin to notice changes in your riding position and strength.
Do each of these exercises for the recommended reps and as a circuit. Then repeat the circuit 2 times through.
1. Upright Row
Great for strengthening your upper back and shoulders, which are incredibly important for maintaining strong posture while riding.
Stand into a resistant tube and have your feet hip width apart, then bring your elbows up to your ears. Do this exercise for 12-15 reps.
2. Prone Hold
Great for strengthening your upper back and entire core. Think of balancing a glass of water on your back and pushing from your hands up into your shoulder blades. Squeeze your bottom as well as your thighs and don’t forget to breath! Option here is to drop your knees. Aim to hold for 30 – 60 secs.
3. Wide flies
Fantastic for opening up the chest and improving upper back posture. Especially good for those in a desk job. Remember to set your neutral spine and keep your back long and straight. Start with light weights like some drink bottles and open the arms long and wide. Keep eyes down and repeat 12-15 reps.
4. Lateral Rises
With your neutral spine and braced core, bend your arms 90 degrees and lift the weights wide to shoulder height. Keep the bend in the elbows and lower back down again. Choose a weight that you can do 12 reps for with good form. Its important you don’t arch or move through your back, only thing to move its your arms. Do 12-15 reps.
Great for seeing how open your hips are and how even your strength is in both legs. Start kneeling on the ground and bring one leg out in front so it is bent at 90 degrees. Then with a straight spine and strong core, push straight up. There should be no movement forward or back just up and down. Lower down so knee just about touches floor then up again. Do 12 -15 reps each side and add weights to this to make it harder.
6. Step Ups
Another great exercises to even out any imbalances and make sure both sides are as strong as the other. Find a step that is about knee height and place one foot up ontop of it with the other on the ground. Now without plunging forward push through the top foot to lift the upper body. Try not to let your front knee travel over the line of the toes. Use your bottom to lift you up. Do 12-15 reps each side.
Do these exercises in and around your riding 2-3 times per week and notice how they improve your dressage strength, rider position and posture.
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