Strengthening

As the show season here in MB has come to an end, I’ve been putting lots of energy this week into developing my strength training routine again. Yes I know I’m moving to another country in less then a week.. but I plan on keeping up with this while I’m working overseas.

The first exercise I do is called a reverse lunge. This exercise works your glute (butt), calves, quads, and hips. It’s a very good strength exercise for balance as well. I do this with my back leg elevated (about 1.5-2 ft is good, I usually use a picnic table bench or step). The picture shows a regular lunge. You should go down to approx 90 degrees. But, if this is too hard on your knees go as fas as you can. I do 3 sets of 12 on each side. Start with less reps if you are just starting out with this exercise (maybe 8 for the first couple weeks). 

Next I do side plank leg lifts. Side plank is probably the hardest exercise I have to do. Especially on my weak side. I started out doing the “half version”.

This exercise is excellent for your core (as all plank exercises are). It also strengthens your hips and outer legs, OH and balance. All key in riding. And daily life. The pictures show the half version (with “clam shell lifts”) and the other picture is the full version with leg lifts. I try to do about 3 sets of 10 reps on each side. I am now doing the full version, completing 10 lifts on my good side, and usually 6 on my bad side. I am working on strengthening my bad side by holding the side plank position longer on that side. Once again if you’re just starting out with this exercise, either do the half version for the first while until you feel ready to move up OR just to the full side plank with NO leg lifts. Even without the leg lifts the core will be strengthened! It’s important to work up at a pace where you aren’t going to overdo it.

I now move onto squats. I try to alternate muscle groups. I do a set of each exercise and then start over from the beginning. Squats are a pretty basic exercise. They also simulate the posting movement. When doing squats you want to be sure your knee isn’t going past your toe when you’re at the bottom of the squat. Also, 90 degrees is the general guideline for how far you should squat. Remember to keep your back straight and your stomach tight throughout all these exercises. Oh, and shoulders back! I do 3 sets of 20 squats. If you have access to a balance board or bosu ball, doing squats with the added challenge of balance is EXCELLENT for your core, and it definitely benefits your riding ability.

Next I do basic plank with leg lifts. This strengthens my core, glutes, hips, and the muscles surrounding my SI joint.

If you aren’t able to hold a proper plank position for more that 45 seconds without bursting into tears (it happens. Been there) Then focus on building up that strength first before adding leg lifts in. Same as with side planks. I do 3 sets of 10 reps EACH LEG. Proper plank position (as shown in pictures), your back should be even with your butt and you should be keeping your stomach muscles (core) tight. Be careful you aren’t clenching your butt too much. You want to focus on your core muscles supporting your body weight. DO NOT let your back sag towards the ground. If you need to, start out with half plank, with your knees touching the ground. Same thing though, keep your back straight and tummy tight. Work those core muscles!

Next I do bridge exercises. This is again for my back, hips, and core. Also hamstrings.

Keeping my core tight, as always, I also add in leg holds.

Your hips should stay even through this whole process. This builds stability in your hip muscles. I hold each leg straight for 10 seconds, and then switch. I do 3 sets of this 4 times each leg. The basic form of this is just holding the bridge position (first picture), and then moving your hips slightly up and down about 15-20 times. You want to be sure your back is staying immobile and your hip and glute muscles are doing all the work.

Last but certainly not least in this routine is push ups. FYI, push ups are less about arm strength and more about core strength. Certainly they do benefit your arms, but the are much more beneficial to your back and core muscles! They work all the same muscles as the plank exercises, but include the arms (if you can). Push ups are notoriously dreaded. My suggestion: If you can’t do full push ups, don’t immediately drop down to the half push up (or “girl” push up). Instead, focus on holding the starting position, with the same guidelines as a proper plank. As your core gets stronger, bend your arms to 45 degrees and work on holding the position at the lower angle. Then go to 90. Then work on pushing yourself up again. Once you can to one push up, try doing two. Etc etc. Even if you can only do 3 reps of two push ups, that’s a great starting point. In may this year, I couldn’t do one. Now I can do 3 sets of 15 full push ups. With time and determination, anyone and everyone can do push ups.

I always do atleast 20 minutes of cardio to warm up (running, biking, dancing around my house (only if I’m home alone)). Also, I do these exercises every second day. Or, three to four times a week. On the off days I either do a longer cardio work out, or just have a day off. During the busy riding season I kept up with these exercises, but at a lower intensity because of the numerous weaknesses I have in my hip, shoulder and back. You have to be careful not to overdo it. You should “feel the burn” while you’re exercising, and definitely be fatigued afterwards. Maybe even sore the next day or so. But, if you’re so sore you can’t function you’re pushing it too hard. Also don’t expect to see immediate results with any fitness routine. It takes time and dedication to see results. But it’s definitely worth it!

This is just one of my routines. I have lots of other exercises and stretches that I do as well. These, however, are the ones I’m focusing on right now. I have noticed a huge difference in my riding skill since I started some of these strengthening exercises in the spring.

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