Should you warm up before you ride?

AN INTRODUCTION TO WARM UPS

I honestly think riders should warm up before they get on their horse, I also believe it can be quick, efficient and doesn’t have to take up a whole lot of time.

We’re in a bit of a chicken and egg situation with the whole thing really, because it’s not common and therefore not a universal method or approach in the equestrian industry, which seems bonkers to me because we beg to be seen as athletes but not joining in with a task that fundamentally prepares us for athletic performance!

The practice of ‘warming-up’ has been universally accepted for a very long time outside of our sport. Warm ups serve four fundamental goals:

  1. Mental readiness
  2. Physical readiness
  3. Injury prevention
  4. Performance enhancement

In professional and elite sport environments (again, outside of equestrian…) using warm-ups to serve these four primary purposes is common practise.

As a rider its important for you to understand that warm-ups can both reduce injury, mentally prepare you and that a well designed warm up can enhance your performance.

What’s not to like?

If you warm up before you ride you will increase blood flow, muscle temperature and core temperature; these are beneficial to you because as a result you will have:

  • Faster muscle contraction and relaxation
  • Improvements in reaction time
  • Lowered resistance in muscles
  • Improved oxygen delivery
  • Increased blood flow to active muscles

WARM-UP PROCEDURES

Fear of looking like a numpty, not having much space and not wanting to get those white jods dirty are a few reasons riders may pass of a warm up, but its at this point I ask you… how serious are you about your performance?

The acronym RAMP can be used to assist in the effective design of a warm up, these letters stand for:

  1. Raise
  2. Activate and Mobilise
  3. Potentiate

Raise

The aim of the ‘raise’ section is to increase body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, blood flow and join viscosity.

  • ↑ Body temperature
  • ↑ Heart rate
  • ↑ Respiration rate
  • ↑ Blood flow
  • ↑ Joint viscosity

I am not suggesting that you go jogging round the competition arena, but some leg swings, body weight squats, lunges and high knees will do the trick nicely.

Activate and Mobilise

The title says it all really, here, we want to activate key muscle groups and ranges of motion used whilst riding, so we really need to unlock those hips and shoulders and activate the glutes, core and scapular stabilisers. This might include band work, self myofascial release and foam rolling, lunges and squats, balance work etc.

When designing the activation and mobilisation phase, its important that you consider firstly where you as an individual are limited in movement or tight and secondly what motion is required for your discipline. This will allow your coach to be very specific with the movements/exercises selected for the warm-up, and therefore have the best possible chance to effectively prepare you for training or competition and preventing you from injury.

 Potentiation 

This is where you get activated and primed, switch on the reaction time and work on hand eye co-ordination and reactive stability. Here the aim is to bring you up to an intensity you are about to work in and excite your muscle tissue ready for action. Now we are not sprinting or olympic lifting here and so we don’t need masses of dynamic potentiation (jumping etc)

But don’t under estimate the power of a few squat jumps for activating that core, remember the core has to counteract and work isometrically on the landing of a jump and is exactly what you need when you ride, so yeah, a few bouncy bouncy moments before you get on might actually be a good thing!!

STRETCHING

My advice? Do not static stretch before you ride. There has been a large amount of debate on this topic but there is limited evidence based information that concludes it has any benefit and in-fact more recently there is suggestion that it actually decreases performance and increases risk of injury!

Dynamic stretching, however, has been consistently shown to improve subsequent performance ( think leg swings, back slaps etc) The neural stimulus is also activated through dynamic range of movement so this is the most appropriate form of mobilisation during warm ups.

EXAMPLE OF AN EFFECTIVE WARM UP

Of course just like a programme a warm up should be customised for the individual, that said, here I have put together a list of 10 exercises that can be completed for ~1 min each or 5-10 repeats of each (on each side) to get you ready, mobilised and activated for getting on top of your horse and performing at your best!

1. Inchworm
2. Deep hip stretch
3. Moving pigeon
4. Baby crawls
5. Cat cow
6. Forwards and back rocks
7. Rolls
8. Deep squat with thoracic rotation
9. Core activation

10. Reactive core activation

See a video at the link below!

PRE RIDING WARM UP ROUTINE 

Now, some riders tell me they have limited space, do not want to be seen and do not want to get their white jods dirty, so I made this video to help you out!

CONCLUSION

If you’re reading this now, then you’re obviously dedicated towards the development of your riding and your own knowledge so you are well on your way to elevated success.

Yes, it can be intimidating to do things outside the norm, but the evidence is real, it will help your riding, you can do it in small spaces, with limited equipment. The equestrian industry changes with each of us as an individual leading the way forwards in a traditional sports environment.

BE THE CHANGE

Happy training

Jenni x