Welcome to the Weight Room

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Most equestrians understand the importance of staying fit. I hear many dressage riders talk about wanting improve their core strength so that they can more easily sit the trot. Some of my students are aware that they become fatigued by the end of their 45 minute riding lesson and need to increase their muscular endurance to stay tactful through the entire ride. A few of my ladies have also mentioned they want to become leaner to look better in their breeches. Whether afraid of looking ‘too bulky’ from strength training or simply because they are uncertain what to do in the weight room, I find many riders are hesitant to incorporate lifting into their training regimen. However, with 10 years of weight training experience, I can attest to its benefits in the saddle.

Obviously one of the primary reasons to lift is to become stronger, but it also offers so many additional benefits. Lifting teaches you to isolate muscle group, creates body awareness, engages your core, requires you to find your center of balance, improves muscular symmetry, increases stamina and burns calories – all of which will benefit riders!

Are you convinced yet to give the weight room are try?! So where should you begin?

Make a Plan

I highly recommend going into the gym with a plan. Minimally, know what body parts you intend to train for the day. If you are only going to be a sporadic lifter, try alternating between upper (chest, back, shoulders, arms) and lower (quads, hamstrings, calves, abs) each visit. If you can commit to 3 days a week, try separating your workouts into push (chest, front/medial delts, triceps), pull (Back, rear delts, traps, biceps), and legs (quads, hamstrings, calves, abs). Most avid lifter focus on one body part a day (chest, back, legs, shoulders, arms).

You can do a little research ahead of time to pick a few free weight exercises or machines to try. A generic starting point would be 3-5 exercises per muscle group with 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions. The last few reps should always be a struggle. If not, keep going to 15 reps and increase the weight slightly on your next set.

Take Notes

Write down what exercises you did, what equipment you used, what weight you tried and how many reps/sets you completed. Next time you go into the gym, you will have a clearer baseline to begin your workout. You will stay aware of plateaus you want to overcome and also be able to track your progress.

Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask a staff member or other gym members for help. Everyone in there is focused on their own self-improvement but also happy to help you with yours in between their sets. Most people would be happy to give you a spot on a heavy lift or offer a pointer on form. You may even make a new fitness friend. A good lifting partner will help you stay motivated, push you to work harder and suggest new ideas. A personal trainer will also offer the same sort of support. They will help you develop a training plan, learn how to set machines and establish good form.

Respect Gym Etiquette

weights everywhere

  1. Re-rack your weights – The gym staff are not your parents. They do not want to clean up after you and the other gym members don’t want to waste their training time searching for the dumbbells you forgot to put away.
  2. Train in the correct area – Don’t be that person who does curls in the squat rack. Be aware you aren’t blocking someone else’s view of their form in the mirrors. Don’t do your set directly in front of the weight rack, blocking other people from grabbing equipment.
  3. Take care of the equipment – Clean your sweat off of equipment. Don’t slam weights. Use the equipment for its intended purpose.
  4. Protocol for working in – In between someone’s set, you can ask them how many sets they have left. If they are almost done, ask them to let you know when they are finished. If they have a lot of sets left, you can ask to work in. If someone has headsets on, they are “in the zone” and would prefer not to be distracted.
  5. Don’t text and lift – We all have to share equipment, so it is very annoying when someone sits on the machine you want to use for 5 minutes checking their Facebook between sets. If you have to take a phone call, take it outside.
Laura Killian

Grand Prix dressage rider who has earned her USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold medals. She operates her business, Laura Ashey Dressage, in Wellington Florida year-round. In addition to riding, Laura enjoys staying active lifting weights, running, training judo and jiu-jitsu, dancing, twirling baton and trying new and adventurous outdoor activities.

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