When it comes to exercising like a champion, some key sports always come to mind. Football, Baseball, and Basketball. One of the more demanding sports that people often overlook however, is horse racing and a professional horse racing jockey trains just as hard, if not harder, than everyone else.
While the horse does a lot of the heavy lifting so to say, riding a horse at speeds of around 40 MPH requires the riders to stick to a very strict fitness regimen. Surprisingly, jockeys focus on training their legs, lower body, core, as well as their upper body and they do this daily.
Since balance and overall core strength are essential for these athletes, they typically do body weight squats that are both against a wall and on top of a wobbly cushioned platform, slow rep sit ups, push-pull band exercises, and core strengthening planks.
These exercises are intended as pure strength and balance builders as well as maintenance since weight is a jockey’s secondary focus when training. While most football players wouldn’t mind gaining some extra bulk in the offseason, a jockey needs to maintain their weight to ensure their horse can still run like the wind.
Most jockeys are typically smaller and leaner in stature but each one must work hard so they want to remain this way. In fact, there are weigh-ins before a race (usually conducted by the sponsor) to make sure their race continues to meet this requirement. If a jockey fails to hit their goal, they’ll be forced to “cut” their diets which are a fancy way to say, find some way to lose weight before the race. To this end, their daily meals are meticulously calorie counted to ensure their weight remains consistent with neither any gain or loss as either could mean extra weight on the horse or less balance and control for the rider.
The impact of rider fitness in a horse race is extremely significant as not everyone can magically maintain their weight and still have enough strength to manage the massive animal. However, this is where true all around fitness comes into play.
To achieve this, they not only do the exercises mentioned above but also engage in frequent aerobic exercise to keep their heart pumping and their lungs expanding. Racing a horse is extremely adrenaline filled and increases heart rate and breathing as excitement starts to peak. To combat the fatigue that comes from this, most professional jockeys take part in swimming, jogging, and everything in between to make sure they aren’t short of breath when they need to focus on keeping their horses in order.
Most jockeys concede that the exercises they perform are based on gym exercises with equipment everyone has access to although they tend to be more focused on the stance they will take for maximum performance during the race. In addition to their weighted exercises, they also participate in flexibility programs such as Yoga and Pilates which adds to their muscles’ ability to continue functioning during the continued shock of riding a horse.
It’s no stretch of the imagination to understand exactly how in shape jockeys keep themselves to continue operating at their best. So the next time you hit the gym, why not strive to “train like a jockey”.
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