Watching horses saunter around the racetracks is a sight to behold. Their form and fitness matter greatly on how they would perform. It is, in fact, one of the things that punters look for when they make their bets.
One of the most overlooked contributing factors for winning the race is the jockey, particularly their fit and form. These guys are positioned on top of the thoroughbreds and they are also responsible at how good a horse would perform during the race.
Experienced punters looking for a lucrative afternoon at the tracks know that aside from looking at the form of the horse, the track record of trainers and the distance travelled, the mental and physical agility of those who will sit on the saddle is also crucial in making a bet.
What can one notice among jockeys? Almost all of them are short and slender. But more than that, they have to have a strong body enough to manoeuvre a huge animal that runs on speeds of 40 miles per hour. If they are not strong enough, their bodies would not be able to control such agile beasts to reach the finish line.
Having the best physical health is also important in injury prevention and decision making. It is also easier to meet weight requirements for jockeys. Race days are tiring for jockeys. Some of them ride 10 races in a single day. For them to stay in the business, their ride performances should not falter. Their performance in the first race should be the same in the last race they have. In a competitive industry like horse racing, discipline is key.
Many think living a jockey’s life is a walk in the park. Talks go around about how jockeys share champagne in locker room saunas and how they calm their nerves with bottles of beer before a race. This can be true for novice jockeys. Experienced ones know better. They know that to stay relevant in the league, they must have the commitment to conditioning. Getting boozed would not help beginner jockeys in advancing their career in horse racing. Many racing legends admit that the league has become too competitive leaving only a small margin for mistakes. Those who want to be successful riders must be extremely fit and focused.
Jockeys must be of prime health. They have to have the strength to hold the horse and control it. Strong legs, especially when pushing the animal. Having a strong core is necessary to keep the spine and pelvis in balance.
While many think that horse racing is only about the strength and endurance of the horse, jockeys need to be strong as well. They also run out of breath and must have the endurance to match the horses’.
More recently, jockeys are required to undergo and pass a fitness test to receive a professional license. Many inexperienced jockeys fail miserably during these tests because they do not take it seriously. Those who know better, come prepared. They know they will undergo intensive full body workout. These tests include targeted exercises that stretch muscle groups important during races.
Since jockeys need their whole body to be strong when they ride, the exercises they must do are quite brutal. The bleep test measures a jockey’s cardiovascular fitness through squats, leg raises, planks, pull band routines, and held press ups using a mechanical horse. A scoring system grants certain points for every individual exercise performed at a given time. Those who want to receive a professional license must score 70% and above.
Many professional jockeys maintain their weight and stay in shape by cycling, running, and riding regularly between races. Horses must meet weight criteria and this should include the jockey and their equipment. So the closer they are to the minimum weight is better so the load carried by the horse is lighter.
When racing season are in full swing, light exercises and proper diet are enough to maintain their weight. During these days, jockeys typically ride out more often and are often too tired to even workout. They also have to factor in the strain their bodies are receiving. Squeezing in intensive workouts during this season may only lead to more body aches that may only affect ride performance.
Another highly overlooked aspect of horse riding is the balance. More than being strong and staying healthy, jockeys must also maintain their equilibrium. Horse riding schools almost always let their students know that they have to hone their balancing skills. To test the jockeys balance, they must conquer the “equisizer.” The Equisizer is a life-size, legless horse – a cross between a bucking bronco and a rocking horse. It stimulates the forward and backward jolts of horses during races. This trains the jockeys to maintain their balance and stay on the horse.
Enhancing and promoting athletic strength in jockeys are achievable by undergoing rigid weight training or resistance training properly. Generic programs should be tailor-made to the jockey’s age and individual style.
Jockeys who will ride on seasonal races can adjust the volume and intensity of the weight training per cycle, eventually building it up as the competition season nears. On the other hand, jockeys whose ride does not depend on seasons will largely benefit from year-round programs that include cross-training.
Rule of thumb: Workout programs must not be done before a ride. They are best done after the race or a day before the race. During competition days, jockeys must be fresh for riding. Jockeys are advised to stay away from any activity that may limit their ability to perform the technical skills during the race.
This weight training program puts equal importance on upper and lower body and core muscles.
Perform 3 sets of 12 exercises.
Target Muscle: Quadriceps
Place the barbell at the height of the upper chest then position the bar high on the back of shoulders and hold on to the barbell on the sides. Remove the bar from the rack and steady body with a shoulder width stance.
Start squatting by bending the hips backward as the knees bend forward. Maintain a straight back with knees pointing to the same direction as the feet. Go down until the thighs are parallel to the floor. Extend the knees and hips to straighten legs. Repeat.
Tips: The head must be kept facing forward, the back should be straight, and the feet flat on the floor. Maintain equal weight distribution on the forefoot and heel.
Dumbbell Incline Bench Press
Utility: Basic or Auxiliary
Target Muscles: Pectoralis Major and Clavicular
Sit on an incline bench while the dumbbells are on the lower thigh. Kick the weight to shoulders and start leaning back. Place the dumbbells on the sides of the chest while the upper arms are under the dumbbells.
Start pressing the dumbbells with the elbows to the sides until they become fully extended. Then lower the weights to the sides of the upper chest until a stretch in the muscles of the chest or shoulders is felt. Repeat.
Tips: The dumbbells should move following a slightly arching pattern above the upper arm and between the elbow and at the chest.
Preparation: Deadlift the barbell from the floor with a shoulder wide overhand grip. Stance should be shoulder width or narrower.
Place the bar on top of the feet as the hips are bent as the front contour of legs are traced following a downward movement. Slowly bend the knees while keeping the spine straight. As the hamstring is fully stretched before the bar is completely lowered on the floor, lift the bar up by extending the hips and knees until fully standing up. If the shoulders are rounded, pull it back slightly. Repeat.
Tips: The arms and back should be kept straight throughout the exercise.
Lateral Pulldown with Wide Grip
Target Muscles: Latissimus Dorsi
Hold on to the cable bar using a wide grip. Sit with the thighs using supports.
Pull on the cable bar towards the upper chest. Return until the shoulders and arms are in full extension. Repeat.
Tip: Make sure that the grip is not too wide as it may compromise the range of motion.
Always remember that these weight training exercises depend on how accurate and often they are done. Follow these useful tips to ensure the success of your basic strength program: