Beginner Novice ‘Lateral Work’ Exercises for Rider Strength

Laura Crump Anderson is an Equestrian Fitness Specialist at InForm Fitness Leesburg. She is certified as a personal trainer by the American College of Sports Medicine and specializes in working with riders of all ages and disciplines. She is EN’s fitness columnist and returns this week with a new exercise for event riders.

Haley Carspecken at Mara Depuy’s Willow Bend Farm.

If someone says they are doing a high intensity exercise program, extreme or dangerous activities may come to mind. High intensity exercise is not scary, but it is an effective way to build muscle. High intensity just indicates the level of physiological demand from the exercise program, and one can do high-intensity exercise in a very safe way.

Despite what some think, there is no such thing as a long and intense workout. Our bodies can either do short and intense, or long and steady. Studies have shown that endurance athletes are at a higher risk for cardiovascular events. After 20 minutes of intense exercise the physiological adaptation risks begin to outweigh the benefits.

Some females are afraid of strength training because they do not want to bulk up. However, while there is a genetic component that determines how much an individual will or will not bulk up, few females naturally bulk up. Most people will not look at me and think, “I do not want to strength train, because Laura looks like the Hulk.” However, I strength train regularly, using a high-intensity method. I have never been injured while strength training at InForm Fitness.

Photo by Ellen Zangla.

What is the secret? To move through the resistance very slowly…

A traditional repetition of is about four seconds in total. The individual uses a lot of acceleration and momentum to move the weight through their range of motion. A perfect repetition takes between 16 and 24 seconds, the ideal being 10 seconds up and 10 seconds down. It is important to note: The pace should be identical in the positive and the negative direction. So, it is not eight seconds up and 12 seconds down. The turnarounds are the most important part of the exercise; one should be very aware of the urge to speed up.

Adam Zickerman’s “The Power of 10.”

Moving slowly has two advantages. One, by slowing down the repetition the muscles must do more work to move the weight through the full range of motion, instead of relying on momentum to move the weight. The second is a greatly reduced risk of injury, as moving the weight slowly allows you to focus on form and control. The way this works is to fatigue the muscle through inducing momentary muscle failure. If you have tried the exercises in my previous two blogs, you understand the sensation. (Blog 1) (Blog 2)

In short, momentary muscle failure, or popularly termed “failure,” is literally the point at which you work so hard that your muscle can no longer complete the exercise in good form. What is more, you will not need to do multiple sets, as one set to true failure is enough to stimulate change.

Haley Carspecken at Mara Depuy’s Willow Bend Farm.

Beginner Novice Lateral Work

  • Start on all fours
  • Slowly elevate your left hand, keeping your shoulders parallel to the ground, stretching your arm out straight
    o Move at a pace of 10 seconds up and 10 seconds down

Haley Carspecken at Mara Depuy’s Willow Bend Farm.

  • Return to all fours
  • Then lift your right leg up, as high as you go can while maintaining your hips parallel to the ground
    o Move at a smooth rate of one inch per second
    o Keep your core engaged (belly button to your spine)
    o If your left hip starts to elevate or drop, this where you stop, and smoothly lower your leg back down
    o Same rate of one inch per second
  • When you can lift your leg parallel to the ground, while keeping your hips parallel …
    o Contract in your glutes and flex your toe back toward your face engaging all down the back of your leg
    o Actively squeeze like this for a two second count
    o Lower the leg 10 seconds down

Haley Carspecken at Mara Depuy’s Willow Bend Farm.

  • Repeat alternating arms and legs until failure is achieved or you can do this exercise for two minutes
  • Next, switch and do the same thing with right hand and left leg

If failure does not occur within two minutes, the next time you will need to add weights to your hands and ankles. Start at 2 lbs. and increase in the smallest increments you can find. Remember, that good form is much more important than moving heavy weights.

Place yourself in front of a mirror or have a friend watch you to make sure you are keeping your hips and shoulder parallel to the ground. When in doubt slow down!

Try doing this exercise every 5-7 days. This is a good exercise for working your glutes, core and across your chest. In two weeks, I will be releasing the Prelim and Advanced Lateral work exercises but I want everyone to have perfected the form of the Beginner Novice first. Do this exercise before you do the plank (see “The Plank: One Exercise Every Eventer Should Do“); during a 20-minute strength training session a plank to failure is always a great way to close.