Two is Better Than One

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. If you missed her series on “lateral work” for rider strength, check out the Beginner NovicePrelim, and Advanced editions. 

Kaitlin and Daniel Clasing work out together. Photo courtesy of Laura Crump Anderson.

Often, I am asked what the best exercise is for … [insert desired result here]. Regardless of the goal, the most important aspect of any exercise program is the result, and results come from consistency. So, the best exercise regimen for you will be the one that you can stick with. One of the best ways to improve the results of any program is to work with a partner.  A partner adds accountability, motivation, plus an extra set of eyes to ensure proper form and safety.

Accountability: Someone is waiting for you at the gym will force you out of bed on the morning, you especially want to sleep in.  Even though there are methods of personal accountability for example maintaining a journal, or excessively posting on your favorite social media platform. There is nothing quite like a friend or personal trainer expecting you, to get you to show up for the work out.

Those times when you want to call it quits, working with a friend can give you the extra edge to truly achieve momentary muscle failure. This is healthy competition, while strength training, I firmly believe that you should be focused on competing against yourself. However, having a person with you in the moment can help you reach for new heights.

Form: When you have someone watch your form during an exercise, you will work harder to maintain it. That said, when you are working hard, which you should be, it is extremely challenging to always maintain perfect form. This is the point at which our egos need to take a good look at itself. Know that your exercise partner is correcting your form to help you, not attack you. When they tell you need to correct yourself, listen to them. Do not get annoyed; listen and make the corrections.

When you are the “helper,” be mindful to only correct the aspects of your partner’s form and execution that are needing correction. Repeating unnecessary instruction will quickly begin to irritate.

Safety: When you get injured, you are much less likely to stick with an exercise program. More importantly, an injury can lead to setbacks on your riding goals. While you will frequently find me in a yoga studio, it would take a force from nature to get me into a CrossFit box.  With many exercise programs, safety is not the priority. Personally, I prefer to reduce risk of injury as much as possible while exercising, because I assume enough risk every time I swing a leg over my horse. Having someone with you are much more likely to be safe and systematic in the exercise program.

Choose wisely: When strength training using the slow motion high intensity technique, I highly recommend using the buddy system. Remember to keep the socializing to a minimum, as slowing down to chat between exercise will detract from the effectiveness. In fact, you want to keep your heart rate up from one exercise to the next.

I am all for efficient workouts, so try and keep the focus on form and progress, as opposed to ‘having fun.’ I believe there is no amount of pump up music that will make exercise entertaining or fun. Your internal drive should be the sound track.

Choose someone that will not let you blow off the exercise. My best friend and I have gone running together all of two times, when we had the best intentions of running regularly. At the end of the day, we would always rather gab together than exercise. This is not the exercise buddy; you want to pick. You need someone you will listen to. I will never train with my husband again; he refuses to listen and I am not wasting his or my time trying.

I am lucky enough to work with some of the most talented strength trainers in the country. However, I understand that not everyone has this luxury. Maybe this is a great opportunity to make a new friend. What you are looking for is accountability and someone who can accurately start and stop a timer to track improvements. Find someone in your barn or program with similar exercise goals. The best results come from consistency and working your hardest every single time you exercise.

Husband and wife team Daniel and Kaitlin Clasing have plenty of experience keeping each other motivated and on task, both in and out of the saddle!  You can learn more about their program at or their Facebook page. Here they demonstrate the wheelbarrow.  

The Wheel Barrow

Daniel and Kaitlin Clasing. Photo courtesy of Laura Crump Anderson.

  • Sit on your glutes facing your partner. The closer you sit to your heels the greater the challenge.

Photo courtesy of Laura Crump Anderson.

  • Place your elbows on your knees.
  • Remember to breath.
  • Your partner is going to hold your ankles, and tip you back (do not lean back, let them tip you back).

Photo courtesy of Laura Crump Anderson.

Photo courtesy of Laura Crump Anderson.

  • Have your partner tip you back to your point of challenge – where you can engage your abdominals and keep your elbows glued to your legs.
  • Then hold this position until momentary muscle failure is achieved and roll out of it.
  • Partner: Your job is to make sure the person exercising is breathing, and remind them to keep their elbows on their knees.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can.

Photo courtesy of Laura Crump Anderson.

  • Then switch and let them enjoy the challenge.
  • If you are holding it for less than one minute, try doing this exercise twice a week until you work up to a minute.
  • If it takes you more than 90 seconds or longer to reach momentary muscle failure increase the challenge by tipping further back or sitting closer to your heels.