Workout Wednesday: The Exercise that Will Strengthen an Equestrian's Hamstrings March 25 2015

Why single leg deadlifts are an important exercise for horse riders

Why bother?

Because as an equestrian, using your legs effectively on horseback means squeezing from your hamstrings, NOT your calves! And for many of us, what keeps our lazy horses from pushing up to the bridle are relatively weak hamstrings and glutes. I say relatively because even if your glutes and hammies are stronger than that of your non-equestrian friends, you’re still going to have a tough time keeping your heels down if your rear chain is weaker than your front chain (like your quads).

Single leg deadlifts are a great way to strengthen your rear chain, and can easily be done at home or at the gym. And because they allow you to work one leg at a time (like Bulgarian squats), they also help you improve your balance, and work each leg without favoring or overcompensating on one side.

How do I do it?

  1. Start with your feet shoulder width apart. You want to make sure that throughout the movement, your whole foot, from heel to toes, stay planted on the ground.
  2. Lean forward on one foot (either is fine to start).
  3. Keep that foot planted as you hinge forward, so your upper body moves down as your other leg moves backwards. Keep your back leg straight throughout, but allow for a slight bend in the knee of your planted leg.
  4. Keep your eyes forward (not down) as your move through the exercise - this will help you keep your back consistently straight.  Then return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for three sets of 10-12 reps.

Once you’ve got this movement down comfortably, you can add weights. If you’re using a kettlebell, grip it in the opposite hand to the leg you’ll be extending behind you.

When should I do it?

This will depend on your routine, but if you’re looking to do a quick workout (either at home or at the gym), this is an exercise you should do towards the beginning of your movement, as it engages so many of your large muscles. Make sure to do a warmup and some stretching before you start.