Are you strong enough? There’s only one way to find out…

In my last blog post ‘Fitness by design, I looked into the 3 different areas of fitness that are crucial for horse riders ­- cardio, flexibility and strength training -­ and what you need to get out of each one. But this blog post is where the magic really starts to happen! And it all starts with testing just how fit (or otherwise) you really are.

Why do I need to test my strength?

Whether you are new to strength and endurance training, or you gym bunny regular, fitness tests help you to identify your weaknesses and to monitor progress.

Here we’re going to look at some simple fitness tests to gauge your fitness level: I have picked tests that you can perform on your own and without equipment and even though we’re doing all this to improve our riding skills, no horse is required!

How can I test my strength for equestrian purposes?
We’re going to break the test into 3 exercises:

  1. Wall Sit Test
  2. Push Up
  3. Curl Up

Wall sit test:

This tests your isometric (holding) strength and endurance of your lower body……a key component for good riding.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, with your back against a wall. Slowly slide down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor (at this point your feet are shoulder width apart, ankles are directly under the knees and your knees are straight to the hip. The thigh is at a 90 degree angle to your back……ref pic 1). Hold this position for as long as you can.


Pic 1 Wall Sit

The below table looks at average fitness. As a rider, you should be pushing for excellence or better. Note your score so you can reference back in a few weeks.



Push Up:

This well know exercise is a test of your upper body strength.

For the ladies, the test Push Ups should be done on your knees rather than your toes (ref pic 2). Place your hands just wider than shoulder width apart, with your shoulders directly above your hands. Your body should be in a neutral position from knees to head. (Note: if you’re a super strong lady, even if you can do full push ups, the chart is based on a knee push up).


Pic 2 – Ladies Push Up

When testing, buddy up and get someone to place a fist on the floor beneath you. Sorry, but the push up only counts when your nose/chin and chest touches their fist! No cheating please – you’re only cheating yourself in the long term (I know… I’m a hard ass…!)

Men should do a full/military push up: Place your hands just wider than shoulder width apart, with your shoulders directly above your hands. Your body should be in a neutral position from your feet to your head. And, like the ladies, the push up only counts when your nose/chin and chest touches the fist of your gym buddy.


Pic 3 – Full Push Up

How do you compare to the chart below?



Source: adapted from Golding, et al. (1986). The Y’s way to physical fitness (3rd ed.)

Curl ups:

Curl ups are designed to test your core strength – basically all the muscles around your middle – a vital muscle group for good riding.

To do the test, lie on the floor with your legs elevated so that your knees are bent at right angles, arms crossed in front of your chest with elbows pointing forward.

Raise your shoulders off the floor (in a crunch position – ref Pic 4) until your elbows touch your thighs. The rep only counts when your elbows touch your thighs 🙂 Do as many reps as you can in one minute.


Pic 4 – Curl Ups



Source: National Training Centre


These charts are here only as a guide to give you a baseline for where you are now – where you’re starting from. What is really important is the score you achieve now versus the score you achieve after training for 6-8 weeks. Progress is what is important rather than the number you actually score today. So record your results and get training! 🙂

In my next blog I am going to be showing you some really great suspension training exercises (and if you don’t a suspension trainer they are going to be on sale this week in Lidl for only €19.99…….so not making too big a dent into the pony budget!).

Do let me know how you get on! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

Until next time…

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