Muscle Sport Magazine

The Importance of Strength Training in Horse Racing

Bill Menzel

It is easy to think that jockeys are all small and light. This makes them seem to be a world away from the need to lift heavy weights and build muscle. Yet, horse racing is a sport that needs a high degree of fitness and strength too.

The Importance of Weight

One of the key concerns for all professional jockeys is their weight. Individual weight limits are set for each race. For example, in one of the most famous upcoming horse races, the Kentucky Derby 2020 event the jockey and their equipment can’t weigh more than 126lb (57 kg). This means that the jockey needs to be about 119lb or less.

In general terms, they are usually somewhere between 108lb and 118lb. Many jockeys are short in stature, to ensure that they meet this requirement. A piece of research carried out in 1995 by the Chicago Rehabilitation Institute showed that many of them skip meals, sweat off weight in the sauna, or vomit to avoid gaining weight.

It is worth remembering that jockeys tend to earn 10% of the prize money for winning a race. This could mean several hundred thousands of dollars in big, high-profile races such as the Kentucky Derby, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, or the Dubai World Cup. Therefore, it pays for them to be light, as this gives the horse a better chance of coming home in first place.

This doesn’t mean that they can’t be strong, though. Indeed, finding this balance between maintaining a low weight and a high level of strength is perhaps the key challenge of being a professional jockey.

The Need for Strength

Despite the low weight limit that is enforced in this sport, jockeys also need to be very strong. After all, they need to be capable of controlling a strong horse at high speeds. This is no easy task, and even a short race be extremely demanding on the body, leaving fit jockeys exhausted at the end of it.

Because of this, jockeys have a fairly unique set of fitness requirements. They need the strength to control their horse, but they can’t afford to increase their weight too much. This is why they tend to be thin and wiry rather than highly muscular.

The Areas That They Focus Us

The main muscles that jockeys rely on are in their legs. They control the movement of the horse with their legs, meaning that they need powerful adductor thigh muscles. Without strong legs, it is simply impossible to compete in this sport at a high level.

Other parts of the body that they need to focus on are their abdominal muscles, shoulders, and lower back. These are all important for allowing them to stay in the right position and control the reins.

Each jockey needs to devise a training program that works for their own body and schedule. They will tend to stick to popular exercises such as barbell squats, deadlifts, and arm curls. There is no need for them to carry out specific exercises for jockeys provided that they get the combination and intensity right.

However, the important issue is that they can’t build too much muscle. It is for this reason that many of them historically avoided going to the gym. There was a fear that too much exercise would cause them to gain weight.

Attitudes have changed now, with the best jockeys understanding the link between strength and a high level of performance in their races. By looking after their calorie intake and choosing their exercises wisely, it is possible to become strong enough for competitive riding without going over those strict weight limits.

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