What is Sport Specific Training?

Posted on January 15, 2020 by Categories: Blog Tags: , , , , ,

Sport Specific Training simply means fitness and performance training (exercise/workouts / Sessions) designed specifically to help develop and improve athletic performance in their chosen sport.

For a rider, this would mean exercising / training off the horse to improve the skills required when on the horse. Such skills would be

  • Stability
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Endurance
  • Reaction speed (agility)
  • Mobility (different to flexibility)
  • Strength

Why is a specific training program important for sport?

Undertaking a training programme which has been designed with your sport in mind helps your ability to perform that sport. It is also known as Sports Conditioning, Functional Training and Building Condition Programmes.

Typically the training programme will consist of corrective and restorative exercises, strength training, conditioning and cardiovascular training, sports specific techniques which have been chosen specifically to mimic the movements and demands that your sport needs.

Many believe that being fit and active is enough to be ‘fit to ride’ but not all exercise is equal.

Imagine you are a rugby player, an equally dangerous sport, but you don’t work off the pitch on your strength, power, cardiovascular or agility skills but you walk the dog every day, work on a construction site -lifting heavy and difficult objects and do Pilates once a week.

  • Do you think that the Rugby player would be effective on the pitch?
  • Do you think they would be at a higher risk of injury from impact?
  • Do you think they would be a player the team could depend on?

If a Rugby player does not ensure that they can deal with the cardiovascular demands of running on a pitch (c.5miles per match) without fatigue and still have the ability to skilfully play, or have prepared their muscles, ligaments and tendons to be hit head-on by another player of 14+ stone at full speed, and probably moved in ways they are not designed to go, then they are not able to be part of the team, they become a hindrance, slowing the possibility of success for the team and putting themselves at serious risk of injury.

Horse riding is no different. Horse riding is actually one of the most dangerous sports in the world where we are required to sit balanced, stable and provide clear effective aids on an independent thinking animal that weight more than 5 times our body weight.

What are 5 Sport Specific Training principles? 


Going above and beyond. Training your body in either agility, strength, power, endurance etc beyond what is required in the sport allows the body to deal with the demand of the sport easier. Imagine you only had to ride a test or jump a course which took 2 mins but you trained to ride it for 6mins, riding the 2 mins would be easier for your body to deal with meaning that you would perform optimally.


The human body is amazing. If you practise a given programme, movement or regime without changing the demand in some way then your body will adapt, and you will no longer make progress. To continue to progress you must gradually increase the stimulus or overload so that the body doesn’t adapt and become stagnant – or your performance will to.


As a rider this is really important – Running is not going to help your stability, mobility or balance but it will help improve your cardiovascular ability. The training should be relevant to the demand of the sport.


Don’t become stuck in a routine. The body thrives on being exposed to different stimulus and enables the body to utilise different muscles and body systems to perform which in turn allows greater performance, lower risk of over-use injuries and helps to maintain the need intensity (overload).


Don’t give up or be prepared to lose what you gained. If you have a prolonged period of time off training then yes, you will lose all of the good gains you have made. Your fitness level, strength, mobility, stability and balance will all start to decrease back to zero.

It is easy to keep going than to start again….it should become a way of life, not a ‘quick fix’.


If you want to ride without the aches and pains after, feeling exhausted during a lesson, lacking in confidence when onboard, struggling to step up to the next level, collapsing in transitions, not able to give clear effective aids, struggle to sit a spook or take forever to recover from a general injury then you would benefit from a Sport Specific Training Programme.

There are just too many benefits not to. Learn more about RiderCise programmes by watching a short video:

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