Hear Me Out: Resistance Bands Are the New Rider Fitness Go-To

Resistance bands have found their way into my daily gym routine. They’re insanely useful (and once you work up to the heavier bands, you feel all Hulk-like and fierce) and easy to work into just about any workout for any body part.

So it was a pleasant surprise to see a resistance band make an appearance during a recent flat lesson with Nick Cwick of Cwick Eventing in Temecula, Ca.

A resistance band? While riding a horse? What?

Hear me out.

Nick learned about this technique, which simply involves looping a resistance band around the rider’s wrists (don’t worry, the rider is still able to have full use of body hands and arms, in case of emergency), from Britta Pedersen, a New Zealand native physiotherapist who is a former eventing and current dressage rider.

“I am really big on postural stability,” Britta said of her extension of her physical therapy practices into the equestrian world. “A lot of riders, in any discipline, struggle with engaging their core and therefore have trouble with their posture in the saddle. I’ve been using the bands both in my clinic as well as in the barn.”

Britta has been a proponent of the resistance bands’ role in physical training for the better part of the last decade after first learning about them while working under Leonie Bramall, a Canadian dressage trainer. In 2014, Britta moved her business, Performance Physiques, from New Zealand to her current home Encinitas, Ca..

Now, in addition to a full clinic, Britta shares her expertise with riders throughout California, marketing her new P2 Bands – a resistance band designed specifically for riders.

Among other exercises, the resistance band around the wrists is intended to engage the rider’s back and core. Britta encourages this exercise on the flat, but not for jumping.

Nick, for one, is a believer. He chose a lighter weight band for his young rider student, whose hands were quickly quieted, along with her horse’s headset, by the time she’d warmed up with it. “It really shows us how much we use our hands,” Nick commented. “I use a heavier weight band, and I can’t believe how hard (the band) works your core and makes you engage your seat and leg more correctly.”

Had I watched one lesson, I might have been mildly impressed, albeit not mind-blown, with the results. After all, this was a talented young rider and a reasonably agreeable horse.

I watched two lessons and a training ride from Nick. I was sold. It was hard to even take seriously at first, to be honest – after all, how hard can it be to simply hold tension in a rubber band? Turns out: Really. Freaking. Hard.

Having trouble picturing what this looks like? Here’s a short video of dressage rider Ashley Donadt with the bands:

But the difference was remarkable – in hand position, overall position, and horse performance.

“The bands really make the rider engage their mid back, which opens up their chest, which then engages the abs and therefore makes them much more correct,” Britta said of this particular exercise.

Now that Britta’s got the attention of her target audience, she’s created a new band that she saw a need for when it came to using them in the saddle. From this, P2 Bands were born. “I’d spent so much time using bands, and most of them are on a 12-inch loop,” Britta explained. “Those tend to be a bit too long for riders, as it encourages them to widen their hands too much. So mine will be on a 10-inch loop, which riders will find is much more of a neutral hand position.”

The idea behind the bands – whether used in or out of the saddle – is to improve core strength and stability. “Most people, I’ve found, aren’t sure how to actually engage their core,” Britta said. “When I ask them to, they end up just sucking in their stomach. The core is actually not just made up of your abdominals – it’s really more a synergy of your glutes, abs, and mid-back.”

The exercises extend further than just this one, Britta told me. She described an exercise (and in subsequent Instagram-stalking I saw this one somewhat “in action”) involving two bands, which really had my head spinning.

Perhaps I’d save that one for the next time I was out at the barn. One mind-blowing concept a day is about as much as I can handle, anyway.

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