WOW! It’s been a long time since I’ve published any blog posts – I’m so sorry. As some are aware, I am on the long, arduous cancer healing journey. Unfortunately, I cannot sit but for a very few minutes at a time – I’ll spare you the details… Onward and upward to a few tips I thought I’d pass along for fellow equestrians since proper fitness and nutrition is essential for every kind of athlete.
Many equestrians seek to improve their fitness levels, partly for health reasons, to become a more effective, well-balanced and harmonious rider – and partly for looks. When it comes to becoming well toned, this is achieved by building lean muscle tone.
How Do We Lady Equestrians Achieve The Goal Of Developing Lean Muscle?
We all know that our lady bodies are different to men’s in many ways, so it’s reasonable to understand that how we girls build muscle is also a little different.
Generally, muscle tone improves when the muscle fibers become larger, which is often the result of constant weight training. A key aspect to remember though is muscle can weigh more than fat so don’t be alarmed if your scale numbers increase.
Here are 5 Top Ways For Female Equestrians To Build Lean Muscle Tone And Improve Fitness, Health and Your Looks
1. Increased repetitions when weight training
Weight training is the best way to improve muscle tone and to build lean muscles. However, there is little benefit in rarely challenging yourself, as this does not provide enough of a challenge to the muscle fibers. Each time you are weight training you need to increase the number of repetitions that you are doing to stretch the muscles further – within reason and physical ability, of course and to avoid injury.
An ideal workout could be a sensible weight performed six to twelve repetition sessions. However, if you are looking for lean muscle, the key aspect is to not go above this limit. This is because you want to train your muscles for strength rather than stamina as it is strength that gives you the lean muscle tone (i.e., an example might be the comparison between a sprinter vs. a ballet dancer).
We should all aim for a healthy, balanced diet, which includes a healthy amount of protein (plant and animal protein) whether we are working out or not. However, if you are looking to build lean muscle tone, this becomes even more important. Protein is essentially the building blocks for muscles, so quite simply, the more you have the more effectively and efficiently you can build your muscles. Protein is also filling and can help you feel fuller for longer and reduce the cravings to snack between meals.
3. A Biggie – Reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates you eat
Carbohydrates are most commonly found in foods such as bread, pasta and rice – and they convert to sugar quite rapidly in the body. Although they are also a necessary part of a healthy diet, if you are trying to build lean muscle tone you want to reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates you are consuming. This is not to say cut them out completely; they are still an essential part of a healthy diet (although processed white flour and other processed foods is definitely not healthy).
Carbohydrates help the body release insulin, which is needed for energy and to help with muscle repair. Having said this though, for peak health and fitness levels, its essential to keep the more ’empty’ carbs and processed sugar (and other processed foods) to a minimum.
4. Definitely eat more vegetables – those awesome green, leafy complex carbs
Vegetables are a key part of a healthy diet and should be eaten every day whether you are working out or not. When you are trying to build lean muscle tone, vegetables become even more important.
Vegetables generally contain very few calories and have a high thermic effect. This means they consume a lot of energy to eat, digest and burn through again. This helps with building muscle tone, particularly if they are eaten raw or just slightly cooked.
5. Minimize your cardio blasts
Weight training to gain muscle is a very different type of exercise to cardio workouts and achieves different aims. If you are focusing on building lean muscle tone then you need to minimize the amount of cardio workouts you do.
For equestrians, long distance running or cycling workouts are particularly the worst as they encourage muscle wastage. Rather than eliminate all cardio workouts, you will help build muscle tone by including very short bursts of high intensity runs or cycle workouts. While the right type and amount of cardio work is very important, solid cardio workouts will not help with building muscle.
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Now, having said all of this, most of us know that correct stretching for both pre and post-weight training workouts is also essential to avoid injury. Similar to weight training, it’s the quality of the stretching that will reap you the most benefit.
I’m sharing an article that I think explains quite well some of the intricacies of correct stretching:
“How Stretching Can Explode Your Muscle Growth
Not only is stretching important for flexibility, it is critical for massive, rapid muscle growth. When you think about gaining muscle, stretching is probably not the first thing that pops into your head. But did you know that stretching plays a critical role in building muscle?
What is the fascia?
Every muscle in your body is enclosed in a bag of tough connective tissue known as fascia. Fascia is important for holding your muscles in their proper place in your body. A more detailed explanation of muscle fascia and stretching can be seen here.
But your fascia may also be holding back your muscle growth. Think for a moment about your muscles. You train them and feed them properly. They want to grow and will grow but something is holding them back. They have no room to grow!
Because fascia is so tough, it doesn’t allow the muscle room to expand. It is like stuffing a large pillow into a small pillowcase. The size of the muscle won’t change regardless of how hard you train or how well you eat because the connective tissue around your muscles is constricting the muscles within.
The best example of this is the calf muscle. The lower leg is riddled with fascia because of its tremendous weight-bearing duties in the body. It is because of this fascia that many trainers have great difficulty developing their calves.
The solution: Stretching
Using the pillowcase example from above, imagine you can expand the size of the pillowcase by stretching it. Suddenly, the pillow within has more room and will expand to fill that new space.
By stretching your muscles under specific conditions, you can actually stretch your fascia and give your muscles more room to grow.
The key to effective fascial stretching is the pump. The best time to stretch to expand the bags that are holding in your muscles is when your muscles are pumped up full of blood.
When your muscles are fully pumped up, they are pressing against the fascia. By stretching hard at that time, you increase that pressure on the fascia greatly, which can lead to expansion of the fascia.
Not that us ladies need to challenge ourselves to this extent – One of the major reasons Arnold Schwarzenegger had such incredible chest development was that he finished his chest workouts with dumbbell flyes, an exercise that emphasizes the stretched position of the pectoral muscles. He would pump his chest up full of blood during the workout then do flyes, holding the stretch at the bottom of the flye. This gave his chest room to grow to amazing proportions.
A few precautions
Fascial stretching is more rigorous than regular stretching but the results can be amazing. When you stretch hard enough to cause the fascia to expand, you will really feel it! When you are stretching the fascia, you should feel a powerful pulling sensation and pressure as the muscle works against the fascia to expand it.
Be sure you do not stretch so hard that you cause the muscle to tear or cause injury to yourself. You will rapidly learn to distinguish the difference between a good stretch and a bad stretch. You should not feel any sharp pain, just a steady pull.
Hold each stretch for at least 20 to 30 seconds as you must give your fascia time to be affected by the stretch. Stretch hard like this only when you have a fully pumped muscle as you must give your fascia a reason to expand. If your muscles aren’t pumped, just stretch normally.
One set of hard stretching after each set you do for a muscle group, besides the obvious benefits of increased flexibility, can have an incredible effect on the size of your muscles and their further ability to grow.”
The above informative article was written by Nick Nilsson, president of Better U, Inc.
And here’s a couple of informational videos for your viewing pleasure and education:
©BIORIDER FITNESS/AGILITY TRAINING. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
©BIORIDER FITNESS: SHOULDER AND DELTOID EXERCISES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to read our blog post. Please feel free to leave a comment and let us know if you found this article interesting and educational. Happy Thanksgiving!!!
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