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Rodeo Training: EP Wellness and Functional Medicine Clinic


Rodeo Training: Rodeo has become a sport that is now open to anyone, and there are even programs for weekend warriors. Like all sports, it can offer a rewarding experience but can be dangerous. As the sport grows, individuals and spectators realize the importance of being strong, mobile, and durable. Individuals need to assess their health and ability and be in top shape due to the demands this sport places on the body. Here we look at the muscle groups needed in this sport.

Rodeo Training: EP Chiropractic Functional Health Clinic

Rodeo Training

Fitness has always had a place in rodeo and all equine sports, but it wasn’t paid much attention. Professional rodeo instructors recommend incorporating a strength, conditioning, and personal training regimen, to keep rodeo athletes, including bull riders, steer wrestlers, and calf ropers, in top form. Even for weekend warriors and hobbyists, increasing strength and mobility will make the hobby much more enjoyable.

Body Strength

The core strength of the abdominals and lower back is very important. The connection between the upper and lower body and groin strength has to be strong for the athletes to stay on the animal and control their bodies as the animal runs, shifts, and jumps. The focus should be on every muscle needed to move with proper form and control and learning how your body moves.

Upper Body

Scapula Stabilizers

  • These muscles help control the shoulder blade and maintain a healthy posture.
  • These muscles aid the rotator cuff and deltoid muscles to upwardly or downwardly rotate the shoulder blade/scapula while the shoulder joint/arm is moving overhead, behind the back, or reaching away from the trunk.
  • Strengthening these muscle groups prevents the rounding of the shoulders and provides strength when dealing with a strong animal.
  • Roughstock riders use these muscles to maintain pressure when lifting their rigging, reign, or rope while maintaining a square posture.

Back and Spine Muscles

  • The Erector Spinae Group and Quadratus Lumborum muscles play an intricate role in coordinating movement between the upper, core, and lower body.
  • These muscles support stabilization, rotation, and side flexion of the spine, which is very important when positioning in a saddle.
  • If the balance is shifting, these muscles help the body recover quickly.

Chest Muscles

  • This group is known as Pectoralis Major and Minor.
  • This muscle group needs strengthening, but it is equally important to ensure they’re flexible throughout the chest.
  • Many individuals have strong chest muscles, but there may be an imbalance of strength and flexibility, causing unhealthy posture.
  • The spine and stabilizer muscles cannot work to maintain proper posture or stabilize if the chest muscles are too tight.
  • The focus is maintaining balance in the chest’s mobility while ensuring they are strong enough to handle the force.


Abdominal Muscles

  • Four major groups comprise the abdominal muscle group, including the rectus abdominis, internal and external oblique, and transversus abdominis.
  • These muscles work together with the spine and back muscles to help create core stability.
  • Core strength is not as important as core stability in rodeo sports.
  • The core fundamentals of riding require the hips, pelvis, and low back to move with the animal.
  • These muscles coordinate with each other to produce stability.
  • Focusing only on strength causes rigid or stiff riding.
  • Being excessively rigid through the abdominals and back muscles prevents shock absorption and can lead to lower back symptoms.

Lower Body

Hip Adductors

  • These inner thigh muscles include the gracilis, obturator externus, adductor brevis, longus, and magnus.
  • These muscles should typically be the strongest because of their natural riding use.
  • Problems with these muscles happen because the athletes generally don’t ride horses recreationally and don’t know how to strengthen them.
  • This leads to various injuries throughout the pelvic floor and hips.
  • Balance is required as the muscles can be too weak or too strong.
  • Where riders begin to depend/rely too much on them can lead to imbalances with the upper and lower body muscles.
  • Too much use/gripping with the adductors can lead to over-rotation of the hip, resulting in the toes-out walking gait and musculoskeletal issues.

Hip Abductors

  • The outer thigh/hip muscles are the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae/TFL.
  • They move the leg away from the body and help rotate at the hip joint.
  • The abductors are necessary for staying stable when walking or standing on one leg.
  • They help stabilize the hip and pelvis and maintain proper leg alignment, allowing correct leg movements without excessive shifting in the saddle.
  • Sitting in the saddle with more pressure on one side or leaning to one side when jumping will cause an imbalance in the hip abductors.

Hip Extensors

  • These are the posterior/back and hip/thigh muscles and are made up of the gluteus maximus and the hamstrings.
  • These are the most powerful muscles in the body and are responsible for giving the horse the cues to perform what they need to.
  • Strong hamstrings and glutes allow the rider to exert appropriate pressure through the legs to move the horse from a walk, trot, lope, run, and direction change.
  • The gluteus maximus acts as a buffer between the hamstrings and the lower back muscles.
  • Weakened gluteus maximus muscles can cause tight hamstrings that shift the pelvis and begin pulling on the low back muscles.
  • Building strength and mobility throughout the hip extensors will prevent injury.

Understanding which muscles are responsible for each part of the movements needed to compete in this sport is essential. However, rodeo sports are learned by doing, and it is recommended to go to a rodeo school or rodeo clinics as there is no substitute for experience. Some schools hold numerous classes around the country. These are usually taught by championship athletes and are a great way to try rodeo in a safe and controlled learning environment.

Rodeo Training: What It Takes


Meyers, Michael C, and C Matthew Laurent Jr. “The rodeo athlete: injuries – Part II.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 40,10 (2010): 817-39. doi:10.2165/11535330-000000000-00000

Sinclair Elder, Amanda J, and Rachel Tincknell. “Epidemiology of Hip Injuries in Professional Rodeo: A 4-Year Analysis.” Orthopedic journal of sports medicine vol. 8,10 2325967120959321. 27 Oct. 2020, doi:10.1177/2325967120959321

Sinclair, Amanda J, and Jack W Ransone. “Physical activity and its relationship to rodeo injury and success.” Journal of strength and conditioning research vol. 18,4 (2004): 873-7. doi:10.1519/14623.1

Watts, Melinda, et al. “Characteristics of Injury in Collegiate Rodeo.” Clinical journal of sports medicine: official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine vol. 32,2 (2022): e145-e150. doi:10.1097/JSM.0000000000000904

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The information herein on "Rodeo Training: EP Wellness and Functional Medicine Clinic" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

Licensed as a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) in Texas & New Mexico*
Texas DC License # TX5807, New Mexico DC License # NM-DC2182

Licensed as a Registered Nurse (RN*) in Florida
Florida License RN License # RN9617241 (Control No. 3558029)
License Compact Status: Multi-State License: Authorized to Practice in 40 States*
Presently Matriculated: ICHS: MSN* FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner Program)

Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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