Back exercises for riders

Does your back ache after riding? Here is a method that can help.

Back pain and discomfort isn’t uncommon in riders. If you find your back has been aching more than usual, try these exercises!

1. Sit a bit forward on a flat-bottomed chair. Have your feet flat on the floor, slightly spread. Feel how your seatbones make contact with the chair. Does one side feel heavier than the other? Does one foot press heavier into the floor? Just notice differences; don’t attempt to change them.

2. Cross your right arm over your chest to hold onto your left shoulder with your right hand. Your left hand then goes underneath your right arm and holds onto your right shoulder. Not everyone can easily hold onto their shoulders, so adjust this position so that it is comfortable for you to maintain. You might need to hold onto your upper arms.


3. Letting your chin drop downward, gently round your back so that your weight goes onto the back of your seatbones. Your feet stay quietly on the floor. If you exhale as you do this movement, your chest will be freer to soften and assist the movement of the spine. Your elbows will be hanging down.


4. Now arch your back, putting your weight onto the front of your seatbones. Your face and elbows will point up. Put your attention on your entire spine, so that all of it gently participates in this arching movement.


5. Alternate these two movements a few times, rounding your back and looking down, and then arching your back and looking up. Go slowly and easily. Move only as far as it’s comfortable. Breathe easily. After a few movements, lower your arms and rest. Remember it’s not the size of the movement that is important, but the quality of your attention and the ease you feel.

6. Cross your arms the other way, with your left arm on top, holding onto the right shoulder. Your right hand will hold onto your left shoulder from below. Look down, rounding and your back and then look up, arching your back. Repeat a few times. Does the movement feel different with your arms crossed this way? Lower your arms and rest.

7. Cross your arms with the right arm on top, holding onto the left shoulder. The left hand holds onto the right shoulder from underneath. Let the elbows hang comfortably. Push your right foot into the floor a little bit as you lift the right side of your pelvis off the chair. At the same time, tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder. Then straighten back up, sitting on both seatbones and keeping your arms crossed. Repeat a few times and rest.


8. Now try it on the left side. Lift your left seatbone and tilt your left ear toward your left shoulder. Repeat a few times and then rest.


9. Alternate lifting the right side of your pelvis off the chair, then the left side. Do easy, light movements. Lower your arms and rest.

10. Reverse the crossing of your arms and repeat the alternating movements. Let your head gently tilt side-to-side. Lower your arms and rest.

11. Cross your arms with the right arm on top. Hold your elbows straight out in front of you and move your body in a circle. I like to pretend that I have a large spoon hanging from my crossed elbows and I’m stirring a big pot of soup. As you “stir the soup”, feel how you shift your weight on your pelvis. Feel where it’s natural to round your back and shift onto the back of your seatbones. Then feel where you lift one side of your pelvis off the chair, followed by arching your back as your elbows reach out in front of you. Do several circles in each direction, then lower your arms and rest.


12. Cross your arms the other way and keep stirring the soup! After several circles, lower your arms and rest.

13. Notice how you are sitting in your chair now. How is your weight distributed on your seatbones? How do your feet make contact with the floor? Gently look up and down. Is that easier to do now? Does your whole spine and pelvis help you look up and down now? This can improve the suppleness of your spine, free up your arms and help reduce your chance of
overuse injuries.

14. Slowly stand up and walk around. Notice your ease of movement.

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Mary Debono is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitionercm and the creator of the SENSE Methodsm for animals. A lifelong horsewoman based in Encinitas, California, Mary travels internationally to improve the performance and well-being of horses and humans. Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Functional Integration®, Awareness Through Movement® and ATM® are registered service marks of the Feldenkrais Guild of North America. Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitionercm is a registered certification mark of the FGNA. SENSE Method is a service mark of Mary Debono. For more information and educational products, visit or contact or 858.842.4006.