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Rodeo 'Bull Riding' Workout

November 2, 2005 Print This ArticleShare

Author: Michael Greeves

Bull Riding - The Sport

Rodeo is a traditional American sport that includes a number of action-packed events centered around riding, racing, roping and wrestling live stock. From its origin -- purportedly between two competing ranches -- the rodeo has exploded into a popular sport and has made its way onto the high school, college, amateur and professional scenes, not to mention its first-time exhibition at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

While bull riding is perhaps the most famed of all rodeo events, bronc riding, steer wrestling, calf roping, barrel racing and breakaway roping all involve actions that are just as physically demanding. We must not forget the unsung heroes known as the rodeo clowns, who not only provide comedic entertainment for the crowd but also protect riders after they dismount or get thrown off the bull. All rodeo athletes perform with the kind of skills that fully test their athleticism, and thus they are considered serious athletes who require serious physical fitness. If you compete in the rodeo, you must train your body to meet the physical demands of your sport! Keep reading.

Bull Riding - The Demand

Almost all the events in the rodeo involve quick bursts of movements lasting about 8 to 10 seconds (with the exception of barrel racing, which averages 13 to 18 seconds), so it’s clear that rodeo athletes acquire most of their energy from the phosphagen energy system.

Regardless of the event, all rodeo athletes require similar strength and power throughout the body. The upper limbs are needed for tasks such as holding on to the bull or bronco to roping a calf or wrestling a steer. The lower limbs are used while riding, racing, bracing, dismounting or sprinting. The torso is used for almost every action in the rodeo as a link between the upper and lower body and to stabilize the spine. So no matter which event you compete in, your entire body must be strong and powerful. In the case of being bucked off a bull or bronco, strength of the entire body is often a blessing when you hit the ground.

Bull Riding - Injuries

In 2004 a study examining 72 professional rodeo athletes (members of the Professional Rodeo Association) shows that muscle strains, contusions, and sprains are the most frequently-reported injuries (Sinclair, 2004). Athletes of rough-stock events have the highest injury rates (Myers, 1992). 70% of rodeo injuries occur during the dismount from the animal (Nebergall, 1996). When it comes to injuries, however, the sport of rodeo still has many unknown factors, and current scientific literature indicates that event-specific practice may play the role in preventing injury. However, no study has examined a proper strength and conditioning program and its effect on the prevention of rodeo injury. Hyperstrike believes that, beyond sport-specific skill, optimal physical fitness may enhance performance and lower the risk of injury. As a rodeo athlete yourself, you already know the constant traveling you must do in season, thus leaving you with little to no time to strength train, but as a rodeo athlete who wants to perform at your best, you can’t afford to chance it by not being optimally strong and fit.

The Rodeo 'Bull Riding' Workout

The energy system used primarily in rodeo competition means that the strength and conditioning program must target the phosphagen energy system. This means that high intensity exercises such as full-body lifts like the deadlifts, squats, and Olympic-style lifts should be used in sets of 3 to 6 repetitions. The explosive movements that dominate the sport are trained through the use of Olympic-style weightlifting and plyometrics.

Although the metabolic system can be trained specifically for rodeo events through the use of resistance exercises mentioned above, metabolic conditioning can also be done with the use of repetitive short sprints of 20 to 40 yards.

To lower the risk of injury, such as those that typically occur when dismounting or falling off the animal, structural strength must be maximized through the use of strength exercises that target the lower body and the upper body. Functional strength, such as explosive muscular ability, is also important to quickly dash out of the way of a bucking animal. Again, full-body exercises are used.

In addition to sport-specific skill, physical fitness can enhance the performance of any athlete. You improve your rodeo skills through participating in the actual sport of rodeo, but your physical fitness is maximized only through a solid strength and conditioning program. You want to stay on, ride longer, ride faster, sprint faster, flip the calf easier, and stay healthy -- therefore you must train like athletes. Train hard. Train smart.

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