Bull riding is one of many rodeo sports that are performed for entertainment and to test the skills of a rider. This sport involves a person (usually a cowboy) getting on the back of a bucking bull. The goal is to stay there for some time even as the bull tries to buck the rider off.
This practice is also a kind of bull taming which has been part of contests since ancient times. In the 16th century, bull riding involved riding the bull until its bucking stopped. The taming process became a popular charreada competition in Californian and Texas cattle ranches. Today, there are mechanical bulls in various locations; these are devices that mimic the bucking of a bull and are used for entertainment and recreational purposes.
How Does Bull Riding Work?
Bull riding works on a simple concept. There’s usually no saddle; the rider has to mount and grip a braided rope for some balance. They will then signal when they are ready, after which the bull is released from the bucking chute. The rider and bull will come into the arena, and the rider has to stay mounted for eight seconds at the very least. They are only allowed to touch the bull with one hand, which is their riding hand. The other hand has to stay free for the duration of the performance.
The bull will then kick, spin, twist, and do whatever it can to throw the rider off. If it manages to do so, the ride is over. A whistle or buzzer will be used to signal when the eight seconds are over, after which the rider will dismount.
During the ride, there will also be bullfighters or rodeo clown that stay nearby to help out if there’s any need. The ride could end either when the rider dismounts or the bull throws them off; in either case, the bullfighters will distract the animal so that he doesn’t harm anyone.
The Need for Fitness and Strength While Bull Riding
While the rules of bull riding are fairly simple, the ride itself requires a lot of strength and agility. Bulls have a lot of raw power and their bucking movement is very different from that of horses. At times, bulls may even belly roll, where they jump off the ground and twist their body by kicking their feet. They will also spin very quickly in tight circles. All of this puts a lot of stress on the rider’s body.
American bull riding in particular has been dubbed as the ‘most dangerous eight seconds in sport’. In order to stay on that bull from the required time and avoid serious injury, some bull riding exercises are in order. One can sustain common injuries while racing cars, so a bucking bull is naturally even riskier. You need to have very strong legs, a tight core, and a powerful, unyielding grip.
Needless to say, anyone who wants to ride a bull should follow a strict workout and exercise regimen that will help to build up their strength. They also need to work on muscle endurance and agility, as bull riding requires athleticism a lot more so than many other sports. The bull will be moving very fast, so riders have to counteract every move while keeping their balance and one hand suspended in the air.
Exercises to Do Before Attempting a Bull Ride
Before you mount a real or mechanical bull, the best way forward is to focus on a variety of exercises. Bull riding champions advise increasing the volume and types of exercises rather than body building workouts. Bulking up will shorten muscles, which is not what a bull rider wants. You need good form with each repetition, along with limited rest periods. Here are some of the most essential exercises to work on for this sport:
1. Warming Up
Most exercises require warming up beforehand, so make sure not to skip this part. Before you start any rodeo activity, stretching and warming up will increase your flexibility and lower the chances of injury. You may also want to check out these 5 ways to avoid sports injuries before moving on.
Physiologically speaking, warming up for just five minute will increase the blood flow to all the extremities of a human body. This increases the oxygenation of the muscles that work when you’re riding a bull. However, warming up should never increase body temperature too much, as that could cause muscle damage instead of increasing strength.
2. Neck Stretch
You have to tune the neck muscles so that the body is as free of tension and stress as possible. Do this by keeping the chin level and turning the head one way until the chin is right above the shoulder. Keep the chin there and then swivel slowly to the other side. Repeat a few times and try to stretch out further with every set. The second part involves dropping the chin to the chest, then slowly lifting it and dropping back again. Repeat by stretching as far as you can go without feeling pain.
3. Shoulder Shrug
The shoulder is right by the neck, so there’s a lot of tension concentrated there as well. To release this, plant your feet around 18 inches from each other. Lift the shoulders into a kind of tight shrug, which will slightly squeeze the neck. Hold for 3-4 seconds and then relax, letting the arms drop back. Repeat a few times.
4. Elbow in the Ear
Raise the left elbow and point up, resting the fingertips of the left hand on top of the left shoulder. Cross the other arm to the left side, clasping it and raising the elbow high. The below should be slightly turned into the ear and held like that for a few seconds. Repeat with the right side and try a few sets, stretching further each time.
5. Touching Toes
Since the hamstrings are especially vulnerable while bull rising, we need to work on the muscles around them. Once exercise is to keep your feet close together, with just 6 inches in between. Keep the legs straight, the back a bit stiff, and bend at the waist. The arms should be parallel to the legs. Stretch like this until you feel a pull. You don’t absolutely have to touch your toes unless it seems possible with all the above requirements.
Hold the hanging position for about 7 seconds and then stand back up. Other hamstring and leg muscles training exercises include:
- Running in place
- Jumping jacks
- Jump squats
- Jumping rope
- Scissor runs
- Side to side jumps
A Recommended Workout Routine
There are several workout routines available for those who want to get in shape for bull riding. While a professional should be consulted for the right workout to train each body type, here’s a basic routine that we may consider starting out with:
- Agility Ladder 1: Place both feet into space, one at a time–2 reps, 2 sets
- Agility Ladder 2: Put one foot into space, alternating the feet while moving on–2 reps, 2 sets
- Wall Ball: Use the medicine ball against a wall–3 sets, 10 reps
- Medicine Ball Rotational Throw: 3 sets, 10 reps (watch an online video to learn the proper technique)
- Swiss Ball Balance Jump: 2 sets– to rescue the risk of injury, replace the Swiss ball with Bosu ball squats or box jumps
- Ball Slam: Use the medicine ball–3 sets, 10 reps
- Shrugs: Use dumbbells to release tension in the shoulder–3 sets, 10 reps
- Kettlebell Swing: Use kettlebells to help with the neck stretches–2 reps, 15 sets
- Medicine Ball Russian Twist: watch a video or talk to a trainer for the exact technique–2 reps, 15 sets
- Pushup: 2 sets, 30 seconds each
- Tire Flip: 2 sets, 20 years.
The above exercises may not all be familiar to beginners. It’s always best to consult a professional trainer before starting any serious exercise routines. This way, you also get to know what kind of workout to plan and how much is good for your body at this time. For further training, you may also consider LITT and HITT workouts.
After you’ve worked on the exercises listed above and have the approval of bull riding trainers, you can start riding. Make sure to stretch and cool down after riding as well in order to prevent the muscles from seizing up and hurting. Practice the stretching and warm up exercises every single day so that they become a habit.
Bull riding awards are a matter of prestige for cattle ranches and the riders (if they score enough points against the bull. As this sport demands a high level of fitness, riders need to engage in bull riding exercises before they can even think about performing in the arena. Along with this, it is also important to maintain a proper diet in order to prepare the body for the ride. Some nutrition tips for athletes might be in order here, so have a look if you’re interested in bull riding or similar sports.