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Bull riding is one of the most dangerous sports there is. But for Keyshawn Whitehorse, it’s part of his culture. Growing up in Utah in a traditional Navajo family, his father rode bulls as a hobby and enjoyed watching PBR on the television. Whitehorse began mutton-busting at the age of 5 and eventually worked his way up to steers and then bulls.
The McCracken Spring, UT, native has only continued building on a strong legacy once he turned pro. Whitehorse took home PBR’s Rookie of the Year award in 2018 and is a three-time PBR Global Cup qualifier. Even with his natural talent and hard-working nature, it matters not when you have to sit atop an angry, two-ton, bucking bull for eight seconds while only using your off-arm as a balancing measure. Bull riding is an unforgiving sport and there is a lot of details that goes into training the body to withstand the sheer force of the animal.
Before he’s set to compete in the PBR Team Champions this weekend in Las Vegas, Whitehorse took M&F through his warmup routine.
All forward-moving exercises are one set (a set is one down and back of 10 yards, except mini steps)
All of these exercises are geared toward opening up and activating the glutes, hips, hip rotators and flexors, and the abductor and adductor muscles. In bull riding, the strength of our glutes and adductors is vital in squeezing the bulls to maintain your center and balance. Keeping them mobile and strong helps protect our groin muscles. As bull riders, we’re very prone to groin tears and strains due to the nature of the body movements and mechanics required to stay on the bull. One of the ways to protect these is through dynamic warmups and strength training.
Additionally, hip mobility, rotators, and abductors are equally important when discussing lower body strength. During riding, the proper technique is to ride front to back, activating hip flexion and extension. However, bulls typically move in a central circular motion while also bucking front/down and back/up so hip mobility and rotation are important to keep quick and responsive movements. Additionally, to score extra points or “style” points, riders will lift one leg in a spurring motion to showcase their control of the ride. This motion requires abduction motion and strong hip strength.
Equipment: Medium Resistance Band
These exercises are geared toward waking up the quads and hamstrings as well as focusing on firing up the fast twitch muscle fibers through explosive movements. Our job may only be 8 seconds but the velocity and power of the movements are quick and continuously changing and we rely on the reactionary speed of our body to be able to adjust, adapt, and counteract to continue the in-sync dance with the animal. It’s key to fire up these fast twitch muscles to ensure they’re optimized for these gravity-defying movements.
Perform each move for 2 sets of 10 yards each (unless prescribed otherwise)
Equipment: Resistance Band – Stretch Loop/Assisted Pullups
The final part focuses on warming up the arms, shoulders, and core. Bull riding technique requires one hand to hold the rope and the other must avoid touching the bull or yourself. This arm is referred to as the free arm and is important in staying centered throughout the circular movement of the ride. The arm helps with the force of the rotation that the body must keep up with in order to avoid becoming unbalanced.
The activation of the triceps and biceps is important for the riding hand holding onto the rope. The shoulder is primarily engaged in relation to the free arm and in tandem with arm stability for the riding hand. This is why the scapula and lat activation are key in my warmup. Finally, the core is essential to keeping the rest of your body in unison as well as centering yourself with balance on the animal. A strong core is vital to your success in the sport and must continually be strengthened especially in order to ride at an elite level where you’re matching up with three to five 2,000-pound bulls each weekend.
1 set, 20-30 sets each:
Follow Keyshawn at Instagram @keyshawnwhitehorse