Most of us are willing to get up early, work long hours and sweat for our favorite sport. But when it comes to riding horses, time in the saddle is just the beginning of the physical training required to be truly successful in the ring. Good core strength is essential to riding well at every level, and few core muscle groups take as much wear and tear as our backs.

Whether you’ve suffered with back pain or weakness in the past or are simply looking to up your game, we’ve tapped personal trainer Mike Barthelemy for his favorite exercises to strengthen the back muscles and improve core strength.

“I recommend doing those four exercises three times per week,” says Mike, who advises completing fours sets of 20 reps for each movement:

1. Dorsal Raise. Lay flat on your stomach on the mat and bend your elbows. Place your finger tips at your temple with your elbows out to your sides. Slowly lift your chest and stomach up off the floor, making sure to keep your hips and legs still against the mat.

2. Stability Ball Extension. Kneel down in front of the stability ball. Leaning over onto the ball (your hips should be on it) place your hands behind your ears and find your balance on the ball. Lift up, squeezing your lower back and glutes.

3. Single Arm Over-the-Head Row. Sit on a bench or stability ball. Holding a weight (of any size that’s comfortable for you) start with your arm over your head and “row” down in one movement so that your elbow is facing down and parallel to your waist, concentrating on squeezing your Latissimus Dorsi as you do so.

4. Straight Leg Bridge Lift. Lay flat on your back with your heels on a stepper or other raised platform. Keeping your feet and knees together and your arms straight at your sides, push through your heels and lift your rear up off the mat while keeping your shoulders on it.

Mikerlange H. Barthelemy was born and raised in Haiti. With a passion for fitness and health, he is a three-time Men’s Physique National qualifier and is certified in both Functional Fitness Training and Personal Training. “I am a people person,  a motivator, and a mentor,” Mike says. “Deep down, while I am a serious professional, I am simply a young kid from Haiti trying to be the best I can be and help others achieve their dreams. That’s what gets me up every day and why I do what I do.” Mike will be opening a training facility in Wellington, Florida this winter to assist the development of elite equestrian athletes. Learn more about Mike on Get Fit Match, or follow him on Facebook or Instagram

-Photo credit: flickr.com/Carly Webber