Rodeo Road with Luke Creasy: Rodeo Athletes, Not Just Rodeo Cowboys Anymore

Doug Champion with PRCA Bareback Riders At The Gym (Photo Credit: Doug Champion)

Doug Champion with PRCA Bareback Riders At The Gym (Photo Credit: Doug Champion)

Rodeo Specific Fitness-Rodeo Athletes, not Just Rodeo Cowboys Anymore

Rodeo is a hard way to make a living. The strength and agility required to counter that over a 1000 pound horse or bull is more than is required in most sports. So what do competitors do to prepare for the stress and strain of daily life to lengthen their careers and stay competitive? Anything we can get our hands on.

    When I wanted to start rodeo I was given the option: do 500 push-ups and 500 sit-ups a day or never get on a bareback horse. I was determined, so I did it. Every day I endured the monotony of my workout in an attempt to be fit enough to ride. But one thing I’ve learned is there are much better ways to be specifically fit enough to rodeo. My bareback riding mentor, Dave Shields Sr., put me in contact with Calgary based strength trainer Mark Barrett and his program Strong Cowboy Strength and Conditioning and I learned that variety and doing exercises that worked more event specific muscles would elevate my game exponentially.  Barrett has been training cowboys, mostly roughstock for 12 years and has had Jake Vold, Tanner Girletz, Tyler Thompson, Matt Lait, Justin Volz, myself and others as clients.

Mark Barrett, Strong Cowboy Training, Calgary (Photo Credit: StrongCowboy.com)

Barrett states, “Designing training programs for rodeo athletes similar to other sports in that there has to be a good base.   Making things too advanced too early is a recipe for disaster.  Clients have to learn how to do basic exercises so that we can move to more specific and advanced movements.   Much like building a house, you have to have a good foundation before going any further.”

“The sport of rodeo is fairly unique as it pits human vs. animal. The way roughstock athletes move is very different from traditional sports like football, soccer, baseball, hockey, etc. In my opinion, core strength is key to every rodeo event. Without a doubt, the upper body, (riding arm, back, etc.) plays a big part, as well as groin strength but both of these extremities are affected by the core as the rider rides the animal.” 

Photo Credit: StrongCowboy.com

“Another really important part to being able to compete at your best is warming up properly for your event/competition. Not only is increasing your body temperature important, but so is priming your central nervous system and getting it in tune with your muscles. Each contestant should be preparing properly before their chute gate opens,” said Barrett. Barrett’s program taught me a solid general knowledge of sports training and how to adequately prepare my body for competition on days off and on competition days. Barrett has helped many young cowboys with their future in fitness with his participation in Rodeo schools in Alberta. For more information on Strong Cowboy Strength and Conditioning you can go online at www.strongcowboy.com or email mark@strongcowboy.com.

Photo Credit: StrongCowboy.com

Through the years I’ve tried various work out programs, from kettlebell workouts designed by Kelly Wardell, 52 year old bareback rider and MMA fighter, to boxing workouts at my local gym. I fully recommend trying a variety of workouts, various other sports training and anything that changes what you’re used to, to activate and work your muscles in new ways and keep you enjoying pursuing new levels of fitness. Kettlebell workouts are great because they are a great full body mobile workout you can pack in your vehicle on the road.

Doug Champion of The Woodlands, Texas, (brother of Richie Champion NFR bareback rider), has developed a work out plan that is tailored for travel on the rodeo trail. Champion rodeoed professionally for five years, played football and lacrosse and has been a crossfit coach for nearly two years. When you’re on the road rodeoing all the time it’s hard to stay fit because you don’t have access to equipment all the time, “To overcome the frequent lack of a gym rodeo cowboys face my workouts are all body weight, you can do them literally anywhere. You can pull off at a truck stop and do it if you want to,” Champion explains.

Doug Champion (Photo Credit: Doug Champion)

Doug Champion (Photo Credit: Doug Champion)

 

    “Rodeo, the sport in general, is fast- it's not over a long period of time. My workouts are fast paced and high intensity. They make you more explosive in a short amount of time. The key to my program is you keep your body guessing. Doing the same exercises over and over again you’re going to plateau.”

Champion and Barrett stress the value of stretching to prevent soreness from both workouts and competition and both their work outs have extensive stretching and warm ups you can utilize on competition and rest days.

    One of the best aspects I’ve found working with Doug is the nutritional advice and knowledge I’ve gained. Champion is an internationally certified sports nutritionist and has put together nutrition plans, specifically one that goes with the Gold Buckle Dreams workout plan that is tailored for life on the road, “What I’ve come up with that’s the most beneficial are the fast foot substitutes. On the road is when it’s the hardest to eat right. I’ve put together a whole list of breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner foods that you can get at pretty much every fast food joint out there. It’s easy to stick to because they’re all places guys can get to.”      

Richie & Doug Champion (Photo Credit: Doug Champion)

Richie & Doug Champion (Photo Credit: Doug Champion)

    “Obviously everyone has a cellphone now, so your daily workout is in an app you can pull up, access your calendar, view your workouts and access videos to help you see proper form. You’re phone sends you notifications to work out. It’s convenient and inexpensive,” with Champion’s plan you pay for a month long workout with access to your trainer over the phone for what it’d cost for one in gym training session. For more information and how to get training and nutrition plans from Doug check out www.championliving.trainerize.com.

    As rodeo grows as a sport in professional aspects there is likely to be a surge of specialty training programs, but some of these pioneers in the rodeo training game must be commended for doing what seems like something that should have become popular decades ago. For all you young competitors out there I say, do whatever works best with your schedule: if you can, get to the gym hit it hard- working your whole body, finding workouts that specifically target muscle groups you’ll use in the arena. Keep it intense and change it up. Eat right and use your time wisely, if you’re on the road, find ways to elevate your fitness daily and stick to it and every drop of sweat will pay off in the end.