Fitness Testing for Jockeys

Although the horses are the main athletes in horse racing, the job of the jockeys is also very demanding, and requires a very specific set of physical attributes. Most importantly, horse jockeys need to small and light. They also need good leg strength and flexibility, endurance fitness, and balance and coordination. What is the most important? See our discussion of Fitness Components for Jockeys.

The British Racing School Fitness Test

There is a standard series of tests that is commonly used to measure a jockey's fitness. The British Racing School Fitness Test is given to jockeys who compete around the world, and a jockey must pass the test in order to get their professional or amateur license. The assessment is broken down into three sections — a bleep test to check the aerobic endurance fitness, six exercises targeting different muscles groups, and a riding simulator.

Test Details

Beep Test - A shuttle run test, conducted between two lines 20 meters apart. The participants run continuously between the lines at a pace which increases every minute. The jockey scores 100% for achieving level 13 on the test. Each level below 13 will score 10% less, so level 12 will score 90%, 11 at 80%, 10 at 70% etc.

  1. Leg squat and hold - participants face away from the wall and with a gym ball between the small of the back and the wall, then perform 20 squats so that the ball rolls up and down the wall, and then hold in the squat position with the knees bent and so that the thigh is horizontal to the ground. They also hold a 5kg weight to your chest during this. Continue the squat for as long as possible up to a maximum of 2 minutes.
  2. The Plank - Start on elbows and knees, locking hands together. Straighten legs and raise your body so that you are supported by the balls of your feet, with feet hip-distance apart. Face the floor, being careful not to arch your back or stick your bottom in the air. You will need to maintain this static position up to a maximum of 4 minutes.
  3. Leg raise to metronome - Lie on your back with your arms over your shoulders holding onto something solid. Following the metronome beep, raise your feet so that they are pointing to the sky (keeping your ankles together and your legs straight) and return them to the start position on the next beep. You will need to continue for a maximum of 4 minutes.
  4. Wobble Cushion Squats - Standing on two wobble cushions (one under each foot) you will be asked to adopt the pushing position. Your knee will need to be bent so that your thigh is horizontal to the ground. You will need to maintain this static position up to a maximum of 4 minutes.
  5. Elastic band push to metronome - Sitting on a bench in an upright position with the knees at a right angle, you will push the elastic so that your arm is extended fully in front of you, keeping in time with the metronome. You will need to continue for up to a maximum of 2 minutes.
  6. The press-up position and hold - You hold a press-up position for as long as possible. Keep a 90 degree bend in your elbow with your elbows close to your side. You will need to maintain this position up to a maximum of 1½ minutes.

Riding Simulator - the jockeys are required to ride a finish on a motorized simulator for up to a maximum of 4 minutes. The score a percentage based on the time. For example, riding a finish for 2 minutes will score 50%, 3 minutes will score 75% and so on up to 100%.

Example Testing List for Jockeys

Here is another example protocol of tests that would be suitable for testing the fitness of a jockey.

Example results for a jockey

Below is s an example of a series of tests performed on the 2007 Melbourne Cup winning jockey Michael Rodd, conducted in 2009 (as detailed in the Herald Sun Newspaper). In summary, he is short and light as expected for a jockey. His other stand out result is a very good sit and reach score, showing the importance of flexibility in the saddle.

Fitness Test Result
body mass (kg) 55
height (cm) 168.7
Skinfolds, sum of 7 sites (mm) 40
Grip Strength (kg) 45
1RM Bench Press (kg) 55
Vertical Jump (cm) 55
Sit and Reach (cm) +26
VO2max (ml/kg/min) 58

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