How Strong Are Jockeys?

17th May 2024

 Racehorses are incredibly strong and it’s important that jockeys are able to control the nearly 500kg of muscle and power that racehorses possess

You've Got To Be Fit!

Some people can be mistaken in thinking that a racehorse does most of the work during a race, but they’d be wrong. It’s a partnership between horse and rider, and if either are lacking in fitness then that partnership won’t be able to perform. That’s why jockeys are among the fittest sportsmen and women around. 

Jockeys maintain their incredible strength and fitness with strength and conditioning coaches. However, there are exercises that can be done in the comfort of your own home that will have you feeling like a top athlete in no time!  

Hollie Doyle Gym

Modelled on elements of the test that all professional jockeys must pass to be able to race, these exercises are part of a programme that people can do in their own time and space.   

The bodyweight nature of these exercises means you aren’t reliant on equipment and the exercises can be scaled up or down according to your needs, whether you’re a jockey already or are working towards increasing your fitness across any sport.  

The following is a circuit targeting every area a jockey would to be successful on the track, these are your quads, core, cardio, and balance. This circuit should be repeated three times with 20 seconds rest in between each group.  

*AMRAP = As Many Reps As Possible 

Squat – 40 seconds AMRAP 

Jump lunge – 40 seconds AMRAP 


Flutter kicks – 40 seconds AMRAP 

Prone Superman – 40 seconds AMRAP 


Burpees – 40 seconds AMRAP 

Bear crawl – 40 seconds 10 metres  


One-legged balance – 40 seconds hold 

Single-leg deadlifts – 40 seconds AMRAP 

Testing The Fitness

Jockeys must pass a fitness test before being deemed fit and strong enough to ride a horse in a race, and this test is not for the faint hearted. The fitness test is a gruelling exam designed to push riders to the limits that they would face in a race scenario.  

The physical demands on a jockey during a race are extreme and jockeys perform exercises designed to build and develop key muscle areas to get to the point where they can compete at the highest level for up to seven races a day and be able to wake up and do it all again the next day!

Lower body:  

The legs and lower-body strength is vital to a riders’ fitness and crucial for balance.  

It is tested by facing away from the wall in a sitting position with the rider leaning on a gym exercise ball. They need to do 20 squat repetitions, rolling the ball up and down the wall with their back pressed against it.  

Holding a 5kg weight to their chest, jockeys will then be asked to hold the sitting position for as long as possible.   

Upper body:  

A jockey must have excellent upper-body strength, for a multitude of reasons.  

The first test is to hold the press-up position, with elbows bent at 90 degrees and by the rider’s side for 90 seconds.  

Sitting on a bench with knees at right-angles, the jockeys have to pull an elastic band, which is secured behind them, until their arms are fully extended, while keeping in time with a metronome.  

Core Strength 

There is nothing more important to a jockey than core strength.  

The first of the core strength exercises also uses a metronome timer. Set at 50 beeps per minute, the jockeys lie on their backs with their arms curled over their shoulders holding on to a solid base.  

In time with the beep, they have to raise their feet so they’re pointing at the sky and return to the start position on the next beep. 

Hollie Doyle

Sometimes seen out with her husband and fellow jockey Tom Marquand on a marathon cycling journey, she is more likely to be found at Oaksey House in Lambourn at the specialised gyms. Depending on riding commitments, she heads to the fitness centre several times a week.  

Not having any issues with her weight, she was able to put on a stone of pure muscle after becoming a fully-fledged professional a few years ago. She keeps her incredible fitness levels up with a regime of high-intensity exercises focused on strength and balance.  

Gavin Sheehan

Another frequent visitor to Oaksey House is Gavin Sheehan.  

Gavin is an all-round talented sportsman, and it’s not just horseracing that he needs to remain fit. The jockey is also a golfer that plays off a single figure handicap and has recently taken up skiing which will only aid his fitness in the saddle.  

Recently he put Great British Racing ambassador Chris Hughes through his paces…