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Are You as Fit as a Jockey? (No, Jockeys are Crazy Fit)

(Image credit: Unknown)

A casual observer of horse racing might be forgiven for thinking it’s the fleet-footed equines that do most of the work. However, the fitness demands on jockeys go well beyond what you might expect. Incredible core strength and endurance are musts, and the British Racing School’s fitness test is suitably formidable. Feeling apprehensive, Coach headed out to Newmarket to try it.

The BRS Fitness Test

The assessment breaks down into three sections. After a bleep test to check how well your body can use oxygen (your VO2 max), six exercises challenge the whole body. The test also includes a riding simulator, which thankfully Coach was spared due to a complete lack of experience on a horse.

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Each part of the test is scored on four levels. On all the bodyweight exercises a rating of “unsatisfactory” earns one point, “poor” two, “average” three and “good” four. On the bleep test those numbers are doubled.

Jockeys need at least 70% to pass, although they actually need more than 90% if you want to impress the BRS. Those “grades” in full:

  • Unsatisfactory: 60%
  • Above Average: 60-89%
  • Good: 90%+

1. Bleep Test

Cast your minds back to school PE, sprinting between two fixed points trying to get there before the bleep went off, with said bleeps coming closer and closer together as the levels increased. Well, it’s no more fun as an adult.

Level 82 points
Levels 9-104 points
Levels 11-126 points
Level 138 points

Coach’s score: Level 11 (6 points)

2. Exercise Ball Leg Repetition and Hold

Start with 20 wall sits against an exercise ball holding a 5kg weight. Squat down on the last of them and hold the position for as long as possible.

30 seconds1 point
30-89 seconds2 points
90-120 seconds3 points
120+ seconds4 points

Coach’s score: 32sec (2pts)

3. Wobble Cushion Squat

Stand on two wobble cushions then adopt the “push” position, which involves squatting down in a manner similar to a jockey.

60 seconds1 point
60-120 seconds2 points
121-240 seconds3 points
240+ seconds4 points

Coach’s score: 101sec (2pts)

4. Press-Up Position and Hold

Hold at the bottom of a press-up for as long as possible. Basically a waking nightmare.

29 seconds1 point
30-59 seconds2 points
60-89 seconds3 points
89+ seconds4 points

Coach’s score: 40sec (2pts)

5. Leg Raise to Metronome

Lying down, keep your legs straight and raise them up at right angles on the first beat, then down to the floor on the second, with a 50bpm metronome keeping time.

59 seconds1 point
60-120 seconds2 points
121-240 seconds3 points
240+ seconds4 points

Coach’s score: 103sec (2pts)

6. Elastic Band Push To Metronome

Sitting on a bench, push a resistance band out in front of you until your arms lock out with every beat of a 50bpm metronome for a minute, 60bpm the second minute and 70bpm for the third.

29 seconds1 point
30-60 seconds2 points
61-120 seconds3 points
120+ seconds4 points

Coach’s score: 102sec (3pts)

7. The Plank

A standard plank, held for as long as possible.

59 seconds1 point
60-120 seconds2 points
121-240 seconds3 points
240+ seconds4 points

Coach’s score: 218sec (3pts)

Coach’s total score: 20/32 (63%) – above average, just. The Grand National dream dies here.

Watch the real thing on Saturday 9th April live on Channel 4. The big race goes off at 5.15pm.

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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.