Bull riding is one of the most dangerous sports there is. But for Keyshawn Whitehorse, it’s part of his culture. Growing up in Utah in a traditional Navajo family, his father rode bulls as a hobby and enjoyed watching PBR on the television. Whitehorse began mutton-busting at the age of 5 and eventually worked his way up to steers and then bulls.
The McCracken Spring, UT, native has only continued building on a strong legacy once he turned pro. Whitehorse took home PBR’s Rookie of the Year award in 2018 and is a three-time PBR Global Cup qualifier. Even with his natural talent and hard-working nature, it matters not when you have to sit atop an angry, two-ton, bucking bull for eight seconds while only using your off-arm as a balancing measure. Bull riding is an unforgiving sport and there is a lot of details that goes into training the body to withstand the sheer force of the animal.
Before he’s set to compete in the PBR Team Champions this weekend in Las Vegas, Whitehorse took M&F through his warmup routine.
Keyshawn Whitehorse’s 15-Minute Warmup
- One Black Medium Resistance Band for Hips and Glutes
- One Red Resistance Band – Stretch Loop/Assisted Pullups
All forward-moving exercises are one set (a set is one down and back of 10 yards, except mini steps)
All of these exercises are geared toward opening up and activating the glutes, hips, hip rotators and flexors, and the abductor and adductor muscles. In bull riding, the strength of our glutes and adductors is vital in squeezing the bulls to maintain your center and balance. Keeping them mobile and strong helps protect our groin muscles. As bull riders, we’re very prone to groin tears and strains due to the nature of the body movements and mechanics required to stay on the bull. One of the ways to protect these is through dynamic warmups and strength training.
Additionally, hip mobility, rotators, and abductors are equally important when discussing lower body strength. During riding, the proper technique is to ride front to back, activating hip flexion and extension. However, bulls typically move in a central circular motion while also bucking front/down and back/up so hip mobility and rotation are important to keep quick and responsive movements. Additionally, to score extra points or “style” points, riders will lift one leg in a spurring motion to showcase their control of the ride. This motion requires abduction motion and strong hip strength.
- Banded Side Steps: Band above the knees, Light bend in the knees, step laterally to the left, bringing the right foot to the left. Repeat for 10 yards. Reverse it going to the right, returning to your starting spot.
- Forward and Backward Mini Steps: Band above the knees, light bend in the knees, Starting with the left foot, step forward about 4 inches and bring the right foot to the left and repeat. Mini marching forward steps. 10 yards. Reverse going backward to the starting spot. Repeat the set beginning with the right foot.
- Stepping Half Hip Circles with Band: Step left foot forward and move the right foot to the outside and then step forward with the right foot and move the left foot to the outside. 10 yards forward and then repeat in reverse, backstepping.
- Banded jumping in-and-out hops: With bands attached around the ankles, start with feet together, jump outwards and slightly forward, and then jump back together. Repeat moving forward for 10 yards and then in reverse hopping backward for 10 yards.
- External quad rotations: Band back above the knees. With all the weight on one leg and a slight bend, take the opposite leg, slightly bent, do an external rotation, point the toes outward, and return the leg to the middle. 15 each side.
Keyshawn Whitehorse Warmup: Quad and Hamstring
Equipment: Medium Resistance Band
These exercises are geared toward waking up the quads and hamstrings as well as focusing on firing up the fast twitch muscle fibers through explosive movements. Our job may only be 8 seconds but the velocity and power of the movements are quick and continuously changing and we rely on the reactionary speed of our body to be able to adjust, adapt, and counteract to continue the in-sync dance with the animal. It’s key to fire up these fast twitch muscles to ensure they’re optimized for these gravity-defying movements.
Perform each move for 2 sets of 10 yards each (unless prescribed otherwise)
- Frog jumps
- Alternating Single-leg RDL with leg lift or airplanes
- Heel scoops
- Alternating Forward high kicks to hand
- Inchworms with pushups
- Single Leg Romanian deadlift with Quad Pull/Stretch
- Lizard pose lunges with thoracic rotations (Rotate both directions with each step)
- Forward lunge with slight back bend and trunk rotations (Hands above head)
- Alternating Knee Hugs
- Walking Leg Cradle
- Single Leg Super Mario Jumps
- Straight leg bounces (Small quick movements, 2 sets, 20-30 seconds)
- Lateral Ice Skaters
- Karaoke/Lateral Crossover
Keyshawn Whitehorse Warmup: Arm, Shoulders, Core
Equipment: Resistance Band – Stretch Loop/Assisted Pullups
The final part focuses on warming up the arms, shoulders, and core. Bull riding technique requires one hand to hold the rope and the other must avoid touching the bull or yourself. This arm is referred to as the free arm and is important in staying centered throughout the circular movement of the ride. The arm helps with the force of the rotation that the body must keep up with in order to avoid becoming unbalanced.
The activation of the triceps and biceps is important for the riding hand holding onto the rope. The shoulder is primarily engaged in relation to the free arm and in tandem with arm stability for the riding hand. This is why the scapula and lat activation are key in my warmup. Finally, the core is essential to keeping the rest of your body in unison as well as centering yourself with balance on the animal. A strong core is vital to your success in the sport and must continually be strengthened especially in order to ride at an elite level where you’re matching up with three to five 2,000-pound bulls each weekend.
1 set, 20-30 sets each:
- Overhead Shoulder Press w/Band (In front of face)
- Overhead Shoulder Press w/band (behind head)
- Banded Pull Aparts (In front of body)
- ISO hold Overhead with Shoulder/Truck Rotation (Like a golf Swing)
Follow Keyshawn at Instagram @keyshawnwhitehorse