How To Start Strength Training For Roller Derby

Ring Rows - Building Back Strength for Roller DerbyIn my last article I went over WHY strength training for Roller Derby is so important.  Now we’re going to get into some of the specifics on the HOW of strength training for Roller Derby.

I met with and started a new client yesterday.  Over the course of our initial consultation we talked about the usual stuff; His goals, past experiences, injury history, etc.  We also talked a lot about how we do things at Relentless, our philosophies, and our system.

Now, this guy is a martial artist, but what I want to talk about today (the System) will be similar for a derby athlete.

When I talk to Derby athletes about strength training I hear everything from “I’m in the gym all the time” to “I do Zumba!”, but most often I hear from athletes who know they probably should train, but either have no idea how to get started or seem to get injured/nowhere whenever they do.

There’s a variety of things that could be going on in this scenario, but more often than not it’s because they have messed up their pyramid.

Wait, their what?

Roller Derby Training Plan - Roller Derby SkillsCheck out this graphic, created by yours truly with all of his graphic editing skill.  Joking aside, the easiest way to explain strength training for Derby is to think about it like a pyramid.  At the bottom you have the deepest and widest part of the pyramid.  In strength training for athletes we put all of our foundational movements and major strength development in here.  We call this “General Physical Preparedness”, or GPP within the industry.  Basically it means the overall ability of the athlete to do athletic things and perform work.  Here’s where we’d plug in most of our squats, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, and other major exercises that develop your body but aren’t really “Derby”-specific.

In the middle of the pyramid we have “Specific Physical Preparedness”, or SPP.  This is where the athlete starts tuning their training program towards specific sports movements.  These aren’t pure Derby skills, but things that mimic or compliment them.  Here’s where we’d do a lot of one-legged movements, rotational ab work, one-legged jumps, etc.

At the top of the pyramid you have your skill development.  This is actually practicing Derby plays, skills, and drills.

Make sense?

Here’s where a lot derby athletes screw it up.  They start at the top and spend all of their time there!  Just like a pyramid would look like crap and fall down, if you jump right into do SPP work and Skill work but the foundation isn’t developed, you’re screwed.  Without making the foundation thick and wide you’re only going to be able to support a small amount of SPP and, most importantly, skill.  By skipping the foundation-building you’re setting yourself up for a low skill ceiling at best and injury at worst.

A Derby athlete who’s developed the general qualities of being strong, fast, agile, and well-conditioned will be able to practice harder, longer, and with more precision.  In other words, because they’re in better shape they’ll become a better Derby player!


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