Starting Roller Derby Strength Training – 3 Key Areas

Strength Training For Roller Derby Key AreasContinuing with getting started in strength training for Derby, I’m going to talk a little bit about how I work with a new Derby athlete.

Assuming that all of our assessments check out clean and there’s no major issue (old or recent injuries, major muscle imbalances, etc) to overcome, as those would instantly take priority, there are a few key areas of the body that I need to make sure are up to snuff.  When these areas are targeted and strengthened, you’ll immediately become a better Derby athlete and be well on the way to injury-resistant, as well.

These particular “problem areas”, aren’t necessarily the ones most women would think of, but we have a wide variety of methods to target them.  In fact, my clients have made a lot of jokes over the years about my “bag of tricks”.  Today I’m going to share with you a few of the best, meat and potatoes options.

Upper Back:  What?  The upper back?  I know it isn’t the first thing you’d think of when conjuring up a Derby-specific body part but when it comes to building a better athlete the most efficient approach is to bring up weaknesses, and the upper back is a weakness I see almost across the board in new Derby athletes.

As a large part of your propulsion is through movement of the upper body a strong upper back will help you skate faster.  It will allow you to push through a crowd and change directions faster as you’ll be more secure.  When you DO fall on the track, because everyone does, a strong upper back will help keep your head and neck secure to keep you safer from a concussion or strained neck.  Unfortunately those are WAY too common in Derby, and often it’s because of a weak neck and upper back.

When a new athlete, particularly a Derby athlete, comes into Relentless they get an early steady diet of Band Pull-aparts, Deadlifts, Kettlebell Swings, Dumbbell Cleans, and LOTS of forward and reverse Bear Crawling.

Strengthen Shoulder For Roller DerbyShoulders:  Whether you’re a finesse player or a roughneck, Derby is a physical sport.  The bottom line is that you’re going to be hitting someone with your shoulder, getting hit in the shoulder, or landing on your shoulder on the track.

Other than the knee, the shoulder is by far the most injured joint in Derby.  Since a shoulder injury doesn’t sideline you like a knee injury often does players will frequently keep playing with a messed-up shoulder.  This prolongs the injury and turns it into a frequent, chronic issue.  How many of you or your teammates have a “bum shoulder” that they’re constantly working around or complaining about.  It’s part of the sport.  Strong, developed, and healthy shoulders will not only improve your performance but keep you playing at peak level LONGER.

We build the shoulders through a TON of push-up variations, Inverted Rows, Pull-ups, and Kettlebell Pressing, as well a variety of crawls and rotator cuff exercises.

Strengthen Glutes For Roller DerbyHips/Butt:  Now we’ve reached the power-plant of your Derby engine:  Your hips and your butt (glutes).  More than just being used to block they’re the primary force producers for your skating, stabilizing, AND changing direction.  In other words, if you’re weak here then you’re going to be weak on the track.

More often than not, the athletes I run across ARE weak in this region.  I know, there’s going to be some girls out there who say “But Isaac, I have a HUGE butt, so it must be strong!”.  No, that’s not necessarily the case.  Just because it’s big (and probably not as big as you think it is) doesn’t mean that it fires like it should and produces force like you’ll need it to.

The issue is that almost everyone in developed society (99% of the Derby athletes out there) sit way too much and move way too little.  As a result our butts get “lazy”, for lack of another term, and don’t fire like they’re supposed to.  This means that some direct training is probably necessary.

In addition to producing skating force, the glutes and hamstrings are some of the primary stabilizers for the knees.  The primary reason that women are literally ten times more likely than men to tear their ACL (a VERY common and disastrous Derby injury) is because they have weak hamstrings, hips, and glutes relative to their quads.  This imbalance creates shear forces in the knee and POP goes the ACL.  Not good.

And, let’s be honest here:  If I was skating around a track all the time in spandex and booty shorts, I’d rather have a more muscular, fit butt and hips than not.

We develop the glutes and hips with Kettlebell Swings, Hip Thrusts, One and Two-legged Bridges, and of course the mighty Deadlift.

Training, done right, is both simple and complex.  While there’s all sorts of variables and options that can be employed and have their place, the fundamentals don’t change.  Just like a successful Derby game plan, you need to focus on a few key areas, hit those with regular, brutal efficiency, and not get lost in the weeds.  Here at Derby Strength, I’m going to give you that path through the clutter and we’re going to build you into the best Derby athlete you can be together.  Check out the video I’ve got for you on the right to get further down the path to being strong, fast, and bulletproof on the track!