At this point in your athletic career, you’ve probably been exposed to the cookie analogy of strength training. If not, here’s a refresher:
“Let’s look at an example of a couple cookie jars with cookies in them to explain this maximum strength phenomenon. Let’s say we have two jars of cookies that are the same size. Let’s say these cookie jars represent two athletes who have the same amount of maximum strength. Now let’s say the cookies represent all of the other physical attributes in an athlete like speed, agility, power, and endurance. The size of the cookie jar determines how many cookies can fit inside.
The two athletes then spend the off-season doing two different training programs. Athlete #1 spends his off-season getting stronger, working on improving his maximum strength (i.e. growing his cookie jar). While athlete #2 stays in great shape, but doesn’t get any stronger. If we now look back at the cookie jar analogy, athlete #1 now has a larger cookie jar with the ability to put more cookies in his cookie jar. Or more clearly stated, athlete #1 now has a higher ceiling for how fast, quick, and agile he can get.”
CONOR DOHERTY/Breaking Muscle
Since roller derby is our sport, we want to focus on strength exercises that will make us better as athletes at our sport. Here are 5 of my favorites:
Despite the fact that it’s inadvisable to make eye contact whilst doing hip thrusts at the gym, this exercise is killer for developing one of the most important muscle groups for derby: THE GLUTES.
The hip thrust engages your hamstrings and fires your glutes in a way that squats just can’t beat. There’s also recent research that hip thrusts improve horizontal force production.
In other words, hip thrusts can translate directly into making you a faster and more powerful sprinter. Sounds like something that might translate onto the track, eh?
Two of the things we complain about most as derby skaters are core strength and shoulder stability. How many times has one of the following thoughts popped into your head:
- Is my core strong enough?
- Why do my shoulders hurt so much?
Animal Crawls target both. And you don’t need any fancy equipment to do them. Be careful, though. Crawling is tougher (and more exhausting) than it looks. Start slow and build up the amount of time you spend crawling about.
The step-up kicks ass for multiple reasons:
- It works heavily through the glutes and hamstrings. (again)
- It’s unilateral — each leg gets to work individually.
- It has a balance component.
- It can be easily modified to multiple heights and multiple planes of motion. (see video)
Don’t let my baby weights fool you, this exercise can be loaded crazy heavy. If you choose to go that route, you need to keep your head in the game. You’ll need to focus on driving through the front leg rather than pushing off the back leg.
Push Ups (or Press Ups)
You probably knew this one was coming. More core work with a little upper body thrown in? Yes, please.
Listen. I hate push ups. I’m not very good at them and on bad shoulder days they’re next to impossible.
However, there is not an exercise that comes to mind (except maybe the next one) that teaches you to keep tension throughout your body. Learning how to control the amount of tension in any part of your body — and keep your energy from leaking out anywhere — is a key component of dynamic core strength.
Just, you know, monitor your elbow placement. Protect those shoulders!
These are almost my favorite back exercise, second only to band pull-aparts. Just like push ups, this exercise requires you to really be in control of your core with the added benefit of working an area that is weak. Super weak. Not just for skaters, but for the general population.
Inverted rows are also easy to modify simply by changing the height of the thing that you’re rowing yourself toward. This exercise is the precursor to nailing chin ups and pull ups with the added benefit of giving you a nice looking upper back.
Oh, and unrounding you from all that hunching over your phone, hunching over your computer, hunching over in your plow stop, etc.
The TL;DR version?
Strength is the foundation for every other athletic quality that you might want to possess — speed, agility, quickness, power. The stronger you get, the greater improvement you’re likely to see in these other areas, too.
Exercises that work more than one muscle will give you the biggest bang for your buck. And, even though your legs are your bread-and-butter, don’t neglect the rest.
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