Some of the most basic roller derby skills are also some of the ones that we struggle the most with. (In all honesty, I still have a hard time consistently executing a plow stop at full speed and not landing on my ass.)
The fastest way to master a new skill is to do it. Over and over and over again.
But not all of us have the luxury of being able to spend large amounts of time JUST practicing one skill. I mean, we have lives, right? And spending an entire practice on transitions isn’t going to help your teamwork.
The good news is there are some things that you can do OFF SKATES to help prepare your body for executing skills ON SKATES. Whether it’s strengthening specific muscles or getting your body used to a strange new position, putting in some time off skates can make a big difference when it comes to your basic skills.
Today we’re focusing on the 180° TRANSITION.
Transitions are crazy. You’re just trusting your body to spin around and not fall while traveling quickly on skates. In a transition, you need to be 100% in control of the movement of your feet, legs, hips, body AT ALL TIMES. The ability to do a quick, effective transition stems from building up that muscle control at much slower speeds. It’s not about trust, it’s about control. Here are 4 quick, easy, off skates exercises that you can add into an existing training program (or use to create a new one) that will help build up the muscle control needed for a 180° transition.
Take a wide squat stance with your knees tracking over your toes and lower into a squat by pushing your butt back. Keep your chest up and lower back straight. Place your elbows inside your knees and apply gentle pressure to “pry” them apart. Work your range of motion at the bottom by wiggling around a bit before standing back to top.
Despite what you might hear, a lot (like, A LOT) of derby skaters have tight inner thighs. This is a great stretch and can also help you gain control over the “open” position of a transition. I super recommend throwing these into your dynamic warm-up pre-workout or bout.
5 reps as part of warm-up
SLOW UP & OUTS!
This is really for hip mobility — some of you might need it, some of you might not. For those of us with tight hips that keep us from opening up fully during a transition, this is an awesome way to start getting that range of motion.
Slow and controlled, from a standing position, raise one knee up to your chest as high as you comfortably can — make sure all the movement comes from your hip, not by rounding your lower back. Lower leg back to start. Repeat and open leg out so that your inner thigh is facing front and your knee is facing to the side. Keep your hips stationary, they have a tendency to twist in that direction. Lower and repeat on opposite side. The slower you can do this, the more control it will give you over time.
5 reps per side as part of warm-up
The focus here is less on strengthening your inner thighs (remember, they’re already pretty strong), but on getting control over the weight distribution in your feet. You want to feel your feet evenly pressing into the ground, not rolling towards the arches. Start with your toes pointing out only slight (45° angle) and once you start to become comfortable there, increase the angle slowly.
Start with your feet 1 1/2 to 2 shoulder widths apart and your toes pointed out at a 45 degree angle. Lower yourself into a squat by sinking your butt straight down. Keep your torso upright and your core tight. At the bottom, during the hold, you can put gentle pressure on the inside of your knees to make sure they aren’t caving in. Stand to top by pressing through the heels and squeezing the glutes.
10 reps as part of warm-up
It’s time to put it all together. When completing a more dynamic movement like this, it’s easy to forget about all the things you were focusing on earlier. DON’T. You need to be in control of your feet, knees, and hips to maintain control of your transition.
Start by squatting down into your most stable derby stance. Stand top and open up to a full transition (feet as close to 180° as possible). Squat down as far as you would for your derby position. Stand to top. Close your transition and squat back down into derby stance. Repeat in the opposite direction.
This progression is a HUGE balance challenge. If it’s too much of a struggle, eliminate the ups and downs and simply perform the transition in derby form for the whole set. Don’t forget about your core here! Keeping your core braced will A) help your balance and B) train you to keep it engaged in other aspects of life.
5 reps as part of warm-up
Now go, be free, master your transitions.
Let me know how you’re doing over on Facebook or via the electronic mailings.
Iron Octopus Fitness has a program specifically designed for new skaters. If you’re a new skater (or new to cross training) and you’re interested in a program that can help build your stability and mobility for our crazy sport, CHECK IT OUT HERE!