(photo:Bob Ayers)

*Training post from Luludemon*

When we learn to skate in roller derby, we are often told “get low,” which leads to the idea that we have to spread our legs wide, hunch our bodies over and stick out our butts.

While this does create a very stable skating base, it is not a very reactive or strong position for playing roller derby. Because we’re hunched over, the small muscles in our backs and glutes are holding us up. (Ever get a sore back from skating at a long practice?) That means our core muscles aren’t engaged, and we’re not ready to react quickly or take a hit.

Strong Derby Stance aka Skating like a Dude

Get into “typical derby stance”. Now do the following:

  • Bring your skates in so that they are no wider than your shoulders.
  • Unbend your knees a little bit – make sure they stay bent and soft, but they don’t have to be 90 degrees. 45 will do.
  • Lift your upper body so that it is balanced on your hips and your chest is proud.
  • Drop your shoulders so that your upper back muscles are engaged.
  • Tuck your tailbone under by squeezing your glutes and core. (My team likes to call this “pretending you have a package” which is where the “skating like a dude” thing came from.)
  • Think about always having your head, over your upper body, over your hips, over your skates.

What’s so great about this stance?

  • It’s balanced. Our head is a heavy weight, so as soon as it shifts over our centre line we put ourselves off balance. Ever feel like you are going to fall on your face? That’s because your head is pulling you forward. Just like a tippy bird.
  • All of our muscles are engaged. From our shoulders, to our core, to our glutes to our quads. And these are BIG muscle groups. Way better than the little ones (back and butt) that we were using before.
  • We are actually more stable. In the previous stance. weight was centred right down through the middle and legs were wide. This meant that if we lost balance or were pushed off one skate we would fall over. The stronger stance gives us much freedom to shift weight from side to side so that if we get hit, the force is absorbed, and could even be used to our advantage. Try it – stand in strong derby stance and shift your weight from side to side.
  • We can do more things! And much quicker! Now that our legs are in a more natural position, we can move forward and laterally much quicker. No more wide crab shuffling from side to side.
  • We have a lot more surface area to block with. In old roller derby stance we typically made contact with only our butts. With this stance we can put our entire bodies – upper leg, butt, back and shoulders – onto the jammers. Try this with a partner: stand in front of them in old derby stance (butt sticking out) and then change it to strong derby stance. Aim to sit in their lap and put your entire back and shoulders on their chest.

Drill: 30 Second Blocking in Strong Derby Stance

This is a drill that my team does at almost every practice. It’s great for fundamental skill building. Plus, if you can hold someone on your own for 30 seconds, that’s pretty damn impressive! (But I sincerely hope your teammate comes to help you before you reach 30 seconds in a bout.)

Set up: Pairs spaced around the track. Blocker starts in front, jammer behind.

Drill: Whistle blows to start. Jammers move laterally and push a bit. Whistle blows at end of 30 seconds. 30 seconds rest while the jammer and blocker switch. Restart.

Notes and Variations: The purpose of this drill is for the blockers to practice their strong derby blocking, so the jammers need to tailor their movement to challenge that particular blocker, but not just skate right by. This is not a jammer drill.

Make sure that skaters get to try this on different body types, so after a couple of reps you can make the person who last jammed move up to the next group.

Up the intensity of the contact – if the person you are blocking is having an easy time – make it harder! You should always be challenging your team mates to get better.

There shouldn’t be a lot of forward movement on this. Aim is to work on the lateral blocking technique. Also make sure that blockers are practicing legal techniques and don’t roll back into the jammers – no one likes a clock block!

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I received a lot of questions about the what that stance actually looks like.

So I decided to make a video demonstrating it. Enjoy!

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