My friend Robyn-with-a-y mentioned that she needs to build up her core and work on her posture, and since derby is all about core strength for stability, I offered to help her out a bit. As far as I know, Robyn doesn’t live anywhere near me, so the best I can do is give her some advice, and I thought I’d do it in blog form because I’m lazy and it’d be easy. So! On with the show.
First off, let’s talk about what the core is. Most people just think “abs and sit ups” when they think about core, but your core is actually a lot more than that–your glutes are part of your core, and all the zillions of muscles in your back, hips, and shoulders, as well as your abs (and not just the ones that make up the coveted six-pack–that’s right, there are other abdominal muscles! You ever hear of obliques? Those are ab muscles too, on your sides). The core muscles are what support you as you stand and walk, run, and skate! They’re also very important for stability and balance.
The roller derby workout was my very first workout, and it has segments focusing on legs, core, and glutes (though glutes are part of your core, remember!) The core workout focuses on the muscles in your abdomen and lower back, and the glutes workout focuses on your butt and lower back. All three have a bit of overlap, though, so they’re all good workouts for your core. My favorite moves for core strengthening from these workouts are:
- plank and side plank
- hip lifts (aka back bridge)
- skate drops*
*skates are optional!
When you start working out, it’s important to have someone to check your form. Even if you want to work by yourself, do a few sessions with a friend or at a gym with a trainer until you can feel when your form is correct (as verified by friend or trainer) or not. Improper form leads to injuries!! Inuries lead to suffering. And as we all know, suffering = dark side. So make sure to remain a force for good! Have someone check your form.
Plank: starting out, it’s best to plank on your elbows. As you get stronger, plank with straight arms, and then as that becomes easy, lift one arm and the opposite leg for 30 seconds at a time, then switch, when you plank. A plank is sort of like starting a push up. You want your back straight (including your hips!! Don’t bend at the waist/hips! Straight line from head to heel!) It may seem like this is working your arms more than your abs, but trust me, after a little bit you’ll feel your abdomen start to ache from holding you up and straight. Start by trying to hold a plank, with your elbows directly below your shoulders, for 20 seconds. (I use the countdown timer on my cell phone for this.) Once you can do 20 seconds, move to 30, then 45, then a minute. Once you can do a minute reliably, move to a harder style of plank. (Straight arms, lifting arms and legs.)
Back bridge: they call these hip lifts on the video, but the internet disagrees (as it does about so many things!) so we’ll go with the more common “back bridge.” Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet about 4-6 inches from your butt. Put your hands just barely under your butt and lift your hips to the sky until your spine is straight from hips to shoulders. Slowly lower your hips to the floor. Do 20 of these, and when you get to 20, hold your hips up for 30 seconds.
Squats: these are the hardest to get right, but they are great for butt and thighs as well as core. Definitely work with a pro or a friend who has a lot of experience on these. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees and hips as though you are about to sit in a chair. Keep your shoulders over your knees over your toes, so if someone took a pic of you from the side, they could draw a straight line that would go through those parts. Keep your back straight, don’t round it. Push your butt back as you squat down rather than leaning forward. When you start, you won’t be able to go very low without feeling like you’ll fall backward. That is totally normal. As you work at it, you’ll be able to go lower.
Skate drops: These are totally my faves. I love them. I feel like a superwoman because in the workout video, they have you do 10, and I feel like I can do a million! (note, this is when I don’t have skates on. When I do skate drops with skates on, 10 is a LOT. If you wanna simulate that but don’t have skates, check your local sporting good stores for ankle weights.) Lie on your back with legs out straight, put your hands just barely under your butt like for back bridges. Lift your legs, together, so they are at a right angle to your torso. Slowly lower them to about 6 inches off the ground, then lift them back to 90 degrees to your torso. Start with 10 unweighted, then move to 20, then to weighted, if you can/want. This strengthens the lower ab muscles and your legs. Some related exercises/variations include lifting your feet to about 6 inches above the floor, spreading legs out into a v, and then bringing them together (do 20) and dropping one leg at a time. It is important that when you “drop” your legs, it’s not really a drop–you have to use your muscles to control your legs the entire time they are lowering, same as lowering your hips during back bridges.
bicycles: Same position as skate drops, but with your knees bent so calves are at a right angle to thighs, which are at a right angle to the torso. Arms bent, hands near the ears, like for sit ups. Stretch your right leg out so it is straight and a few inches above the ground. At the same time, twist your torso to push your right elbow to your left knee (which you may pull closer to your torso, making the angle between the thigh and torso smaller) then switch so your right knee is bent and your left leg is straight, and your left elbow is trying to touch your right knee. This is one repetition. Do 20. It is better to go slow with bicycles with proper form than quickly but sloppily.
Tomorrow I’ll post some videos from Roller Derby Athletics that focus on core and back building and have some other exercises. I’ll also do some videos from Quadzilla. These are of course all derby videos, but these exercises aren’t only for derby!