From the helmet of: Gravy
Weight lifting has been starting to gain traction in the roller derby community, and for good reason. Thanks to recent articles such as Why Strength Matters for Roller Derby Athletes and Perspective Shift: Roller derby & shifting the way we look at training, it’s obvious that our sport is leaning toward weight lifting as a primary form of cross-training. While the main benefits of weight training are outlined in the above articles, I want to focus on how to begin if you have no freaking clue what you’re doing and have never stepped foot inside a gym before (me, a year and a half ago).
So, I have pretty bad anxiety about a lot of things. I have a hard time beginning something new if I don’t have someone to guide me (exception: roller derby) and if there’s a chance that I’ll make a fool out of myself, then I ain’t doin’ it (again, same exception). Going to a place like the weight room for the first time can be intimidating. The only reason I even started lifting weights was because my best friend and fellow Jewel City Rollergirl, Jen Ittles and her boyfriend (and team coach) Wes Tickles were starting to do it. It’s to them that I owe all of my (limited) knowledge. And I still hit up Jen for training program recommendations (thanks, girl!). What I’m saying is, I am not an expert. I’m not a personal trainer (I’m pretty sure ‘linguist’ is the exact polar opposite of ‘exercise physiologist’). Everything I know comes from the internet or from other, more knowledgeable people, but I want to share my knowledge in the hopes that it can help give people the resources and information they need to start weight training. Or at least think really hard about starting, because I promise you, weight lifting will be one of the best things you do for yourself, mentally and physically (along with roller derby, of course!).
When I started, I had no idea how my body worked. How muscle or fat worked. This is a problem that a lot of women have. And it’s not our fault. We’re constantly being told that we need to eat less, that our bodies are never right or good, that we need to diet, that we need to be ashamed because we ate a cupcake (and we totally could’ve eaten SIX), that there are only two body shapes (fat and skinny), that we ARE the number on the scale. You know what? I weight somewhere around 127 lbs. I fluctuate from 125 to 130 and I’m only 5’2”. That’s above average for someone my height and my frame. You know what else? I can squat 185lbs. I can squat ME AND A HALF. And you know what else? The only reason I don’t care about what the scale says and why I’m not ashamed to share that number is because of weight lifting. These reasons, and so many more, are why more women need to start doing this, especially if they’re playing a sport that requires strength, speed, and recovery.
When I first told my dad about lifting weights, his response was, “You don’t want to look like a man.” That’s it. He didn’t say, “Good for you for getting in shape and breaking the cute, pink gendered box women are put in from the day they’re born!” or “I bet getting stronger helps you play the sport you love!” What a shock, coming from my own dad. If you’ve ever had a thought like that cross your mind, stop reading this article and immediately read this article. Like right now. And while you’re at it, read this article to dispel some other myths about women and weight lifting. Now, let’s start with basic information.
Weight lifting is understood in terms of sets and reps. Reps are the number of times you perform the lift without rest. Sets are the number of times you perform the number of reps with a rest in between. If you have an exercise that is 3x5, you will be doing 3 sets of 5 reps.
The three main lifts are: squat, deadlift, and bench press. Familiarize yourself with those. These three lifts should be in any program you choose to follow.
Following a program is extremely recommended, especially if you’re just starting. One fantastic program for beginning weightlifting is StrongLifts. There’s even an app for it! So convenient and helpful. This entire website has great information on getting started, because it’s meant to be a starting point (as long as you pretend that the language isn’t geared toward dudes).
Two other programs that are aimed for women and weight lifting are: The New Rules of Lifting for Women and Strong Curves. They exist in book form and are packed with tons of information, especially if you’re like me and like to research thoroughly about things before committing.
Okay, so you’ve chosen a program, watched the videos, and you’ve tried emulating the lifts with no weight in your living room. How do you make sure you’re doing them right? Head over to www.reddit.com/r/xxfitness and post a Form Check video. This subreddit is filled with women involved in all different areas of fitness, but there is a large number of weight lifters, many of them just beginning. If you don’t have a reddit account, there’s a Facebook group with the name, “reddit xxfitness.” It’s a very open, welcoming community, great for people who have questions that they might be self-conscious about asking in other groups.
Explosive Exercises and Your Core.
The three main lifts are great (and necessary!) for getting stronger, but roller derby athletes are getting stronger for a specific purpose. Exercises specific for roller derby include movements that train your fast-twitch muscles. I’ve added these into my training routine and have noticed dramatic improvements. My favorites include: ravers, frog jumps, depth jumps, and uphill sprinting. Uphill sprinting is really good for roller derby, because it mimics the sprint/recovery that is the nature of the sport. But it is fucking. terrible. In the good way, of course.
Every leg day I make sure to do a few core exercises. The one that makes me want to send dumbells flying at the mirrors is the decline crunch. It’s specifically terrible (and oh, so good) when you add a weighted medicine ball. I then go to the back extension bench and do a few sets of back extensions and side bends (video shows standing, but I use the same bench), because your core is more than the “six pack” muscles. You can slowly increase your weight on these (for backbends grab a weight plate and for side bends grab a dumbbell), but be aware that adding weight to the side bends can make your obliques (and your waist) larger (I use a max of 10lbs and my waist has gotten slightly larger).
Tesla and Gravy
Just two rollergirls trying to share the rollerlove from Austin, TX to the world.