Dear Mr. No Stop,
Plow stops, plow stops, plow stops. They are definitely some of the most important stops in this sport, so I understand your frustration. I actually had the opposite problem and grew up as a pigeon-toed weirdo, but I know a few skaters that had/have the same problem as you, with the same symptoms.
The disclaimer before I start recommending things is that I am not a professional, just a person who is interested in the technicalities of things. You can take what I say and try them out or you can say, “This sounds stupid,” and seek out a true professional. Either way, I want to help because I know that a lot of people suffer from the same problem and I appreciate you asking this questions so I can attempt to help all of you bow-leggers out there.
One reason that you may be having trouble getting your legs in the correct position for stopping is because your glutes might not be strong enough to keep your legs there. This is actually a problem that a lot of people have. Glute weakness is very common and even if you’re going to the gym, doing squats, deadlifts, and lunges, chances are you glutes are still not getting targeted enough. Luckily, there’s a guy who’s done all the research and has written an article to help you fix this and make yo ass stronger: Dispelling the Glute Myth. These exercises can help you control your legs so you can keep your leg/foot in that plow stop position.
Another thing you could try is visiting a chiropractor, a physical therapist, or (if you happen to be in Texas and one of these is near you) an airrosti. It will take more than one session, but they should be able to adjust you and help you with the range of motion in your hips, which will help you make that crazy plow angle.
And you were definitely on the right track when you suggested yoga. Before doing yoga, I had the opposite problem: I could not spreadeagle or mohawk for the life of me. Like I said, I had always been pidgeon-toed. When I was little, the doctor even suggested breaking both my hips to reset everything (uhhhh, yeah no). So when I tried to do spreadeagles around the track, I would just eat it. I actually thought that this would be something I would never be able to do and basically resigned myself to not being able to do it. And then a yogi joined the team. I started going to classes and realized, holy cow, my hips are really, really tight. I talked to her and was able to get the names of a couple of stretches that would help me loosen my hips up and I did them on my own. Now I can *almost* hold a spreadeagle to the outside of the track for more than a few seconds. And I can hold an inside spreadeagle like there’s no tomorrow. Now, I don’t know for sure what the stretches will be for someone with the opposite problem, but I’m sure there is something they can tell you that will help you gain better control over your lower half.
The simplest thing I’m going to tell you is to just keep doing them. Do them all the time. Do them during your warm-ups. Instead of relying on your go-to stop when you are doing something simple that requires stopping, like getting water, bringing it in to listen to your coach, or lining up in a paceline, make an effort to a plow stop. Go a whole practice or a whole week doing nothing but plows. Make sure you’re challenging yourself to do them and not relying on what’s comfortable. Do different kinds of plow stops. Do one-legged forwards, one-legged backwards. Do one-legged stutter stops (like a plow, but instead of keeping your wheels on the floor while putting your foot in front of you, you lift it up and put it back down in front of you). I am emphasizing one-legged things because you can get a better feel of what your muscles are doing and where you’re feeling the burn. When I do a heavy amount of one-legged stops in one session, I really feel it between the back and the side of my upper thigh, like between my IT band and my glutes. Because of this, I know that these are the muscles I need to make stronger to get better at plows. One thing that helped me with my one-legged plows is something that TXRG skater Slaughtermelon told me: squat way down low, like you’re picking up a penny near your non-plowing skate. In order to be effective at these, you need to get ultra low, to the point where it feels awkward at first, but you’ll realize how much easier the stop becomes when you do it.
Also, as a fresh meat skater, there’s one thing that you might not’ve realized yet: once you become a better skater overall, the skills you had trouble with before become magically easier. So once you get more experience with skating, things like these will become increasingly easier without having to target that specific skill. So keep skating and keep trying, work on strengthening your glute muscles (it will help with everything derby-related), and get advice from a yogi. And if you feel like you could benefit from it, seek some outside help from a professional. Good luck and plow on.
p.s. A word of advice to all fresh meat: loosen your trucks. It’ll blow your mind, I promise.
What is Dear Derby?
Dear Derby is advice for the derby world, because Abby doesn't know anything about cheap shot low-blocks or whiny league mates.