Atomatrix Tips

Want to skate faster individually or as a team? Work on the drills below:

These are drills any speed skater would be acquainted with and will help derby skaters/teams build their tolerance to handle faster lap times.

As a group (if you have varied speed levels on your team – split up into groups with equal ability) get into a paceline and work on 10, 20, 30, 50 and even 100 laps (100 is best for the beginning of the season when building a base and the team needs better endurance). Have someone timing EVERY LAP, the shorter number of laps, the faster the lap times. Example: 10 laps / 8.5 lap time, 20 laps / 9, 30 laps 9.5 / 50 laps at 10.5. You set the lap time for the groups ability that you know is pushing the envelope. Only the skaters that can handle leading take “pulls” (2 lap drop backs). You need to try and keep the pace as consistent as possible. No more than a half second slower or faster than your target. When you pull over for the next leader, skate close to the pack so it’s easier to jump on the back.

Remember to NOT skate TO HARD INTO THE CORNER. Focus on BUILDING SPEED OUT OF THE CORNERS. This doesn’t mean you change your CADENCE; you only put more pressure into the floor as you reach the APEX and out of the turn. Especially if it’s a little slick – feather-step in, build speed coming out.

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Jammers….be patient and stalk the pack when choosing your moment to attack at the best opportunity. When jamming and after my first pass – I gauge my speed depending on the situation. If I’m not yet fatigued, I push on quickly and hit the pack when I see a hole or a teammate makes an offensive move. Make eye contact with your blockers and have them make moves accordingly.

If you get a lot of back block calls, learn from it and decrease speed before hitting the pack. However, it’s best to attack with quickness and bursts of power just not straight into the back of someone! Whenever I’m exhausted and get to the pack at matching speed I struggle immensely – especially if outnumbered.

If I’m tired I will take my time and after I feel more refreshed hit the pack. A Jammer should constantly be watching the pack and what is happening – I will check once before I’m a half lap in, then constantly thereafter. Especially in today’s game where the pace is slow and skating backward.

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Arm Swing.

I’ve touched on this before but for those that missed it…..

You don’t want to cross your body with your arm swing in the corners or straights. This will lose efficiency and twist your power box. Your elbow is bent and arms come up to the middle of your body. Ideally it’s at mid chest. It also doesn’t swing straight back / forward, it comes through angled. Just like you don’t want your skates going back (always push out to the side).

Your legs will emulate your arms. When people get tired the arm swing shortens up, remember to tell yourself to keep form of your arms.

If you have an excessively large (or short) arm swing you should reassess. This will affect your technique all around.

Arm swing can be used as a great tool for a skater with slower cadence looking for fast feet or vice-versa. When working on sprints remember to keep in mind your arms- move them faster than is comfortable and your feet will follow. Same thing if you are looking for more power / pressure- slow your arm swing down and your feet will follow focusing on putting pressure into the floor/ground simultaneously.

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Since my last post generated interest in arm swing – lets touch on this. I am not saying to not swing your arms, in fact be very careful because your legs well copy your arms!

Your arm swing should not cross your body completely to the other side, it should go back then come up to the center of your body (at your chest level)I think about my thumb coming up to mid chest- thumbs pointing up towards my chin.

When you are resting (not skating hard) you can put 1 or both arms behind your back. In fact it may help to keep your upper body steady by working on this!

When you want to pick up speed or sprint your length of your arm swing emulates your legs. Fast feet, fast arms. Long stride, full arm swing. When you are tired one of the first things that happens is your butt comes up (keep it down!) a shortened stride and arm swing. Make a mental note not to let your arms get short and in turn your legs will follow! This will help maintain your speed.

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Skaters – work on your weaknesses as it will pay off.

I classify myself as a “power skater”. I generally take 2 to 3 crosses and no straight away strokes. Building gradually through the turn (hardest strokes coming out of the turn) and let my speed carry me down the straight. The only problem is, this is not ideal on slippery tracks. I push with power but go nowhere b/c there is no grip.

If you have a similar technique and struggle on slick surfaces it’s because you need to increase your cadence (crosses in the turn) and feather step your way through. There are skaters like DeRanged who has the best of both worlds – she is able to feather but still has a lot of power. My toughest international competitions (or indoor meets) was when we were skating on slick surfaces, it took my biggest asset away from me!

To work on this I would skate behind a skater that took twice as many steps as me and emulate her. Also would work on sprints with quick feet and not using power strokes to build.

If you are the opposite type of skater and need to learn to skate with more pressure (power) when you ever have the chance to skate behind someone with this technique -follow them as much as possible and emulate their steps 1 to 1!

Just a little tip as you will be a much better skater / derby player if you can learn to adapt to any style / surface.

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Having problems getting through the corners? You need to be sure your weight is in the correct position along with your shoulders and hips being square. Before entering the corner you load up your weight on your left leg, when you cross it naturally takes pressure off – but for the most part weight is on the left leg and you lean with shoulders and hips squared up (not letting your shoulders or hips turn into the track).

To practice and see if you’re doing this correctly build up your speed for a lap then as you enter the corner load up your left leg with your weight, get your body positioned properly and lift up your right skate and see if you can get through the turn without feeling unstable and maintaining speed (all the while not letting using your left but keeping the skate just off the ground). If you are turning your shoulders I and not staying square – you won’t be able to remain on your left leg through the turn. If you find yourself not being able to stay in the track – make sure you’re entering the corner starting from the far right of the track darting to middle then your speed carries you back toward the ropes. Be sure to keep your knee bend and engage your core to whip through the turn with ease. Your left leg should be on fire if you do this drill over and over again! Give yourself adequate rest in between (it’s a technique drill, not a conditioning drill – if you are to tired you have less chance of doing it properly!)

As this gets easier, build up more speed – see if you can do this at your max. See if you can do this while gong slower than normal also.

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To work on lean and technique for corners off skates – try this:

Step out from a wall around 2.5 – 3 feet. Bend your knees (be sure your upper body isn’t over your toes, but sitting back in your heels). Let your body fall to the left and your shoulder will lie against the wall. Practice dry crosses – your body should be in line at an angle (45*) Your right knee skims over the left knee while remaining bent. You do not REACH over (if you reach while on skates or not, it will throw your left hip out of position (away from the track or wall in this case). You also do not GO AROUND your knee. Your just brush it over the top and picture your left leg simultaneously pushing through. You don’t cross with your right, then under with your left – this all happens at the same time.

Be conscientious while on skates of keeping your left leg bent through your cross coming under. Many, many skaters – even very successful ones cross over with the right and while the left is pushing through it straightens right away- keep it bent for pressure and power (while not bobbing up)!

Your left is your power leg, by straightening early, you’re losing all of your push.

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Work on your QUICKNESS this derby season. Speed and quickness are much different, I learned this a long time ago from my brother who played on University of Michigan’s offensive line and Championship team in 01′ also 3 years in the NFL. He taught me the difference…!

Do SUICIDES on skates that incorporate toe stop runs/plow stops/hockey stops/skating backward and quick turn arounds.

Example: toe stop run 20 feet, plow stop – go immediately into a backward skate back 20 feet, toe stop run 40 feet, turn around on toe stops as quick as possible and toe stop run back to where you started. Time and race the others next to you. You’ll improve your toe stop runs, backward skating and plow stops/hockey stops as the idea is…. the faster, the better!

There is a difference between overall speed and quickness. Quickness and power is a much better trait to have than overall speed. On the small derby track and the way the game is played, I never even hit max speed or my momentum would take me outside the ropes! Quickness, on the other hand can kill your opponets on the track in all aspects.

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Got blisters and think its just a part of skating / derby that you have to deal with? You don’t!

Issues that this can be attributed to :

  1. You were improperly sized for your boots either in length/width or both.
  2. You have picked a model that has to wide of a last (most companies build their boots off of male lasts- problem is, derby is mostly women!)
  3. Your boot is over padded that fit great at the start but after that padding breaks down your foot is sliding around.
  4. If the heel cup is not tight and your foot/heel comes up when skating – it’s to big causing loss of energy transfer and performance and usually – blisters.
  5. Your technique can be causing blisters also. When you skate, pushing out to the side – you should be pushing through level and not a running motion with your heel coming up at the end of your stroke.

When you get blisters and want to try and skate through the pain do yourself a favor and purchase Ezeefits. They’re a thin neoprene material you can purchase in different thicknesses and shapes. I love mine because they only protect my heel area and the material stops there. The rest of my foot is bare – giving the ultimate feeling in control.

Both Luigino & Jackson model boots are made off of a women’s last and not over or under padded. Be sure to try them on if you’re in the market for new boots.

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Plow Stops – weight is in your heels with your butt sitting back, as you start to stop both skates turn in – at the same time you keep your butt back and start to transfer weight to the front of your skates (pressure to the front and outside). Learn to turn your skates in quickly while transferring weight at the same time for quicker stops!

Feel like you are getting stuck? Be sure you have some knee bend and be sure you’re skates are committed (turning sharply) while weight goes forward and apply pressure to the outside of your skates. People who I see get stuck don’t have enough knee bend, or don’t commit the angle of their skates turning in.

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Focus on getting a deeper knee bend and keeping your weight in your heels when skating. If you struggle with knee bend, at least be sure your upper body/nose is not leaning over your toes (out in front of your skates). For several reasons 1. You will have a shortened stride 2. You will be unstable – affecting your ability to give or absorb hits 3. Your lateral movement / agility will be compromised.

Don’t confuse “skating low” with incorrect upper body position – bent at the waist only (upper body bent over low but knees are not)! Knees bent (and weight in heels) is ideal even if you skate rather erect such as skaters like Bonnie Thunders. It works very well – she’s one of the best skaters in the sport.

Deep knee bend is not needed at all times – i skate higher as a jammer when lapping the pack to recover. 90* knee bend is needed when I am accelerating or skating near top speed, getting ready to hit or receive a hit or positional block – this is the most stable position!

If you build strength and learn to skate lower you will become a better derby player, whether you’re a blocker, jammer or both!

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If you have the chance to study video of yourself to critique your technique (not just game play) you should definitely do this. I started quad skating at 10, but by the age of 13 the sport of speed switched to inline skates. From the span of 92-2007 (15 years) I didn’t touch my quads. I find it interesting looking back that my technique is 10x better now then it was when I was younger. Not only because I am older and stronger – I have an incredible LEAN in the corners I never had before. Essentially, I took my inline technique to my quad skates. I do not skate “heel-toe”. Naturally, yes, I end with my inside front toe as the last wheel of contact but its something that happens naturally. If I skated on a larger track- and stability wasn’t an issue I would adopt this technique..(heel-toe) However – were on a tiny track and contact is a given and stability a MUST
with a sport that is nearly football on wheels! Weight is middle-back and I push evenly through my skate – always!

If you can see in videos you skate quite straight up in the corners, do drills to help you use more lean.

Circle drills. We always started out doing a ton of these at the beginning of the season. They are incredible. If you don’t have any lean, you’re doing them incorrectly. At a recent clinic I could see this was an issue for many. I visually pointed out what they looked like then told them to skate on only their left leg and push their hip to the inside. Entering the corners / beginning of every crossover – your weight is on your LEFT leg. If you’re in the gym – test your strength of your right leg vs. your left individually. Your left leg should be MUCH stronger than your right!

Working on taking corners with more lean and speed than you’re used to should always be worked on. On the banked track (200 meter) or indoors (100 meter track) we used to have the faster guys on the team follow us for a couple laps, building up top speed and in the middle of the straight take a relay push as hard as they could. We were then forced to use more lean and take the corner faster than what was comfortable. It prepares you to take the corner at a speed you couldn’t get to yourself! This will make you better, faster and increase your threshold of how fast you can take the corner.

Try it, you will have a lot of fun! If you feel out of control- try and take the corner on 1 leg, your left of course and get lower than feels comfortable for you. Keep doing this until you skate through the turn with more lean and knee bend than you ever have before!

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