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Strength & Conditioning for the Roller Derby Athlete

Roller derby's popularity has surged in recent decades. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first strength and conditioning publication to address roller derby. This article outlines an overview of the sport, discusses sport-specific strength and conditioning considerations, and is intended to educate coaches and athletes on the needs of this athletic population. This article outlines an overview of the sport, discusses sport-specific strength and conditioning considerations, and is intended to educate coaches and athletes on the needs of this athletic population. The sport evolved to its current competitive format in 2001 with rules to prevent the theatrics of previous years. The article will present a needs analysis, review current research on relevant-injury prevalence, and outline practical strength and conditioning considerations to enhance performance, reduce injury risk, and increase longevity for roller derby athletes. Finally, the article highlights the need for more sport-specific scientific research to advance roller derby and support its athletes.

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Sports Performance: 8 Reasons to Train Athletes

Learning how to coach an athlete is far more complicated than training general population clientele and, arguably, more fulfilling. There are many more factors, modalities, thinking, and planning strategies involved with coaching an athlete of any magnitude – young, adult, novice, or elite.

Here are the 8 reasons why you, as a sports performance professional, should train athletes:

Developing Core Stability

Core stability is characterized by the ability to retain or reclaim control of the trunk (osteoarticular and muscular structures), when disturbed by internal and external forces. Without the supportive muscles of the trunk, it is estimated that it would take approximately 9kg/(20lbs) of external load for internal structures of the human body to buckle. This fact alone illustrates how important it is to achieve and maintain strength and stability of what links the upper and lower extremities together.

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Inner Workings

Though many women are focused on how their inner thighs look in shorts, few of us actually consider this area to be important outside of aesthetics. But your inner thighs are an integral part of your lower-body mechanics, and tight, immobile muscles here can cause poor balance, knee pain, ankle stiffness, lower-back pain and even a weakened core.

The five muscles of the inner thigh work to stabilize the outward rotation of your knees and help pull your legs inward toward the centerline of your body. Tightness here can be because of many factors, not the least of which is sitting for long periods of time, and can cause your knees to bow inward, throwing your posture off kilter and decreasing the effectiveness, power and safety of many lower-body lifts.

 

Mechanisms of Fatigue

Fatigue is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon. There is rarely ever one source of fatigue, as humans are also complex, multifaceted, and have many other factors and responsibilities in our lives, outside of training and athletics. Fatigue can be acute, accumulated, chronic, and/or exacerbated by additional external influences, such as nutrition, sleep, illness, and social commitments or conflicts. Additionally, the presence of fatigue may be through peripheral mechanisms, at which local muscles encounter mechanical failure due to metabolic acidosis, altered electrolyte concentrations that impair muscle contraction, and microtrauma/tissue damage; or central mechanisms, by which a decrement in motor neuron excitation and the inability to recruit high threshold motor units is presented.

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Evidence-Based Benefits of Unilateral Exercises

Upper- and lower-body unilateral exercises are commonly prescribed in athletics, recreational resistance training, and rehabilitation settings. Among the benefits associated with incorporating one-sided exercises are increased joint stability, neuromuscular coordination, and bilateral strength. Additionally, unilateral exercises have been linked to improving muscle strength, force, size symmetry, ground reaction force generation, and sport-related skills. Depending on the exercise selected, unilateral and asymmetrical exercises have shown to strengthen muscles of the trunk, trunk stability, deep muscle groups of the hip, and muscles of the back. Taken a step further, if the unilateral exercise prescribed requires creating core stiffness, the adaptive effect is improved spine stability and injury resilience to the vulnerable structure.

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Accommodating Resistance for Increased Raw and Explosive Strength

Accommodating resistance (AR) is described as the attachment of elastic bands or chains to each end of a barbell during the squat, bench press, or deadlift – adding variable resistance throughout the movement’s full range of motion (ROM). This method has been around for many years, but the utilization of elastic bands as AR was popularized by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell. Studies support the use of AR to improve lifters’ power, velocity, and rate force development (RFD).  Furthermore, there is evidence that AR can elicit higher muscle activation, improve joint stability, and enhance strength adaptions.

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Exercise Considerations for Individuals with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an auto-immune disease that causes joint inflammation, due to immune system dysfunction. RA is characterized by symptoms of joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, as well as, muscle weakness around affected joints, a loss of bone mass, and impaired bone strength. In more extreme cases, RA can lead to structural joint damage or permanent joint deformity. In adults, this auto-immune disease affects 1% of the population, while juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) are reported as the most common inflammatory pathologies found in children.

The Science Behind Motivational Self-Talking and Psyching Oneself Up

Mindset, confidence, social life factors, and anxiety can make a large impact on fitness goals and performance. For example, many athletes experience either state- or trait- anxiety in competitive environments. State-anxiety is presented as intense stress and/or nervousness that may impair performance either right before or during a competition; whereas trait-anxiety is often caused by repeated negative experiences with competing. Another example is how each individual is uniquely wired to approach exercise. Some people have the natural ability to be intrinsically motivated in approaching their exercise routine or training program, whereas others may need a greater degree of external motivation to maintain consistency. One well-studied variable within athletic research is the concept and theory of psyching oneself up through self-directed cognitive strategies.

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Programming Past Plateaus

Exercise programming is as much an art form as it is a science. Within exercise design, there is a place for both intelligent creativity and evidence-based application. Applying both can help an athlete progress in technique, strength, and power one’s way past plateaus in performance. The following are few aspects to a strength-training program design to help break through plateaus in strength, technique, and overall performance.