Monday, July 29, 2013

The work horse of derby stops. BACK TO THE BASICS!

It's so funny, derby loves to embrace the newest bestest thing ever.  Turning around to block backwards, toe stop craziness, and passive offense.  Unfortunately, we tend to forget to focus on the basics, and I've noticed that a lot of newer skaters don't seem to have a good proficiency when it comes to plow stopping on the track. 
Image found here

But Q, I'm ever so much better at toe stopping than plow stopping.  Tough!  Plow stopping can be the most practical stop you can use to end the reign of a jammer sprinting through the pack.  I know, I know, plow stopping in a wall can be seriously intimidating for any skater.  Nobody wants to trip their own teammate, or show that they can't stop with the rest of their wall, but plows are an effective stop when done correctly.

First of all, no two people do plow stops the same way.  I'm six feet tall, and I'm going to perform a plow stop completely differently than a person who is five feet tall.  Weight makes a difference too.  Someone who weighs 180 pounds will have a different form than someone who weighs 100 pounds, so watch a lot of people do stops and figure out what might work for you.  There are tons of plow stopping videos on You Tube to check out as well.

When I see people having problems with their plow stops, I look at their feet first.  A lot of people tend to not position their feet correctly, and they can never actually "land" a plow stop because of it.  I had read about a nifty way to practice and learn how to plow stop off skates, and I actually got a chance to try it out with a group of awesome guinea pigs the other day at practice.  We went outside of the skating rink we practice at, and tried sprinting down the hill and stopping with a plow stop in skates.  We would sprint for four sidewalk sections and then plow stop, and then do it again, all of the way down the hill.  It really helped!  You naturally position your feet in the correct way to plow stop because you have no choice.  We looked like bloody idiots running down the hill in our protective gear (because as you know, all derby skaters are clumsy off skates) but it really helped people "feel" how their feet should be positioned.  (Heels out, toes in)

But you'll look goofy as hell while doing it.

The second thing I notice is when people are having issues with plow stops, I see people with soft wheels on their skates. UGH!  If you're still using Poisons to skate on a normal floor, please trade up to harder wheels.  If you have a crazy slick floor, then keep rocking those Poisons, but if you have a normal floor and you use Poisons as a crutch, switch them out please!  Sometimes you need to have harder wheels to complete a plow with any sort of success.

The third thing I see people struggle with is the width of the plow.  So many skaters tend to spread their legs as wide as possible and keep them wide as they plow.  This works really well until you try to plow in a game with a hoppy jammer pushing you out twenty feet over and over again.  When you plant your legs wide, wider than you can easily move back in to a more narrow stance,  you may be able to stop but you can't move laterally.  Also, a wide plow stop does not work in a wall, for obvious reasons.  In a wall, one footed plows work so much better.  Practice your single footed plows, both on the left and right sides.  I can't tell you how important it is when you're holding the inside line,  to have a strong left plow!  I have found that if I don't force myself to practice something, I never will.  When I have down time at practice, I work on skills that I don't have a good grasp of.  Nobody is going to hound you to work on your weaknesses, that's your job.

Good posture counts in a plow stop.  So many skaters have a great plow stop, until a jammer challenges her by pushing right through a wall due to the lack of correct plow posture.  So many people think that they're low and in a great plow position, when they're really just bent over at the waist.  Work on what I call "The Gorilla Stance" when you're plow stopping. Bend your knees to get low, drop your butt to the floor and keep your upper body erect.  Use your back to keep that jammer from pushing you down the track; as Quadzilla once said "Your back is the biggest and strongest part of your body.  Use it to block people!"  He's right, but to be able to do that you need to have a strong core.  I can't stress core work outs in derby any more strenuously than I do, so get out and do them! 
Or "Girlilla"  Image found here

Chomping may be the way you fix your sloppy plow.  Here's a good description of what people have been referring to as chomping.  I learned to do "chomping" from watching the speed skaters during their relays.  Instead of doing an aggressive stop like a hockey stop or even a toe stop, the speed skaters we practiced with would do a stepping plow.  They would literally take small steps in a plow stance and practically stop on the spot.  I asked one of them why they did that stop and he told me it saved his wheels from getting burnt out; I thought that was pretty cool, but I was more impressed with his ability to go from a sprint to a dead stop in a few steps.  I tend to do a stepping plow when a jammer is relentlessly pushing on my wall and I don't want to trip up my team. 

Sometimes people are scared of plow stops because they have weak ankles.  I have horrible ankles, but I have a good plow stop because I've worked and worked on strengthening my ankles, thighs and core. If you have weak ankles, and a lot of us do, please take a gander at some of the exercises found here.  I know it's scary when you have weak ankles because it seems like plow stops are a prime way to destroy your feet, but if you strengthen your ankles diligently, a plow won't stress them out too much.

So there ya go.  Plow stops...rediscover them!


11 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. This and hopping are my two toughest skills. Thank you for the post. Part of my challenge feels like my knees aren't strong enough. I've buggered them up a bit these last few months as fresh meat. I'm wondering if you have a link to some exercises to strengthen them up? Thank you, again, for a really helpful blog. (Could not leave an autocorrect display the first time I am commenting. Sorry for the clutter.)

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  3. This is something that my league has been focusing on lately! One of my teammates suggests practicing offskates, in the grass. Have someone push your hips as hard as they can while you dig in. I have been walking around practicing my "quick plow" all damn day after reading this.

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  4. I have been trying to find a video of "chomping" and I'm coming up blank! Any suggestions?

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    1. I haven't seen any videos, but V-Diva has been doing a lot of training on it lately....maybe you could google her and plow stops?

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  5. I am getting ready to purchase my first pair of skates. I am going to be attending tryouts in my area soon. I know you said don't get poison wheels, I was wondering what kind of wheels I should get. I've been reading up on it and I know there are different types of wheels for different surfaces such as for a rink, and for outside. But, I'm not sure what kinds of wheels to get.

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    1. I Wouldn't Get Any New Wheels Until You Tried Out And Made The Team. Your New Teammates Will Have Good Suggestions ForThe Surface You'll Be Practicing On.

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    2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLTCM_Oljok

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  6. Hi Q, just wanted to let you know that we have used your article on our website here: http://derbyoz.com/2013/08/01/plow-stops/
    With full props & a linkback, of course :)
    x

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