So jamming’s hard, right? You’re one person trying to fight through three or four other people who really don’t want to let you past. Also, jammers are often smaller than blockers.
Juking and jiving is great but blockers these days are smart and often don’t bite – they hold their ground and try to force you to choose and edge.
But edges… they’re dangerous. Blockers want to make you think you’ve got a clear path through so that when you take it, they can PUNISH YOU with their butts of doom.
So sometimes, you gotta push
Pushing three or four people who do not want to be moved though, is tough. Even though they have wheels on their feet they somehow defy the laws of physics and absolutely will not move. (Something about edges and digging in apparently!) Pushing this immovable object can quickly drain all of your energy and then…. the blockers win.
So you need to push smart and in the right way. You need to think about the direction you’re pushing and where you’re applying the force – don’t waste your precious jammer energy!
BONUS – All of these tips and exercises will also help you do kick-ass offence!
1. Pick One
Walls are very rarely perfectly flat and level. There is usually a small gap or one butt that doesn’t perfectly line up. That’s your target.
Instead of just pushing on a seam, find the place that’s the least level and attack there. That is the weak spot. And if you can’t find a weak spot, make one – juke, push, release, juke – someone in the wall will twitch, even if it’s a tiny bit, and give you an opportunity.
Tip: Unless you are able to push this blocker way out of position easily, don’t stay on this blocker too long. Once you’ve moved them a bit, someone else is out of position so attack there. Don’t give the blockers chance to dig in.
2. Drive Upwards
Pushing square on into a wall will only make that wall dig in more. You are actually helping them dig in – your force transfers through them, through their edges and into the ground. Not fun!
So you need to think about taking a blocker or two out of their ‘power box’ (their strongest position) to get them moving. And the best way to do this is to pick them up!
I do not mean literally picking them up. I’m not sure what that penalty would be exactly, but it would definitely be illegal. I mean getting your shoulder below either their hip or rips and using it to lift them upwards.
If you can find a small gap in their wall or a butt that is slightly out of position, get low, get your shoulder under their hip/ribs and use those strong derby legs to drive upward. If you can get the position and timing right, your opponent will be able to do little to resist and they should get moved out of position, giving you more options.
- Make sure your target zone is legal. Butt cheeks risk being a back block so aim for side-butt/outer thigh!
- As you get low, try and keep your legs under you rather than out behind, you’ll have more power!
3. Drive Laterally
Blockers are really good at resisting a force pushing them forward – see above – and you run the risk of getting a back block penalty. And you may be getting the wall moving forward, but you still have a whole wall in front of you to fight through.
Instead, drive your target laterally. Once one blocker starts being pushed laterally, the rest of the wall responds either by opening up in the middle or by moving to close the gap – this either gives you a hole in the middle to attack or widens an inside or outside lane.
- Keep changing the direction you’re driving so that you’re creating a bigger and bigger hole.
- Avoid driving too close to an edge as the other blockers are just waiting to hit you off!
4. Drive Downwards
If driving laterally and upwards isn’t working, try slicing downwards through a seam instead.
Twist your torso so your top half is side-on to the wall then drop all of your weight, shoulder first, down into the seam of the wall, then immediately drive upwards and forwards – think about it like a sawing motion. This should destabilise the blockers giving you options to drive in another direction or run through their wall.
Tip: Make sure you are only slicing through legal target zones and not hitting anyone in the back! Making yourself as narrow as possible by turning completely side-on will help. If you are completely square on to the blockers, you will get a back block.
Front-Loaded Exercises To Make You Better At Pushing
Nothing will completely recreate how it feels to be a jammer trying to move a wall, but there are plenty of exercises we can do off-skates that will make us stronger and more powerful.
Enter: Front-loaded exercises!
Front loaded moves most accurately recreate the kind of force you need to move a wall. They recruit a great deal of core and upper body strength, as well as firing up your legs – they are definitely a total body workout! And as such, they tend to need a lighter weight to their back-loaded counterparts.
Front loaded exercises often have the weight, usually a barbell, resting across the front of the shoulder. However, if you don’t have the mobility or equipment for that, there are other options such as zercher-style or goblet-style.
The moves below all involve weights of some kind or barbells – unfortunately you can’t really improve your pushing/lifting strength without weight or resistance. You may be able to get creative with what exactly that weight is though – kettlebells, sandbags, resistance bands, children, pets….
If you’ve never done any of these before, I strongly advise asking a trainer at your gym to make sure you’re doing it with proper form to avoid injury
1. Front Squat
This is the most basic and foundational front loaded move. Deceptively simple but requires good form and a helluva lot of core strength. Once you’ve mastered the front squat and the push press, you can combine the two for thrusters – a seriously taxing exercise that’s great for building explosive power and fitness.
2. Front Loaded Walking Lunges
When you’re pushing through a pack, you should be still be moving forward. So front loaded walking lunges are great for building the power you need to pushing upwards and forwards.
3. Front Loaded Up-Downs
You’re often weakest at the bottom of your get-low-drive-upwards position, so weighted up-downs are great at building that power from a dead-stop: the floor. This is also a good move to help improve your recovery from getting hit down and being able to pop back up and continue moving.
Pushing requires a lot of upper body and core strength as well as endurance. The push-press helps build strength and explosiveness in your upper body whilst also recruiting the legs.
5. Sled Push
Its easy to see how this one relates to pushing as a jammer – you’re pushing something heavy across the floor! It’s usually from a dead-stop too, recreating the power you need to get a wall moving when you can’t rely on momentum.
Try adding these front loaded moves to your workout and see if it improves you jamming (or offence) pushing power!