I moved my business into a new gym a few months ago, and the move has opened up some awesome new possibilities. Not only is there more open space for working on agility/first step and sled pulling, but I can now offer group strength training opportunities to ultimate players! Group training makes strength training accessible to more people, and I’m excited to be helping a bigger swath of the population train smarter and sweat harder.
I’ve wanted to train people in groups for years, and the programming and approach I’m taking are developing really organically in response to the energy and enthusiasm of the people I’m training.
I want to share some things I’ve learned so far, and provide you with some guidelines for finding/developing group strength training dynamics, regardless of what level you’re playing. Coaches, pay attention as well, and let me know your thoughts on the concept and particulars!
So, why group strength training?
You can train with your friends! One of my favorite things about ultimate is the community is that it’s full of smart, talented people that show up for each other in all sorts of ways! Group strength training for ultimate means you don’t have to choose between working hard with your friends/teammates and hitting the gym – you can do both! Many players I know have a hard time committing to solo strength training because they find it less motivating and enjoyable than team pursuits – and if you’re not having fun, it’s hard to keep doing it!
Working out in a group pushes you. When I asked one of my groups to give me sound bytes for this article, the one I heard most often was some version of, “I work harder when my friends are there working hard, and I feel accountable to them to not skip workouts and make a good effort.” I’ve seen great progress made in these group sessions, which I know is in large part due to the “C’mon, you can do it!” energy the participants share with each other.
If the coach knows ultimate, chances are the training will be more sport-specific. The coach doesn’t have to play ultimate (I don’t!) but if they understand the sport well enough, they can craft workouts/provide equipment and space to help you get better on the field. For the ultimate player who wants to improve, working with a knowledgeable coach in a group setting is better than watching Morrill or me on YouTube and trying to emulate it on your own. Hallmarks of a coach who knows how to train for ultimate: their programming involves a lot of single leg/single arm/single-side core work, and they can explain how these movements translate to better on-field performance.
The cost is lower and you still get some one-on-one attention. The typical group workout class has a wide range of people cycling through, which means you don’t have anyone helping you measure progress or steering you away from bad habits on a regular basis. The difference between a huge, non-sport-specific class and a smaller sport-specific group is huge in terms of the feedback you get from a coach and from other participants. If I see you every week, I get to know you, even if you’re one of 8 people I see that hour on Tuesdays. I remind you to keep your posture/use your arms when accelerating/extend your hip at the top of your deadlift, and I notice and praise you when you do it correctly. You also develop an eye for movement and detail along with your friends, and you can help each other with correctives as well.
I’m currently running two very different group programs at my gym in Seattle – if you’re interested in finding a program/starting a program, these might give you some ideas!
RenFit: Elite Ultimate
- Once or twice a week
- 6-8 people
- A themed workout, usually based on an ultimate skill (acceleration, handler defense)
- Stations of 45 seconds to 1 minute, 2 sets at each station (if it’s a single leg exercise, then one on each side). This can work for endurance or strength in that time (heavy set of six and stop, or continue for the full 45 seconds at a lighter weight)
- Anaerobic/aerobic element, usually agility/first step work, but also jumprope and slideboard
- Lots of single leg/single arm/single-side core work to balance out the ultimate body
- Several modifications for each exercise (to address injuries or increase difficulty)
- Participants play their own music
- Participants pay monthly ($10 per person per session) and have to find someone to take their spot if they miss
Check out what they had to say!
People in the elite group are friends and ultimate enthusiasts. They love to work hard and play hard. I’ve had SO much fun working with them, and have been consistently impressed with their fun “I can do that!” energy and their support of each other. Their individual goals are varied, but as a group they want to improve their ultimate performance and avoid/rehab injuries. The group formed because one woman came for a consultation and wanted to keep seeing me, but couldn’t afford my individual session rate on a weekly basis – she said she’d bring a committed crew, and she did!
Pro Lifting Night
- Open gym, not a class
- Open to the Seattle MLU and AUDL teams
- Once a week, late night when we have the space to ourselves
- I supervise/answer questions/check form for people if they want my eyes on a movement
- Someone plays music, whoever jumps on it first
- There’s a lot of free-form interaction and ultimate movement
- $5 per person, 8 person minimum to run the night – we’ve been blowing out that quota so far
Here’s a video from open gym.
I started this session to accommodate the high-level players I work with in both the Seattle professional organizations (Rainmakers and Cascades). It’s a varied group of people with different goals and gym comfort levels, and it’s been great to see them learning from each other, throwing before they lift, and making gains. I did clinics on strength training for ultimate with all the boys before I started the lifting nights.
These are just a couple examples from my own experience, but hopefully they give you a sense of how this kind of training can be structured! I’m working on ways to facilitate more group strength training this year, including adding a women’s lifting night and a few more group training sessions. If you’re a player without a Ren/Tim/Melissa in your area, don’t despair – there are a lot of smart trainers out there who are willing to dig deep and learn about a population (my assistant Emily is one of those) and they might be waiting for someone to approach them with opportunity to work with a group of motivated ultimate players. And if you’re a coach who wants to cater to this population, hit me up for advice or approach a player/team. You’ll find this community is as passionate as it is dedicated. :)