Expert Panel Responds: In-Season Training

by | August 26, 2011, 11:12am 0

Last week, Skyd introduced our panel of training professionals and elite level athletes (Melissa Witmer, Tyler Kinley, and Samantha McClellan) for our training topic of the month. If you have follow up questions, please ask them in the comments. We have encouraged our panelists to respond there.

And now for the questions and responses:

1.  simonwes asks:

How would you tailor your lifting program once the competitive ultimate season begins? I’ve read that lots of professional athletes lift 1 day a week, if that, during the season. Is this an approach that you would take in Ultimate?

TYLER KINLEY, Captain of Seattle Sockeye

I strongly recommend lifting 2-3 times per week beginning in January as you approach the club season. Create a base of strength far enough in advance that you can be patient with it. Then, once the season comes, honestly assess (1) how often you practice, and (2) how well you recover. If your team can only practice on weekends, you can train more on the weekdays, lifting maybe twice and running a track workout, for instance. If your team practices more, you need recovery days. Finally, if you consistently stay up late, don’t eat well, or otherwise prevent your body from recovering well for any reason, take that into account as well. If you’re lifting hard and not recovering, you will deteriorate more than you gain, and seriously run the risk of injury.


It can be difficult to maintain a lifting regimen in season with all the competing demands.  For myself,  find that this is more of a time issue than a fatigue issue.  At the very least I get in once per week for a low volume, high intensity day.  This means doing the basic lifts–squats and deadlifts– in the 3-5 RM range.  (meaning, whatever weight I’m lifting can be done for no more than 5 reps).

Maybe it’s best to think in terms of priorities.  These are mine:
1.  Maintain absolute strength with heavy squats and deadlifts
2.  Maintain absolute strength in bench press and pullups
3.  Maintain muscle balance, coordination, functional strength, and strength endurance with lighter functional training days.  These days I do more unilateral (single leg, single arm) exercises. My rep range varies.  Sometimes 8-10 RM.  Someitmes 10-12 RM.
4.  Lower body work is prioritized above upper body work.
5.  Core work is a given.  Almost every time I go to the weight room, I do some core work.

What this means practically is that I lift 2-3 days per week.  If I lift only twice, one day will be a heavy day, the second will be a light day.  Here are some examples of what I might do in a typical week.

SAMANTHA MCCLELLAN, Biomedical Engineer and Personal Trainer

So much depends on the individual’s training program year round.  If you are an athlete who lifts 3-4 days a week in the off season, then once the season begins, you are probably more than able to sustain lifting at least 2-3 times a week throughout the course of the season, in addition to practices/tournaments.  Lifting is something that can and should be continued throughout the season, and is one of the best ways to prevent injury and increase strength.  It can be tailored, however, to allow for you to still both lift heavy and practice hard.  For example, if you know you are going to do a track workout on Thursday, it probably would not be wise to lift heavy on your legs on Tuesday or Wednesday.  But rather do your heavy leg workout on Monday, and lift something like chest and back on Tuesday or Wednesday.  That way the muscle soreness in your legs should be minimal by the time you are doing your track workout, and you are able to get in both a good lift and a good track workout.  Slight changes such as that might be necessary, but cutting out lifting altogether is not advisable.

2.   from Daragh:

When is the best time during the week to do a fitness session? before/after a normal practice or on a different day? If you can only do it on the same day as practice when in the practice is it better to do it? before/after scrimmage, just after the warm up?

TYLER KINLEY, Captain of Seattle Sockeye

I don’t like to lift on the days I practice. Further, assess your own team. Are you losing games in points 11 or 12 through 15? If so, work on playing while tired, and do something to fatigue yourself before and during your scrimmage.  If you are having trouble competing athletically with the next level teams, you will want to practice playing at top speed– practice with full rest, and save your fitness session until afterwards. Finally, I prefer doing endurance training after a practice, or, to do short stints of it as a means of giving people’s brains a rest or shutting people up– hard to chit chat when you’re sucking wind.


It’s better to do a smaller amount every day rather than do twice as much every other day.  My advice would be to do fitness sessions on days you don’t have practice.

If you’re training on the same days as practice, and doing a general fitness sessions, do those after practice so that your best mental focus is reserved for learning what you need to learn during practice.  It is nearly impossible to learn new motor skills, and not very effective to practice them, if you in a fatigued state. If you are doing agility drills or plyometrics, those should be done after warmups and before practice.

SAMANTHA MCCLELLAN, Biomedical Engineer and Personal Trainer

If by fitness session, you are referring to team conditioning, then I suppose it depends on what your end goal is.  If you are trying to train your athletes to be able to perform and exert themselves even after they are tired, then adding the conditioning to the end of practice would be useful.  If you are wanting to get the most high quality output for each exercise (such as a plyometric workout), then doing the fitness session at the beginning of a practice (after a quality warm-up) would be best.  Due to the length of time and rigors that normally go into a club level ultimate practice, I would recommend having fitness sessions/conditioning on a separate day altogether.

DC’s women’s team, Scandal, for example, has practices on Saturdays and Sundays and then meets again on Mondays to do a “bootcamp” type workout together.  This allows for the athletes to get in two quality practices and then be rested enough for a quality fitness session, while at the same time still fighting some muscle soreness from the previous two days.  This is excellent for training a body to be able to get up and work hard for three straight days, which is imperative for tournaments such as the national tournament, which spans 4 days.

3.  Greg Leach wants to know:

What percentages should be spent on skill based drills vs. cardio vs. strength training? 60/20/20? 70/15/15? or something else?

TYLER KINLEY, Captain of Seattle Sockeye

Again, this is highly dependent on your team and your own goals. As far as cardio vs. strength, I prefer building strength first, and then power/explosiveness, and then power endurance last, while some prefer starting with an endurance base and then building speed. Regarding spending time on athleticism vs. skill development, these are often not mutually exclusive, but because of the difficulty of organizing large groups easily, I find practices to be best spent on team and skill development, and having guys develop their athleticism in smaller groups on more of their own timeline.


This is a very important question.  And the answer is very dependent on answers to a few other quesitons:  What is your current level of fitness?  How good are your skills?  How long have you been playing?  What did you do in the off season?

The extent to which you are able to focus on skills now is highly dependent on your off-season and pre-season preparation.  If you spent the off season getting as strong as possible and conditioning in a way that prepared you well for the demands of practices and tournaments, then you are in a good position to use the season primarily to learn and refine your skills.

You need to build your sport-specific skills on a strong base of general athleticism.  The weaker the base of general athleticism (strength, work capacity, etc) the more time you need to spend developing those qualities in season.

If I had to choose, I’d say my percentages look something like 75/5/20 at the moment.  That’s with all practices and playing, in the skills category which of course benefits my cardiovascular fitness as well.

SAMANTHA MCCLELLAN, Biomedical Engineer and Personal Trainer

Within any practice, you need to recognize and adapt to the athletes themselves.  If you are working with a group of college kids who are doing a lot of their own lifting and running outside of practice, then practice should be solely devoted to skill development.  If you are working with a team of players that have good skills but are lacking the discipline to work out outside of practice, then more of the practice should be focused on conditioning.

However, if this was more of a general question that encompasses all time spent working out, and not just practice time, then the numbers are very different. Skill based drills are important for muscle memory, so repetitions are crucial.  Strength and cardio training are necessary for injury prevention and increasing one’s VO2max, respectively.   I cannot give you an exact percentage of time to spend on each aspect of your training, but rather emphasize the importance of all three aspects in becoming the best player you can be, and recognizing your individual body’s needs and working pointedly on them.

4.  Alan Janzen asks:

Once the season hits, is it too late for plyometrics (plyos other than sprinting and playing the sport)? Considering the amount of impact the body takes from any plyometric activity, would it be wise to use additional box jumps, depth drops, vertical jumps, etc in an Ultimate player’s program once they begin practicing 2-3 times per week and playing tournaments?

TYLER KINLEY, Captain of Seattle Sockeye

I am a big fan of plyometrics, but think their benefits are only really demonstrated with a good strength base. Squatting 1.5 times your body weight (repping this amount) is a good rule of thumb. That said, depth jumps can and should, in my opinion, be used during a season, but with proper rest & recovery.


Again this depends on what you did in the off season (noticing a theme here!). I would probably not introduce a plyo program to players mid season if they had never done plyos before.  However, if plyos were emphasized in an earlier training period, I would maintain a thread of plyo exercises in season.  In this case, you would want to maintain the intensity level of the exercises but probably decrease the volume.

How much impact a player can handle will be dependent on the training history, biomechanics, strength base, and age of the athlete.  I think the main priority in season is to stay healthy and so I might err on the side of doing too little when it comes to in-season plyos.

SAMANTHA MCCLELLAN, Biomedical Engineer and Personal Trainer

Assuming an athlete is working out in the off season, and already doing plyometrics as part of a balanced and focused workout regiment, then continuing to incorporate plyos in your workouts and practices as the season progresses is fine.  The athlete must have the strength and form to perform the exercise correctly and without risk of injury.  However, you need to consider the impact that plyos have on your body and recognize that too much is not a good thing.  If you know you will be playing a difficult tournament, it would be advisable to hold back and err on the side of doing less in the way of impact exercises in the time leading up to the tournament, and then making it a point to give your body the needed rest in the subsequent days following the tournament.  Never do plyometric exercises if your body feels fatigued.  Any time your body feels past the point of even moderate fatigue, a significant risk appears in that proper form is often neglected as the body gets tired.  If tournaments and practices leave your body feeling weak, do not do plyos until you feel back to normal and able to exert yourself.  In general, allow 48 hours between plyometric sessions in order to allow for a full recovery of the musculoskeletal system and optimal adaptation.

5.  from Eric Salmi:

How important is rest? And how much is good in a non-tournament week? Also, what, if anything should be done on a rest day?

TYLER KINLEY, Captain of Seattle Sockeye

I think rest is one of the biggest differentiators between players and teams. Some people stay up late, some sleep a ton, and everyone’s body is different. Some eat well, some eat terribly. Some drink a lot, some don’t. All of this matters, and in your own training, you should assess how well you do in these areas. Ask yourself– how do you feel? Tired or rested? Tight or loose? Sore or ready?  Then look at easy ways of improvement: adding a glass of water a day, eating breakfast, going to bed a half hour earlier, cutting out that beer. Essentially, there is no “right” for everyone, except that rest is incredibly important, and your performance WILL increase with better rest.


Allowing your body to recover from your training is as important as the training itself.  It takes time and attention to learn how much training your body can tolerate and how much rest it needs.  At this point, I very rarely have any days in which I do absolutely nothing.  “Rest” is not synonymous with “sedentary.”  I feel that the body performs best when it’s given the opportunity to move every day.  I do recovery workouts even on the Mondays after tournaments.  I don’t do anything high intensity or complicated.  The point is to increase blood flow throughout the body, move the joints through a full range of motion, and allow the brain to have the day off.

SAMANTHA MCCLELLAN, Biomedical Engineer and Personal Trainer

The importance of rest cannot be over stated.  Too many athletes think taking a day off is going to be detrimental to their training, when in fact over-training is much more detrimental.  As aforementioned, about 48 hours is needed for a full recovery of the musculoskeletal system.  After a tournament, give yourself that period as rest.  After a really intense plyometric workout, give yourself that rest.  However, “rest” can take many forms.  Personally, my rest day is a day off from exercise when I get a sports massage.  I am a big proponent of the benefits of massage on an athlete, and thoroughly enjoy them as well.  Working the lactic acid out of your muscles will help alleviate soreness as well.  If getting a massage is not in the cards, a light cardio workout (ideally a non-impact cardio workout) is what I recommend for after a tournament.  Swimming, biking, or even yoga are great ways to work out on your “rest” day.


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