Sports teams are comprised of individuals, and training to play a sport is something that each person needs to find the motivation and time to do. Being an awesome teammate and contributor on the field requires some degree of self-knowledge and the ability to commit to being an athlete.
When I do evaluations with ultimate players, I do my best to look at the whole picture. Only looking at their injury history would give me skewed impression of their current state, just as focusing solely on their weaknesses would lead me to program a plan that wouldn’t necessarily improve their game. I want to help each athlete be that awesome teammate!
First and foremost I get information about their goals for the season. What are they trying to improve? I help them chose specific goals (faster first three steps, injury reduction, defensive quickness) because that information drives the rest of the programming process. Your time is best spent on activities that will get to closer to where you want to be. TL;DR handy chart for figuring out a training plan is at the bottom.
Training for ultimate can look really different depending on your goals and your experience as an athlete! I believe that some mix of self-care, mobility work, sport-specific strength training or metabolic conditioning and skill or drill work are required at every level and for all goals, but the distribution, type and volume of those elements isn’t going to be the same for all players. I recommend doing some testing regardless of how intensely you’re planning on training – objective information is always good! In terms of which tests to use, I suggest referring to my previous article and choosing the tests that apply most closely to your goals. You should do the three FMS tests and the three-hop test as a baseline for sure, and then whatever others are relevant! Because there isn’t a lot of data around some these tests it can be hard to figure out if you’ve tested well – for that reason I advocate doing these tests with a team or within some kind of structure if possible. If that’s not an option for you, go by how the test felt, record the results and then measure improvement! Since I’ve already outlined these tests, I’m going to use this article to help you understand what to do with the information you gather.
For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to break goals down into these categories: injury reduction, defensive quickness, efficient change of direction (CoD), acceleration, vertical, throwing and speed. You can have more than one goal but it’s helpful to figure out what’s primary and what’s secondary – that way when you’re crunched for time as the season heats up, you know where your focus should be. Once you’ve figured out what you want to improve this season, you can turn your attention to how you’re going to get there! There are a few factors to consider when you’re putting a training plan together – let’s break it down:
Access to resources
Be real about what your assets are! Not everyone can utilize great training facilities with sleds and kettlebells and awesome instructors who know the sport – that’s one of the reasons Melissa Witmer, Tim Morrill and I put so much time and energy into creating resources for ultimate players that don’t require us standing over you! There are many ways to adapt exercises and training protocols to the facilities and equipment you have, no matter what those are. I offer individualization for members of the Ultimate Athlete Project and my own clients who don’t have big gym access, or those travel frequently – there’s always a way to do the kind of work that will progress you towards your goals.
Amount of strength training experience
The less experience you have with lifting, the more having some eyes on form is helpful – you can see big gains on the field by correctly performing movements, even without a ton of weight! Athletes who are newer to strength training or new to ultimate will get a lot from a generalized strength program (squats, deadlifts, upper body work), while more experienced lifters and those who’ve been playing for a while usually need a more sport-specific focus (single leg and single side core work, tailored volume and loading) to progress towards their goals and balance out the demands of the sport.
Desired level of play
If you’re trying to make a team or gain a competitive advantage at a high level of play, you’ll need to not only get in the gym, but do the right stuff in the gym and on the field as well. And remember, someone else at that level may be doing something very different than you and that’s okay – they have their own strengths, weaknesses, goals and training methods that work for them! If you’re trying to reduce injury and have fun at a less competitive level, testing and considered training approaches are still super helpful.
Injury history and current state
Take the time to understand how injuries you’ve sustained have affected your mobility, endurance, and strength.As much as you can, make addressing these issues a part of your training plan. This is most important at higher levels of play, where small changes in movement patterns can mean consistently getting the disc (or a block) against top players. But remember that no matter what your goals are, you not going to get very far if you’re fighting through injury and imbalance. It’s worth focusing on to some extent, regardless of level of play. If you’re currently injured, your top priority should be getting better!
Okay, now it’s time to do some testing that’s relevant to your goals – retest at the peak of your season! Did you improve? You should have, if you’ve been working on it! Having that objective measurement is important, but it’s also like measuring health by stepping on a scale – it’s not the whole picture. If you want to know if your first step is improving, you can ask yourself some questions: are you consistently getting open on tough people? Are you able to do that over and over in the course of a weekend without overuse injuries or getting too gassed? If so, score!! If not, take a look at your plan and figure out what you need to adjust.
Here’s a chart to help you figure out where you need to focus your energy depending on your goals…I hope it’s helpful for you! I also do evaluations via Skype (and in person, if you happen to be in Seattle), so feel free to message me if you’d like some eyeballs on your form or program!
Click the snapshot below or use this link for the full battery of tests to explore, with links for each row for more resources: