Tuesday Tips: Choosing the Best Ultimate Training Program, Presented by Spin Ultimate

Not all training programs work equally well for all players.

Rodu Training in Pittsburgh.
Rodu Training in Pittsburgh. (Photo: Jeremy Kanter)

Tuesday Tips is presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Spin Ultimate!

I’m going to let you in on the number one secret to the best training program for ultimate. Get your pen and paper ready, because this is something you’re going to want to remember:

The best ultimate training program is the one that fits your individual needs.

The best training plan for you is the one that meets you where you are right now and helps bring you to the next level. It must take into account your training history, current conditioning, and relevant injury history. The program should to fit into your life in a way that is sustainable. Every individual is unique and changes over time; training plans should reflect that truth.

Anyone who tells you they have the perfect answer for all ultimate players either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or is trying to sell you something.

The training program that works for your teammates might not be right for you. Furthermore, just like no two individuals are perfectly alike, no person is the same from year to year!

The world of strength and conditioning for ultimate is expanding, which is wonderful for the overall development of our sport, as well as for individuals to have choices in how they structure their training. As you wade through this information, here are a few keys for deciding what’s best for you:

  • What is your short-term training history? If you’re rolling into the pre-season after taking a true off-season, and now you’re ready to get going, it’s important to recognize where you are athletically and build from there. A lot of folks jump into pre-season track pods with their past and potential future teammates and do whatever that prescribed workout is. Maybe churning through massive amounts of high intensity sprinting is fine for the person who’s been doing running workouts for the past several months, but it’s not an appropriate training volume if this is the first time you’ve laced up the cleats since last year. There’s a general guideline that our bodies can handle about a 10% increase in volume each week before the risk of injury goes way up. Take the long view and dial up appropriately for your body rather than copying whatever the person next to you is doing.
  • What is your long-term training history? If you’re completely new to lifting, just about any kind of basic strength training will offer positive impacts to your performance and reduce your risk of injury. If you’ve been consistently lifting for a number of years, though, you are likely to stagnate if you stick with a basic program targeted at novice lifters. Conversely, if you’re a novice or intermediate, the methods involved in getting advanced lifters the training stress they need will be too much for your connective tissue and can lead to injury.
  • What kinds of modifications do you need? If you have a history of injuries that impact your ability to do generally prescribed exercises, you might want to work with a coach on an individualized program that takes your rehab and prehab needs into account. If you need more specific attention from someone who can watch you and put their hands on you, then working with a trainer in your area would be best for you. If you don’t have an ultimate-specific trainer in your area, you can try to find someone who works with a variety of field sport athletes and can learn the demands of ultimate. You could also blend a few hands-on sessions to work on your form with an online program written for ultimate. For online programs, check and see what it takes to get some individualized attention if that’s something you think you’ll need.
  • What does your life look like & how does training fit into it? Before going down the path of looking at all your different training options, check in with yourself about your availability to train for ultimate each season. Everyone has some variety of job, friends, family, school, other hobbies and activities, pets, community activism, etc. to factor into our time. Be realistic about what you can do, and find a plan that fits into that time commitment.
  • What access to equipment do you have? Some lifting programs (ultimate-specific or otherwise) use barbells and weights, others love kettlebells, and some rely solely on dumbbells. Investigate what the equipment needs are for the program you’re looking at and assess if that fits with your situation, or if you’ll need to get a different kind of gym membership to be able to perform the exercises.
  • How much money can you or are you willing to spend? There’s an old saying that you can have something good, cheap, or fast – but can only pick two. In the training world, the more customized the program and more highly trained the coaching, the more expensive it tends to be. If you don’t have a lot of money to invest in a program, there are still great options written specifically for ultimate players, but you won’t get as much personalized attention as you would with a more expensive plan.
  • Do you need an accountabili-buddy? As dangerous as it can be to copy whatever friends and teammates are doing, we’ve all got reasons for playing a team sport. If you need to have a buddy or a pod of folks working on the same training plan, involve them in the process of finding one with you! Just make sure to take all your individual needs into account. It may be that your best option for a workout buddy is doing a slightly different strength training program than you, but you can do same speed & agility workouts together.
  • Who do you trust? It’s no good to constantly second-guess the purpose of what you’re doing while you’re training. That can lead to frustration or half-hearted commitment to your plan. Consistency is key so that you can tap into the benefits of a progressive program. Sometimes ultimate teams ask the person who cares the most about fitness (but isn’t a trained professional) to put together a training plan for the squad. There are enough quality options at a range of price points that players can put this planning in the hands of professionals, instead! Depending on your particular needs, you may even want to work with someone whose education and expertise spans the boundary between physical therapy and strength coaching.
  • Who do you want to support? Every day, we have the opportunity to vote with our dollars for the kind of world we want to see. The same goes for when you search for a gym, coach, or ultimate training program. Consider what your values are, all else being equal; invest in the local independent gym or training facility, or in the ultimate program that represents the future you want to see for our sport! If you care about social justice, look for the businesses run by people of color, women, trans folks, indigenous folks, and support them!

These days, the array of possibilities for how to train for ultimate is expansive. Before jumping into a program, check and make sure that it’s appropriate for you and that it represents your values as a consumer. In the end, the most important thing is that you can commit to the training plan in a way that feels great to include in your life. Whatever you’re doing should take you to your next-level goals in a progressive, sustainable manner that reduces your risk of injury.

  1. Bert Abbott
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    Bert Abbott, NSCA CSCS, NSPA CSAC, USAW SPC, is a strength & conditioning coach with Strive & Uplift based out of Boulder, CO. As a coach, she's particularly invested in helping teams and individuals move their work in the gym and on the field from simply exercising to sport-specific training. She has captained Seattle Mixtape since 2015 and played mixed club since 2008. You can visit Strive & Uplift, including their virtual services (www.striveanduplift.com) or tweet at Bert (@359bertle).

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