It’s taken a little while to organize and translate my stuff into a format to put up online, but here’s what I got from the UCPC last month:
I know I’ve been neglecting this blog for some time, but I’ve been keeping as active with ultimate as I’m able.
Last year I helped captain Wild Card, a new mixed team out of Boston, to a Nationals appearance and 15th place finish last year – an experience which involved a lot of application of much of what I’ve written about here strategically, as well as a lot of other skills besides. (It also took up most of my mental writing-about-ultimate capacity, hence the drought of blog posts).
With the Ultimate Coaches and Players Conference making a return this year, I jumped at the chance to share some of what I’ve learned about starting a new team and leading it to high-level success, and I hope to share that knowledge on this blog, too.
For those looking for details on the UCPC, you can check out the conference’s website, and follow their facebook and twitter feeds for updates. (Register before Friday to save!) There’s a really exceptional list of speakers and seminars this year, and I’m honored to be listed with them and share my experience!
This post is partly to inform readers to expect at least a couple new posts as I gear up for this talk, but also partly a request: what would you like to hear me speak about on the topic? I plan to ask my audience this same question but this will help me prepare better for them and really target my talk to as broad a range of interests as possible.
This is a wonderful idea to toy with in your training, especially in-season, once you get to a point where you have the basics down; there’s a recent article on T-Nation that explains it a bit.
Sorry for lack of writing; every time I hit a brief break from school, I imagine myself as having more time than I actually do. Presently my life is dominated by surgery. My main ultimate-related ventures involve captaining & organizational efforts for a new mixed team, Wild Card, that I’m helping start this year & am very excited about!
Tara Martin, I saw your comment on wanting some injury-related writing, specifically on recovering & managing them – great topic! I’d definitely recommend checking out Injury Timeout for some basics on common injuries. Jamie Nuwer is right now what I hope to be in 5+ years; if I find the time I’d love to write and expand on that in more depth though! I’ve coached & played with a fair number of folks nursing injuries or bouncing back from them and could definitely offer some perspective there.
If anyone has particular injuries that would be good to discuss, feel free to comment or email. And keep an eye out for some more from me whenever the next Huddle article comes out about the use of stats in ultimate.
I’ve been playing this sport for some 8 years now (yikes), and my interest in training for sport predates even that; long term I’m likely to follow in the steps of Jamie Nuwer and go into Sports Medicine. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit reading up on training, fitness, injury prevention, and putting it all into practice, and yet still I find myself learning something new every day. Thus far, no-one has stepped forward to really address the specific needs of our sport; sure, you can copy from other sports, approximate the methods of those who you view as successful, but the fact remains that tremendous potential to develop capital-A Athleticism in our sport exists in just about every player on the field, even at the sport’s highest levels.
Enter Melissa Witmer – she, along with Tim Morrill, are both taking great strides to step up the level of training for our sport. It’s been great fun watching them make continual, stellar contributions to the field, bringing all of our collective levels up in the process.The occasional elite team will hire an outside trainer, but we’re talking about people who have come up within our sport and are bringing ultimate to fitness, not the other way around. Melissa’s Ultimate Athlete Handbook is, I believe, the first fully-focused resource to this end.
This represents a huge step forward for ultimate. It’s is a real treat, and a resource I’ve been wanting for years but just didn’t realize until I had it in front of me. I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked by Melissa to write up a review, which follows. General impressions follow some specific ones below:
Every year, I watch in frustration as motivated players unleash huge amounts of energy to prepare for tryouts. That energy, however noble, seems to be pushed into physical talent training. To say this another way: I see players that cannot yet catch and throw at the top club level ignoring those parts of their game to add ten pounds to their squat weight or to run two track workouts a week. No matter how fast that player becomes, they still don’t know where to run. No matter how many Air Alert sessions they complete, they still don’t catch consistently enough to play on the team.
This is a trap I routinely fall into, especially as I’ve gotten further away from college and regular opportunities to play become more rare. I have easily been in some of the best shape of my career these last couple years, and have translated that into some extra on-field slipperiness, but all the gym work in the world won’t directly translate into better throwing consistency or confidence hucking and breaking the mark that I need to take my game up a notch. It won’t make me better able to anticipate on defense. It won’t help me develop a sense of timing and reading my opponent to shake and bake in perfect time to get the goal.
Don’t neglect your skill work! Friends who can push you in this regard are absolutely priceless – throwing buddy, marking buddies, man D drill buddies. Visualization for when you’ve got down time with no partner. Skill often trumps athleticism in this sport – at the highest level, you could argue that athleticism is necessary but not sufficient. Keep honing your Talents.
I’m presently doing rotations in San Francisco for a couple months (working at California-Pacific Medical Center‘s Pacific Campus); as such, I am a long ways away from Dartmouth’s free-for-student gym access and the resources it offers. Unfortunately, my current finances and location are such that I have no close, cheap gym options to get my iron fix on. At this point, it’s a bona fide jonesing to lift heavy; there is something deeply satisfying to me about a heavy pull or nailing that last squat in a set that is hard to recreate elsewhere, but necessity is the mother of invention, and here I am needing to gear up for another season without my old, comfortable training allies.
So, what’s the alternative? There are a range of options for the aspiring trainee without a power rack:
- Acquiring a decently-weighted kettlebell enables a lot of strength and power work without a lot of expense or equipment
- Likewise, a TRX setup allows for several motions (I’m thinking of inverted rows and other pulling movements, but also unstable pushups, ab “rollouts” and bulgarian squats with an unstable rear foot) that broaden the palate of strength training options.
- Finally, the best implement to master is the one that you carry with you every day – your own bodyweight. Many challenging movements exist that push not only your strength, but your balance and aid in the development of athleticism.
In the interest of not paying excessive baggage fees, I opted against bringing my kettlebells out here – I have put together a homemade TRX setup for under $30 that I highly recommend (though they just came out with some elastically-rigged “Rip Trainer” that I’m dying to emulate as well). I’ve been using it mostly for inverted rows but there are many, many options to incorporate this into one’s training.
General Concepts in Strength Training
But enough about that – the meat of this post is about bodyweight strength training. A general review of the notions of how to improve strength includes a few options:
- Moving a heavy load. This engages the nervous and (depending on how heavy and how long) muscular system to both improve the capability to express the strength you have, as well as stimulate muscle growth with enough volume.
- Moving a less-heavy load, at high speed. This method focuses more on engaging the nervous system – with an intent to move at full speed, you recruit more muscle units and therefore train more of your muscle mass on a movement. This is generally the case when doing olympic lifts or dynamic effort work on the basic lifts.
- Moving a less-heavy or light load to the point of fatigue or failure. This method, often used by bodybuilders, is intended both to maximize time under tension for a given muscle group (believed to be a prime variable for stimulating muscle growth); additionally it’s thought that the last few reps of each set occur at a point where the smaller, weaker muscle units are so fatigued that you cannot help but recruit the larger, more powerful units, allowing you to stimulate a large percentage of the muscle to adapt, grow and improve overall strength capacity.
My personal bias has always been more for methods 1 and 2 – with method 3 you lose some of the nervous system training component (typically one ends up “training slow” doing bodybuilding work and not developing athletic qualities such as speed and explosiveness; there’s also the notion that this encourages adding less-functional muscle mass. If you’re training for speed, every pound of excess weight, be it fat or muscle, that isn’t making you faster is slowing you down; I’m also not fond of training to failure on a regular basis, as it tends to promote more lasting fatigue and injury risk). With bodyweight work one ends up necessarily trending more toward the low-load, high-rep end of the spectrum, but there are ways to keep efforts challenging enough to develop real strength.
Increasing the Degree of Difficulty
This is something I plan to focus on – if our sweet spot is somewhere less than 15 reps/set to maintain at least some strength development, it’s important to progress in the type of movement being done to keep it challenging. Examples of this are progressing from a split squat to a Bulgarian (rear foot-elevated) split squat, or adding range to reverse lunges by doing them off of a step, or elevating one’s feet while doing pushups. One does not need weight to make such progressions.
Another way to go about this is to regularly change the exercises done. If after a few weeks pushups are feeling too easy or taking too long to get the effect you want, experiment with handstand pushups against a wall. Return to pushups again later, try a different progression, and see if allowing your body to “forget” the movement doesn’t allow it to become useful again.
An additional way to go about this is to add a high-velocity component to the exercise. Again, time under tension and doing slower movements can be good for stimulating growth, but it fails to develop explosive athleticism; rather than (or ideally, in addition to) doing slow, controlled reps of your split squats, try an explosive variant like split squat jumps or scissor kicks (or work the absorptive rather than generative side of explosivity with some jumps to lunge position landings). One could even combine methods and start with an explosive variant and transition to a more controlled version once fatigue makes the explosive version too hard to sustain.
Diminishing Rest Intervals
Finally, if there’s anything I’ve learned from Crossfit it’s the magic of incorporating a time element. Sure, you might be able to do 50 pushups at one go, but how long does it take? What if every 10 pushups you alternate with some lunges or air squats? What if these pushups are at the bottom position of a burpee? If you’ll pardon this coming from a scientist, there’s something magical about what happens when you take routine exercises and integrate them into a larger circuit, when you track time and incentivize doing more work with less rest – this probably also relates to the time under tension concept, where it’s not only the overall volume, but the density, that stimulates the hormonal responses that encourage growth.
More to Come
Those are the general considerations. I’ve decided to follow more of a set program for my bodyweight training rather than wing it entirely (based off of the Vertical Jump Development Bible‘s bodyweight strength program – incidentally, the whole thing is a great read for some grounding in basic concepts of athletic training), but I’m hoping to actually lay it out more specifically along with the rest of my training plan in a future post.
This site has been silent for too long, and for that I apologize. Some updates for you:
- Personally, I’ve had a full year. Finished the study grind (well, one of them) wrapping up year two of medical school and passing Step 1 of my Boards (there are 3 steps total) in July; since then I’ve been busy in the hospital and clinic getting hands-on training and exposure to patients trying to translate my knowledge of how health and disease works into the more functional side of how do we recognize and treat illness in real people. After two years of struggle I finally feel like I’m starting to thrive and get some certainty on my future career path – life is very good.
- Ultimate-wise, I wound up playing mixed with Ballometrics again this year; we wound up losing at the end of Saturday at Regionals in what is always a tough Northeast region. This year I’m looking to take more of a leadership role still playing coed and am excited and energized by the prospect of helping lead a team to something great.
- Writing-wise, I’m hoping to do better with updating this blog – short-term plan is to do some reflection on my training this year (with my schedule and travel I’ve had to forsake the weights, which has made for more interesting decisions). I’m also planning to re-work some of my older material on strategy and skills and deliver it to Skyd for republishing, with perhaps the occasional new feature there as well. I haven’t quite figured where I’ll draw the line on what goes where yet, but I’ll certainly link from here to anything that goes up there.
I wish I could say I’ve written enough here to do a retrospective “best of” but that’s simply not the case – but stay tuned for more to come!
Any training self-planner, whether fledgling or veteran, would do well to heed her words on priorities and flexibility – both are keys to success for we amateur (yet comitted) athletes for whom life can get in the way of what’s ideal.