Strength Training for Ultimate – Program Structure Considerations

Posted December 23rd, 2010 by Mackey and filed in Fitness, lifting, recovery, workout plans
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  • Emphasize the big-money lifts; put them first in your training day.  You’re asking for trouble if you fatigue yourself before you lift heavy. (Yes, you can end with squats and the like – but if you’re going heavy, best to lead with it)
  • Work the bigger muscles first, end with smaller (squats before calf raises – though I’m not keen on calf raises at the moment).
  • Try to limit workouts to a max of 6 exercises or so – much more and you’re working too long, or not devoting enough time (sets/rep wise) to each one.
  • Time-wise, aim for less than one hour working out (longer with warm-up and cool-down is fine).  Extended stress pushes up cortisol release, which has deleterious effects on muscle growth/recovery and immune function, among other things – get in, do work, and get out.  If it’s not enough to do it within an hour, you might want to split the workout into two or pare down to the essentials.
  • Leave adequate time for recovery!  At least one full “off” day a week, ideally 48 hours between working muscle groups, work in low-intensity/change of pace recovery days, take deload weeks every 4th week or so (less often for novices).
  • Sleep, incidentally, is a form of recovery too – don’t underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep for both your energy level and muscle growth.  Sleep is when growth hormone levels spike; do yourself a favor and get more rest – your brain and body will both be grateful.
  • Nutrition goes right along with this – try to eat your best on your pre-training days and before workout on the day of.  If you’re going to indulge the sugars or leave your body short-handed on refueling calories, best to do so immediately post workout for the former and before an off day for the latter (not that I really recommend either for serious athletes).
  • 3-4 days lifting a week is both necessary and sufficient for an off-season program; this may be worth scaling back (either in days or workout length/intensity) when in-season/playing a lot depending on how well you recover between days.  For ultimate anything more than 3-4 days lifting is excessive, will hinder your recovery, and generally be an inefficient use of time (spend it throwing or reading blogs instead ;-) ).
  • Generally speaking, our sport is lower-body explosive dominant – emphasize lower body strength first (squats, deadlifts, and when you’re ready, consider learning how to do cleans properly).
  • Upper body strength of course has its use too – look at Olympic sprinters.  Throwing the disc has more to do with lower body and core strength than big biceps, but arm stability (especially at the shoulder) and grip strength are both key players too – don’t leave it out.
  • Other relatively ultimate-specific training considerations:
    • Rotational power and stability.  Cables and bands are good ways to progressively load rotation (and stabilizing against it – try Pallof Presses); medicine ball throws are an excellent option for developing power. You don’t have to do exact frisbee throws here – in fact, it’s better to leave that specific work for just the disc lest you train to throw slow.  Develop power independent of the specific motion and then learn to incorporate it into your game.
    • Lunging – doubly a consideration in that it’s useful for throwing and that we heavily favor one leg for this;  the off-season is a key chance to assess your range of motion and strength disparities between legs. Gray Cook advocates working the “deficient” side an extra 2 sets or 2-3x as much for improving mobility (ie, during your warm-up – you ARE doing mobility work to warm up, aren’t you?); strength-wise, make sure that the weak side determines maximum loading on exercises like lunges (don’t reinforce the difference by doing extra reps or weight on your strong side) – you may want to add an extra set to the weak side if you’re really deficient.
  • Generally speaking, athletes see more functional carryover to sport from unilateral loading – ie, single arm, single leg…use the bilateral big loads (squats, deads etc) to stimulate growth, but, especially as you get closer to pre-season and in-season, recognize that the unilateral work is what’s going to keep you healthy.  More on this in the next post.

55 Responses to “Strength Training for Ultimate – Program Structure Considerations”

  1. Great thoughts here! All solid advice. I’m curious what kind of splits do you choose to do on your 3-4 days? Or are you all full body all the time? Do you vary this depending on the time of year?

  2. Mackey says:

    I do vary depending on time of year – ideally I go 4 with an upper/lower body split in off-season, early pre-season, or other times of year when I’m doing less conditioning/playing – this gives me more days in the gym doing foam rolling and mobility work as part of my warm-up, more days to stay in the habit of training, more total time spent getting stronger without going overboard.

    In-season I keep a better fitness habit with 3 days lifting a week, usually full-body but focused more on lower-body work (though I’ll adjust down to 2 lifting days depending on the intensity of tourneys, etc going on)…definitely varies a lot depending on how much other work I’m doing though and what my fitness goals are for that point in the season.

    Honestly I’m still tinkering a lot and really looking forward to mixing it up this year (really eager for in-season work now that I’ve been working through the book you suggested on non-linear periodization). Half of what keeps me excited for going back to the gym is the excitement of the living experiment that is my body!

  3. Yea that’s pretty much exactly what I do too. :) I do find it odd that most books I read rarely use or even mention the upper/lower body split. I was starting to worry I was the only one. Evidently, the upper/lower split is more common in powerlifting circles so maybe that’s where I got it from.

    I’m still tinkering too. (Always will be I hope!) I’ve started incorporating nonlinear periodization ideas for all of my training all year round. Last year this ended up manifesting itself as at least one heavy day and one light day per week where I did more one legged and/or body weight exercises. Now I’m trying to get a little more advanced than that. My training schedule is definitely a work in progress!

  4. [...] try asking UltimateRob, Mackey’s thoughts on Strength Training for Ultimate, or Melissa Witmer at her new site, before and/or after we wish you an Ultimate & Fruitful [...]

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