Skip to content

Ask Less, Less, or More?

January 9, 2011

Hi there UltiTraining readers 2011! I hope your pre-season / off-season is going swimmingly. In this edition of UltiTraining, we’ll answer a couple of reader questions. If you have any, be sure to ask them here, and/or check out the Building the Ultimate Athlete Expert Panel at

Today’s topics: training with less (equipment, money), and training with more (weighted vests). Let’s go!

@James asks,

I’ve been working my way through Boyle’s book, and was wondering if you’ve run into some of the issues of scaling I have (as a preface, I think the book’s brilliant). A rough look at it suggests a team would need a foam roller, 2-tennis-ball roller, a lacrosse ball, and a 8-10 pound medicine ball (for on-field chop and lift work, especially important i think for non-ambidextrous handlers) just to get through the warm-up and plyo parts of a practice. Additionally, his proposal for a SMR-stretch-dynamic warm up system is great in a toasty warm practice facility, but somewhat unwieldy for teams which spend much of their season suffering through cold rain and permafrost turf.

Obviously it’d be preferable to get some corporate sponsorships, get a team kit for the equipment and rent a practice field, but do you have any suggestions for the less affluent squads looking to emulate his low injury records?

Great question. One way to address this would be to start practice inside at a nearby gym or dormitory, and do warm-ups in a circuit. That is to say that you’d have half a dozen stations, each with 1-2 pieces of equipment (foam roller, 2-tennis-ball roller for t-spine mobility, lacrosse ball for the foot, med ball), and have 2-4 athletes at each station (one or two active, one or two coaching while stretching).

If it’s difficult to stay inside during part of practice, here are some cheaper alternatives.

Foam roller > large PVC pipe > carpet / the ground (!)

Use a basketball for throwing movements or even for SMR / self-massage

IronGrip barbell > barbell set off of or > Home-made Slosh Pipe > PVC pipes / bamboo

DragonDoor Kettlebells > PerformBetter KBs > T-handles > Barbell Plates with 3-ring holes > Home-made 50lb. Sandbag

For less affluent teams at the college level (or before/after), hand-made equipment can be a useful recourse, when combined with appropriate programming.

Another idea would be to have athletes individually or in small groups do SMR (with text message reminders 30 min before practice) and pre-practice stretching before they bike/walk/drive to the fields. Although perhaps sub-optimal, some SMR/stretching/mobility is better than none at all.

But let me explain some of the tools above. Foam rollers are great, but once you progress to a certain level, you can start using simple alternatives such as large-diameter PVC pipes, or more simply the cheapest roller of them all, the ground! If you simple roll around carpet you can actually get a decent self-massage, particularly in the glutes / lower-back / t-spine. For the smaller areas, try the Trigger-Point Therapy self-hands-on book.

Lifting: if the “warmup is the workout”, then even if the team cannot afford a $200-300 barbell set, you could make your own slosh pipes or sandbags (in the simplest case, a duffel bag / super-strong garbage bag / 50lb. play sand from Home Depot (as pictured below–I use this for suitcase carries, swings, and heavy Turkish get-ups).

A dozen PVC pipes / bamboo rods can be used for warming up or working out with snatches and overhead squats (learn as much as you can from this Dan John character)–50 overhead squats in a row to below parallel with a PVC pipe strictly overhead [hang some Home Depot chains if you want] with kick most athletes’ butts in no time.

Also consider bodyweight, with or without hand-made / commercial suspension trainers. For example, I have started doing “Firefighter Get-Ups” with my smaller/petite female friends (105 lb. gal on the floor “unconscious”, do a Turkish Get-up but place her on your shoulder instead, punch&crunch to lunge/split-squat position, then get-up with her still on your shoulder), and deadlifting my average-weight male friends from the ground up [not strong enough to snatch a college student from the floor just yet ;].

Cement blocks can be used for elevated push-ups, rear-foot elevated split squats (Bulgarian), and old futons can be used for layout practice. You get the idea, have fun but be safe =). Ask followups in the comments!

@Phoin asks,

Is training with a weighted vest a good idea? I have been doing hill sprints for a while now and considering using a weighted vest to go along with them for the added resistance.

Weighted vests can be useful and fun, as a tool for conditioning and strength-endurance. I guess I’d ask what the specific purpose is-–the nice thing about parachutes or sleds is that it’s your bodyweight pushing something or pulling something offset from your center of mass, whereas weight vests add weight but not in that exact way.

The argument against would be: just sprint harder / find harder hills / put weights in your hands (heavyhands) or do sled pulls / parachute, since these seem less likely to affect your sprinting form (running is a skill, not just muscle development).

The argument for would be: adaptation is useful, and vests may be good for a little variety. So yes I’d probably say it could have it’s place, but I wouldn’t necessarily do that year round / on a regular basis, but perhaps for mixing it up, or if you want to work on strength-endurance. Investing in a sled to push/pull on the field, or a cheap parachute might be more cost-effective and useful in comparison.

So.. we’d would have to know the rest of your program (deadlift / single leg squat / Oly lift / KB / bodyweight / plyo / lactate threshold?) to critique as well. In other words, what are your goals? What aren’t goals of your training? =)

Good luck!


Where to? Ways to Read, Train, Dominate in 2011

December 31, 2010

Depending on what timezone you’re in and when you’re reading this, Happy Gregorian New Year 2011! Time to make some resolutions, head back to school, start thinking about your taxes or finally figure out your off-season / pre-season training routine.

I wrote an off-season training program recently, aimed at a younger / less experienced crowd, and so while it had more bodyweight work (inverted bodyweight rows and FTW squats) than your usual S&C program, it still had “push, pull, do something with your legs” as well as a mild aerobic component. Elite athletes could probably continue sprinting right now, but for these athletes I programmed more lactate threshold work in the form of 3 minute hard, 5 minute recover intervals.

Whether you’re gearing up for the college season or hitting the club off-season right now, getting stronger is a pretty dang good goal right now. Can you bodyweight barbell front squat (or overhead squat if you must, but still slightly below parallel) or deadlift 2x bodyweight yet? I’m still working on it, time to dust out Pavel’s Power to the People, Rippetoe’s Starting Strength, or Dan John’s From the Ground Up. Ask me again in 2012 =)

But some larger programming points to think about, at this point (or I suppose any point, but now’s a fitting time =):

1) Find a good strength coach or fitness professional. Tell them your goals, your timeframe, and let them help you write a program slash course of attack.

You could coach yourself all the time, but it’s not recommended, even if you are a fitness megastar who can press half your bodyweight with one hand or what not. Think about all the Ultimate game coaches that have helped you get this far (or if you haven’t had that many stellar coaches or captains yet, uh, move to the Bay Area / Pacific Northwest?), a good strength or fitness coach could do the same for your physical / outer game of Ultimate.

College or sports gyms tend to have a list of trainers that you can see, and you sometimes can get a free assessment or discounts if you ask for semi-private group training (i.e. train me and my two Ultimate friends for an hour).

It’s really tempting to just go buy a book (if you do, I recommend starting with one by an author who has trained thousands of team-sports / field sport athletes regularly over the last ten years, such as Coach Dos Remedios, Dan John, or Mike Boyle, as they’ve been there done that and are still coaching, training, and learning along the way), but why not spend a few bucks and have a fitness expert check you out and help you figure out your strengths, weaknesses, goals and programming?

For example, I recently got my first official Functional Movement Screen (FMS) done by a local RKC who used to teach martial arts and now focuses on training clients and athletes. Details of the FMS aside, it helps a lot to have someone point out (or in many cases, just remind you) your weaknesses, whether structurally (your glute max is inactive or your left glute medius is too weak), movement-wise (you aren’t hip-hinging correctly for the deadlift, or you aren’t maintaining enough IAP–intra-abdominal pressure–whether you are pulling or coming out of the hole of a deep barbell squat), or programming (you don’t foam roll? no breakfast? water isn’t your primary anabolic? okay that last line was stolen from Señor Dan John).

2) Have a plan. Write it down. Tell a friend.

This was law four of 5 laws to train by, but in the pre-season / off-season now’s a good time to figure out where you are weak and where you are strong. Whether you buy into the CrossFit “ten fitness domains” credited to Jim Crawley and Bruce Evans of Dynamax, the Z-Health 9S model of athleticism, it’s worth figuring out & writing down what you’d like to work on. Tweet it with hashtag #UltiTraining / write it in your personal training (b)log, email yourself, just get it down on digital ink and/or paper.

3) Build on your strengths, but manage your weaknesses.

The off-season / pre-season is a good time to do all of the above, so as you find some help, write down your plan, and build on your strengths / manage your weaknesses here are some things to think about.

It takes months, years, to get strong. This isn’t to say you can’t or won’t make rapid gains, but remember that in the first 4-6 weeks, your strength gains are largely neural (you know how to use the muscles you have).

In contrast, if you were in shape a few weeks or months ago, it tends to not take that long to get back to whatever cardiovascular shape you were in not too long ago. This doesn’t mean that you should stop doing light aerobic recovery work, “roadwork” as they say in boxing, or jogging during the pre-season or off-season [sprint work if you already have a strong aerobic / lactate threshold recovery base, to get in the hip extension force development in there], but that it’s important to think about how different parts of the body respond to stress and training, over time. They say you essentially have a new heart every three days, but it takes months for muscle to develop, and longer for tendons/ligaments to heal.

Ah so we have our work cut out for us. Just don’t try tackling too much at once, perhaps put on some mass these next 6-8 weeks, then focus on RFD (rate of force development, perhaps with 1-handed DB snatches) & power the next two months, then med ball & sprinting after that, who knows, depends on where you are as an athlete and where you want to be.

Which brings us to the last point before we break towards 2011.

4) Be realistic in your training. Be quick but don’t hurry.

Professor BJ Fogg recently posted a slideshare, 3 Steps to New Habits, and you can always look back at the previous post on some top 5 training tool habits. Also see BJ in the LA Times on successful resolutions or his top mistakes for behavior change.

resolve: this guy's got it?!

If that’s too academic for you, just imagine that the Inception Cat will be coming for you if you don’t work hard, giving your personal best in 2011!

Any questions? Ask me on Twitter, @UltiTraining, post a comment on the blog, or try this to ask for feedback at

Also 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 Domination in 2011.

Foundations for the Olympic Lift

December 16, 2010

If you’ve picked up the Fall 2010 edition of the USA Ultimate magazine / looked at p. 45 of the online edition, or have been training for more than a few months, you’ve probably heard that (learning the) Olympic lifts can Be Good For You(tm).

Why? Well, if you’re a teenager or past your twenties you might need the mass-building hypertrophy & “armor building” of bodybuilder lifts (DB curl, or generally isolated less-than-functional movements), and if you’re new to strength training, learning the powerlifts (back squat, non-trap-bar BB deadlift, bench press) is a pretty easy way to go since this is what your gym buddies probably already know, for better&worse.

[Though you might want to try a combination of front squats & RFESS over backsquats, trap-bar over non-trap-bar deadlift, and skip out on bench pressing for a while, just sayin’]

But, as Dan John reminds us, Olympic lifts have more of a cardiovascular aspect than you might expect, and the body is built as one piece, and you use it as such on the field, so why not train it that way?

So we know that you can do bodybuilder (minus the functional, multi-joint compound lifts) to build some armor and mass, and you can powerlift to develop strength, but you run the risk of developing slow-strength (F=ma) rather than explosiveness/power (force over time), and you may be adding to the imbalances in your musculoskeletal system rather than working out the weak links in your kinetic chain(s).

But let’s go back to basics. The fundamental idea behind an Olympic-style lift is that you have a weight on the ground, and you want to put it over your head. Sounds simple enough, but it’s worth re-iterating how useful it is to be able to generate enough power (force=mass x acceleration over a small time period dt) into the ground and straight up vertically. Sky that biatch anyone? Or even going old school, I’m pretty sure we humans have been picking stuff off the ground and one of the hardest things to do is to hold it overhead to throw it / move it, so we’re also probably supposed to be pretty good at that, dontcha think?

Okay, so you’re on board that it’s sweet to move weights from the floor to above your head, you like that overhead work tends to be self-limiting in a good way (see Dan John’s overhead squat article), but why BB snatch & OHS rather than KB or DB snatch / OHS? Actually I think for most athletes, learning and practicing the one-handed DB snatch is a great power exercise, and the KB snatch is hella fun (although can bang up your wrists if you start doing more than 60-70 in a row, ahem, especially your non-throwing-wrist which you’ll find probably isn’t as strong as your throwing wrist…) but learning to Olympic snatch & overhead squat your bodyweight-on-a-barbell seems like a worth goal to shoot for after you’ve been training seriously for 3-4 years.

An Olympic Progression

Building off of our previous post on strength training progressions, we’ll remind you here to first master your bodyweight, some offset-center-of-mass lifts, DB lifts, powerlifts, PVC pipe overhead squats for at least a few years before you attempt any barbell Olympic lifts.

From a joint-by-joint approach, you’re particularly going to need

= Ankle mobility
= Hip mobility
= T(horacic)-spine mobility

For the ankle, refer to previous blog posts on the ankle complex and Ultimate ankle strength.

For hip mobility, I might suggest you start with what I call the “FTW squat”. I actually stole this idea from Pavel who borrowed it from John Du Cane’s Qigong program, but they call it the Face the Wall squat which isn’t as sexay. I mean, FTW squat = squat FTW, don’t you think?

How do you squat FTW? Face-The-Wall and squat down, without bangin’ yer nose or knees into the wall. Keep on inching forward until your toes are touchin’ that wall and you descend under control, slowly, with good form.

After you squat FTW for a month+, learn to do goblet squats with a light Oly plate, 175g disc, or DB / KB.

Got that down? Now spend a couple of months learning to do an overhead staff squat. I like to call this the OHSS since I do it with a waxwood composite- staff also good for reprimanding small animals and poking medium-sized athletes, and it’s easier to find cool waxwood staffs than it is a “dowel” or “PVC pipe” (how industrial-complex of you). And anyway, who doesn’t go OHSS after trying to do a couple dozen OverHeadStaffSquats in a row?

Okay, you probably got stuck around here, since even though you worked on your ankle mobility and hip mobility for a few weeks/months, you’ve never trained mobility in your thoracic spine. You might think this is shoulder flexibility, and there’s some truth to that, but as Sue Falsone reminded us at the PerformBetter Functional Training Summit, t-spine mobility is an essential element of a strength coaching program. She actually suggested we train t-spine rotation before t-spine anterior/posterior glides/mobility, which was news to me.

So for the hardcore, try the Brettzel on for size, for everyone else, a simple t-spine twist as mentioned previously is a good start. For anterior/posterior mobility you might start with TRX assisted deep squats or goblet squats where you focus on what I call “Iron Man” chest. That is, stand or squat, and “be proud” (puff out your chest as if you’re Ahnold on some Southern California beach), or just imagine that you’re Iron Man and need to fire a beam out of your chest. The key here is you don’t want your Iron Man beam to point into the ground, you want to fire it up high at the baddies, going to a bit of extension at the t-spine and arching (not rounding!) your lumbar spine a bit.

Hey, you’ve made it this far! Maybe you’re all I can has Avatar and can pass the FMS overhead squat screen, and have spent a year or two mastering your bodyweight lifts, your Turkish get-up with small children / little women (you can do this with yer 100lb+ lady friends but it’s a bit easier to learn without pressing them overhead, just plop them on your shoulder as you punch-n-crunch in the first phase of the TGU), and have decent enough ankle dorsiflexed, hips squatty, t-spine Iron Man-ly mobility, plus enough reps with a shiny waxwood staff. What’s next?

Read more…

UltiTraining: a Holiday Gift Guide for 2010

December 15, 2010

Happy Holidays from! Here are 4 Gift Ideas Under $40 for your favorite Ultimate player/trainee in your life.

1. A pair of FatGripz.

Can has thick bar training? I confess that I have these on order but haven’t received them yet (was going to wait so as to not recommend products I haven’t personally used yet, but Coach Dos and Charles Poliquin like ’em so that’s good enough for me)

Why grip training? Well, the harder you can grip, the more force your body can exert, and in general lifters / trainees tend not to train their grip at all. Also, one might guess that adding a bit of strength- and strength-endurance grip work, whether through towels / FatGripz / Kettlebell bottoms-up cleans / Farmers walks, might help you hit that 88 yard pull more consistently, but ask me again in 6 months to confirm that hypothesis =)

2. Mike Boyle’s Advances in Functional Training, for the aspiring athlete, lifter, or strength coach.

Mike does a great job in describing the state-of-the-art of what modern pro & collegiate strength coaches have learned in the last ten years. Particularly recommended are the sections on core training as anti-flexion / anti-rotation, on single-leg training and knee prehab.

You can pick up this book at, or Dan John’s Never Let Go as a great stuff-that-stocking gift.

3. For the food/smoothie/shake loving trainee, check out the NINJA!

…our third gift under $40, you can CRUSH BLEND CHOP in style once you pick this up this pro food blender/processor on or at your local CostCo (I admit I saw it and had to have it).

CHOP those onions, CRUSH your opponents, I mean ice, and BLEND that whey protein / rice milk & almond / dried coconut / creatine / yogurt / chia shake into dominator-friday-afternoon submission. Or something.

Either way, the NINJA is easy to operate, clean, and makes quick work of a power smoothie, garlic or onion for a morning omelette, and oh did I mention it’s less than $40? Just remember that I am ninja, We are ninja, but I believe that you are Ninja too.

4. Invisible Shoe Huarache Kit — grab the kit or the custom-made “invisible shoe” for a bit more.

Made from the same Vibram sole as ye old VFF (Vibram Five Finger), but a bit more hippy / less obvi when you’re cruising on the beach or whatnot.

Plus, no worrying about whether or not airport security will get angry at you for keeping your VFFs on (ahem), and a tad easier to clean as well. No more holes in my VFF toes? Count me in sista/bro.

Why Huaraches? Well it takes Ultimate feet to make Ultimate plays, and many folks undertrain ankle mobility, foot strength, and lower-body proprioception. That said, you should start foot training gently, since you don’t also want to overtrain your feet (don’t move into pain!).

Okay, so got a bit more or a bit less cash? Read more / hit the fold for some more pricier & cheaper gifts for the UltiTrainee in your life.

Read more…

Who needs a gym?

November 21, 2010

How bad do you want it?

Who needs a gym?

Check this compilation 2010 from the blog.

Read more about making your own equipment.

the 3 and a 1/2 lower-body stretches you aren’t doing

November 19, 2010

While the debate continues on as to whether stretches mainly affect/target muscles or fascia, are better placed before and/or after training, I think many of us would agree that Ultimate players would benefit from feet that are stronger and more flexible / “mostable” — mobile & stable as some would put it.

But what can we do beyond tennis balls / lacrosse balls or, as Sockeye-Taylor suggested in a previous post-comment, frozen golf balls?

Here are 3… and a 1/2 lower-body, foot/ankle complex targeted stretches you probably aren’t doing. (If you are, kudos, let us know what else we could be doing =)

1. Stretch your plantar fascia / aponeurosis by pullin’ on yer toes

Here are a few articles that describe it well: “a foothold that spurs healing” or one from the Sports Medicine blog.

Cleats often keep your feet immobile, or otherwise stress your foot/ankle complex in unexpected ways. Not to mention that from the tensegrity anatomy train perspective, your plantar fascia / aponeurosis literally connects up through your superficial back line to the lower-parts of your posterior chain that give many Ultimate athletes problems on and off- the field.

2. Stretch your soleus — the /other/ calf muscle

Ah, deep soleus! Oft forgotten, in contrast to the more superificial “gastroc” above.

Google soleus stretch for plenty of help.

3. Mobility work for your ankle complex, specifically a mild open-close stretch for the space between your talus and calcaneus.

See the video description here at UltiTraining: Ultimate Ankle Strength.

Finally, the last stretch really isn’t a stretch as just a reminder to do SMR / soft tissue work for the topside of your foot! If you need it, but I definitely needed it after this last club season…

So, what are you doin’, get yer shoes off and stretch those smotherfrictioned feet =)

Dominator Friday: Fall(ing) Edition

November 19, 2010

This week’s Dominator Friday is brought to you thanks to USA Ultimate Club Nationals, UC-Santa Cruz- Sean Ryan Memorial tournament, Alexander Yuen and Kevin W. Leclaire, and the letter F.

Photography by Alexander Yuen

Photography by Kevin Leclaire /

Read more…