Off-Hand Throwing Challenge

One of the biggest causes of poor on-field power production and injury in ultimate is asymmetry. We pivot on one of our feet, lunge with the other, and throw with one arm, which causes a major imbalance in our body. Running and cutting are supposed to use both sides of our body equally, but that’s impossible with poor strength/activation on one side! Working off-hand throws is one of the best ways you can address this problem, and you can also sneak these throws into games to befuddle your mark!

This program will help you gain confidence in throwing both accurate and longer off-hand throws. The core work is included (along with some new warm-up exercises) to help your off-hand core and shoulder work the way they need to in order to produce finesse and power, and you’ll be doing more reps with your off hand to facilitate muscle memory. Most of the time you’ll be practicing with a different pivot foot - this is important for engaging and strengthening the other side of your core and building the strength up your whole kinetic chain for best running/jumping ability.

Following this program to the letter isn’t required to get better at off-hand throws - there are many approaches and this is just one. Before you start, do some accuracy and distance testing with both hands so you can measure your progress! Also, take the time to write down differences in how it feels when you throw with your off hand (less coordinated/less stable/not as powerful).

If you’re in Seattle, check out our workshop on using off-hand throwing in game this weekend, hosted by Seattle Sockeye (with goalty afterwards)! We’ll also be hosting a fun competition at the gym at the end of the month so you can rock your skills!

You should do this program a couple times each week if you want to see progress - it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to complete, though you can definitely go through the circuit more than once if you have the time!  

GET STARTED HERE!

 

Lifting Together as a Team

More and more, ultimate players and their teams are recognizing the benefits of a progressive strength training plan paired with conditioning workouts and conventional practice. What’s incredible is that the Seattle community has an awesome space to gather and use for their teams to do this strength training work together, and then some! If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard of the place. ;)

Yes, this post might sound a bit like an advertisement, but honestly, I want to let you know about the incredible resource we’ve built for you if you’re here in Seattle. If you don’t live here, I want you to know what kinds of characteristics you can look for when trying to find a place for your team to train. Or, you know, you can always move here!

 

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Equipment & Space

Ultimate players can get by working out on machines, but you won’t get all the maximum benefits of strength training until you’re slinging around some free weights. Some bonus things to look for in a gym for ultimate players are solidly built plyo boxes for training jumping and power, and sleds for working on your acceleration (one of the most important parts of winning your matchup!). I also love training with kettlebells in addition to dumbbells, since you can do some more dynamic movements with them as the mass is centered away from the handle. As far as barbells go, you’ll want them on silky bearings that allow you to snap through some Olympic lifts if that’s your jam. Bonus points if the gym lets you drop your weights - many gyms don’t allow this because the weight plates aren’t the right type for this or because there’s not enough space to do this quickly.

The good news is, as a strength and conditioning facility where we thought intentionally about what ultimate players need, we’ve got all that stuff. Most importantly, we have enough of all these things and enough space that your whole team can get involved in this training together. We’ve already had several teams come in and work with us, whether as a team rental or under the supervision of our coaches. Seattle Mixtape players Lexi Garrity and Evan Klein, “love that my equipment is always available,” and that they’ve, “been able to use weight sleds and boxes that are normally not available… in a gym designed for the average joe.” Sockeye captain Simon Montague lauds, “the availability of space/equipment for the entire team to lift, combined with the throwing and training benefits of the adjacent turf, provides the most ultimate-friendly training space in the Seattle area!”

 

 

Coaches

When looking for a Strength and Conditioning Coach, you want to find someone who is certified by a reputable organization and really knows team sports. If you can, you’ll want to find someone who already knows ultimate or is willing to learn about it. There are some things that are good for field sports in general, but ultimate has its own specific quirks that need to be accounted for when programming workouts. The best coaches are also in touch with common injuries and their mechanisms, as well as specific muscle imbalances that arise from our extremely asymmetrical sport. You want someone who knows the movement patterns that are essential to your life and sport and knows how to adapt training to teach and reinforce those proper movement patterns. Even better, you might want a coach who gives back to the community and demonstrates a value set that aligns with yours and your team’s; that way, you know that you’re investing in a business you want to see thrive!

Goodness gracious, we have the best coaches, and they’re also incredible at writing blog posts that you find fascinating and want to read all the way through. In all seriousness, we’re a set of women who are very passionate about this sport, and we want the community to become even stronger in all the senses of that word. As a whole business, we’re committed to providing a hub for the ultimate community and reinvesting in youth ultimate, especially girls, and even more so with kids who normally wouldn’t be able to access strength coaches. Between the three of us, we can help you with strength training with all kinds of weights, targeted core and stability work, running form, soft tissue and mobility, movement evaluations...  Each of us has our own passion area and style, and we come at ultimate from different angles and experiences, so there’s bound to be a good coaching fit for what your team needs. If you don’t want coaching from us, that’s okay, too! We’ll still open the space and our hearts to you.

Of course I have to kick off the quotes from players with someone talking about how great I am personally - “it’s great to have other eyes on me for good form, especially from such a great coach as Bert,” but that’s Meagan Kapostasy from my own team, Mixtape, so take from that what you will! Heather Ann Brauer, coach of the Ingraham girls’ team, had her girls work with us and “committed to being in the gym every week during the spring season. We prioritized the time at RenFitness over even practice times - the result was obvious, we had fewer injuries, we were able to keep up with (and challenge!) the most athletic teams in Seattle. Our athleticism was noted by other teams and coaches, it helped us to achieve the most successful season in the program's history… Ren and her staff were flexible with what we needed, adjusting on the fly to really customize to the needs of the team over the season and even on a week by week basis.” Evan is excited that he “can get tailored training routines from the staff designed to aid me in specific aspects of [his] game!”

We have all kinds of team programming and coaching packages that are adaptable to your team’s specific needs. You’re guaranteed that the work we’d give you is designed for ultimate and catered to the timing of your season.

 

 

Environment

The environment of a gym is so crucial to the experience you have in the place. Look for community gyms that are focused on the workout atmosphere and show their values set clearly through the behavior of their staff and what they ask of you when you walk in. A lot of the big box gyms have contracts that ensure they can take your money. Instead, look for gyms that ask you to be respectful of others, if that’s what you value from the people around you.

When you walk into our gym, one of the first things you’ll see are the words “Strive & Uplift” in large, black font painted on the back wall. This is the environment we want for our athletes that pairs so elegantly with Spirit of the Game. We want you to reach for your goals while building up and supporting those around you!

Lexi says, “I like working in a space with like-minded people. I feel supported and not worried about a ‘jock culture’,” an often intimidating factor when walking into the free weights section of mainstream gyms. Cam Bailey, also of Mixtape and the Seattle Cascades feels “the gym has a great atmosphere for anyone looking to improve…Everyone belongs at RenFitness.”

 

 

Team Culture

 

Finally, when you choose to strength train as a team, you build a team culture around being strong and working hard together, and it makes the work more enjoyable. (Usually, you pick teammates you like and want to be around!) If you’re interested in getting the whole team into a place at the same time, look for a place that can accommodate this through private classes or rentals. If you’re looking to lift in pods, see if you can find a way to have the flexibility that a pod schedule allows, where team members can work out at times that are most appropriate for them.

We’ve restructured our team offerings to provide more options for teams on how to get into our gym. In addition to renting the space outside of business hours, setting up a class with a group of people, or using individual memberships, we’ve added a pod option within business hours. This way, a team can pay for a time during our business hours (like on weeknights!) where a group or the whole team comes in, meaning a team can set up the culture of strength training and provide multiple options for teammates to get their lift on.  

All the players from Mixtape I talked to were excited about the social joy and extra motivation that working out with teammates provides. The training the Ingraham girls’ team did at the gym “built a team culture around strength that carried over to how players showed up collectively as a team and individually as leaders.  Players were more mentally tough than in previous years and more connected, the gym really created a powerful place to grow confidence in self and team.” This kind of empowerment is true for players of all ages!



We’re so excited that we can offer teams the space to perform this valuable practice together and reap all the benefits of strength training as a squad. This is an exciting time in Seattle, where there is so much momentum behind club teams in every division. We’re so excited to be a part of this movement and growth and are here to help you harness your full potential! Let us know how you and your team want to engage with the gym, and we’ll get you started!

Why Lift In-Season?

Written by Bert Abbott, NSCA CSCS & RenFitness Team Programming Coordinator

You’re probably in one of three camps - you’ve lifted diligently over the off-season, you’ve been half-committed to strength training, or you didn’t make it into the gym much or at all over the off-season (maybe because you’re new to lifting!).

When I first started lifting for ultimate, I was under the impression that if I didn’t lift in the off-season, then it wasn’t worth lifting at all, because you can only build strength in the off-season. I was told that running was the only kind of workout you needed while in the competitive season and that I should be running ALL the time.

We love to live in extremes. Lifting is for the off-season. Running is for in-season. Horizontal stack is better than vertical stack. Reality is a lot less black and white than this.

What do these adages get right?

The off-season most certainly is the time to change how much muscle you have driving your body (for better or worse). If you’re an experienced lifter, it takes a fair amount of focus on your diet and training to add muscle mass (aka get swole). Even if you’re just starting out with lifting or dabble here and there, during the off-season, when you’re not busy with practice, pods, and tournaments multiple days a week, is the prime time for your body to focus its efforts on building muscle.

For similar reasons, in-season is the time to do running workouts, rather than in the off-season. Research shows it only takes about 14 days for your body to adapt to aerobic stress, and that adaptation goes away just as quickly. I’m not saying I can go from where I am to being a marathon runner in 14 days (nor would I want to!). What I’m pointing to is that consistent aerobic training, like the kind you get at practice or at a tournament, can drive your aerobic capacity forward. Now, if you want to really get better, there are training methods to make sure you push your body forward appropriately in that dimension.
 

What are the adages missing?

Strength and Power

If I’ve been in the gym all winter, I don’t want to lose all that hard work I’ve done. Just like with aerobic training, I can lose the impacts of the good work I’ve done by dropping the training stress that got me to that point. If I tell my body that it needs to move heavy weights around on a consistent basis, it’ll do what it needs to be able to move those weights. If I stop telling my body it needs to move the weights, it’ll direct the resources that were going to moving those weights elsewhere. Similarly, if I tell my body it needs to move moderate amounts of weight quickly, it’ll respond appropriately and develop and maintain the appropriate type of muscle fiber for that movement. Otherwise, it’ll shift my muscle fibers back to meeting my everyday needs, which are generally slow-twitch movements. It takes a lot of protein to maintain muscles!

Beyond muscle mass, there’s also a neurological aspect to lifting. In the lifting world, this is what leads to the phenomenon of “noob gainz”. I’m going to break down some science here, so bear with me. Our muscles are a collection of a whole bunch of individual fibers, and those fibers contract together to make the muscle do its action. If you gently twitch your hamstring right now, only some of the fibers in your hamstring contract. If you really squeeze your hamstring hard, the individual fibers aren’t contracting harder, you’re contracting more fibers together and that’s what makes your hamstring able to do more work. Contracting all those fibers at the same time takes coordination by your nervous system. When you decide “okay, hamstring, let’s squeeze really hard this time”, that signal needs to be sent to every fiber involved in that hard squeeze. Just walking around, I don’t really need to squeeze my hamstring all that much, but ideally, I’d like to use all of the muscle fibers I’ve got available to power my running on the field.

This is where lifting comes in. If I try to move a more weight through a movement where my hamstring contracts than I normally have to, then my body will form those neural connections it needs to get more muscle fibers engaged since that’s what’s necessary for the task I’m asking of my muscles. Additionally, if I want my hamstring fibers to work together over a short period of time, I can tell my hamstring it has to squeeze really quickly as I jump a weight up above my head.

Training this kind of neural coordination doesn’t actually take that long to get together. That’s why people who start lifting heavy experience a blissful period of time (if they’re training consistently) where they make leaps and bounds in the amount of weight they can move in the gym. The “noob gainz” are your muscle fibers figuring out how to work together; after that, it’s about building muscle mass or changing the physical composition of the fibers. Similarly, moving moderate amounts of weight really quickly (lifting for power) teaches the nervous system to coordinate those contractions over a shorter period of time. This is pretty clearly something that’s useful in sport, where, for example, you not only want to jump high, but you want to be able to jump quickly. A combination of strength and power training works together to prepare and maintain your muscles for the specific demands of ultimate.

This coordination also goes away quickly without training stress, just like the other aspects of training. It doesn’t take very long (we’re talking a cycle of a few weeks) for your muscle fibers to forget to play nicely together, and just running won’t cut it to maintain the coordination. If you want to gain and maintain your competitive edge throughout your whole tournament schedule, regular lifting throughout the whole season will keep you at max power.

 

Injury Reduction

Slowing down the movements of the sport and loading them specifically and deliberately like in the weight room has health benefits beyond increasing pure strength and power. Lifting correctly teaches your body how to activate the appropriate muscles to drive a movement rather than compensating with other parts of the body.

If I do unweighted squats or move around how I normally do on the field, I could be powering that movement any number of ways, using my quads more than I should (which puts me at ACL tear risk) or hamstrings (which puts me at a higher risk of pulling my hamstring). By slowing down the movement and putting extra weight on it, I can deliberately activate and strengthen my glutes, which trains my on-field movements to be powered by my glutes as well. Then, if I add the layer of weighting single-legged squats and focus on proper form, my knees will learn how to stabilize under higher loads, which means I’ll have more stability at higher speeds on the field.

There’s also benefits from lifting for other connective tissues. If my skeleton, ligaments, and tendons only have to hold my body together and walk or run normally, they will grow just strong enough to stand up to that stress. If I put a lot of weight on my skeleton like in lifting for strength or put a lot of force on my joints like in lifting for power, those connective tissues will get stronger to stand up to the demand. If done consciously and properly, lifting can reduce your risk of stress fractures and joint injuries, both chronic and acute.

 

No matter what your training status is, lifting in-season is incredibly helpful to building and/or maintaining a competitive advantage and reducing injury risk. Plus, if you lift with your teammates, you get yet another opportunity to bond with your teammates and work hard together! Lifting is one important part of a complete training program, and in this case, a little bit goes a long way! You don’t need to be in the gym five days a week to gain the lifelong benefits of lifting; every session you put in adds up if you’re intentional about your training. If you want help knowing what to do or how to do it, we’re here for you! We want you to be strong, powerful, and healthy, and we are eager to support you and your teammates in reaching your goals this season.

Strength and Conditioning Season Planning for Ultimate Teams

Written by Bert Abbott, NSCA CSCS & RenFitness Team Programming Coordinator

Going into the season, team leaders have a lot on their plate - who’s going to be on the roster, what offense(s) and defenses are we going to run, how do we teach them, where and when are we practicing, what will our jerseys look like… and all these questions don’t even take into account how the team is going to get strong and stay healthy throughout the season!

All too often, I see teams overlook important aspects of their strength and conditioning plan, which is costly in terms of on-field performance and injuries that come up from overusing unprepared bodies or improper movement patterns. I see teams borrow workout plans from soccer, track sprinters, lacrosse, basketball, or any number of other workouts available online. Expectations are loosely set out to do one running workout a week without contextualizing the work being done within the picture of the whole season, or with extreme tapers before every tournament. Whole categories of exercises get left out through unawareness of their importance in molding healthy, balanced ultimate athletes.

Fortunately for those who love the sport, but unfortunately for deciding strength and conditioning plans, ultimate isn’t like other sports. A sport in its own category, ultimate is a blend of movement patterns from a handful of field sports, throwing mechanics somewhat akin to tennis that create significant asymmetries in the body, and metabolic demands somewhere between hockey and running from a large carnivorous mammal. A proper strength and conditioning plan will take into account the unique demands of ultimate and prepare for all those movements in a deliberate and specific manner.

Leaders have so much to tackle already, and they can’t be expected to become experts in ultimate-specific sports science. There are professionals who spend their whole careers trying to understand how to best train for the sport’s physical demands (I now proudly count myself among them!).

Beyond progressing through conditioning workouts and making sure players are up for the cardio demands of running all weekend at a tournament, there are other important facets of training to take into account. Constantly pivoting on one leg leads to asymmetries in the body that can (and should!) be corrected through targeted unilateral strength training and soft tissue work. Pounding feet into the ground repeatedly causes stress on the joints that can (and should!) be prepared for through heavily loaded bilateral strength training and progressive plyometrics programming. Cutting and defending movements require quick movements of separate parts of the body coordinated together that can (and should!) be trained through mobility work paired with sport-specific agility.

All this just scratches the surface of what needs to be included in a plan. There’s also specific ways that each team needs to approach the balance of these exercises based on the training experience of their athletes, access to resources, and time players are willing and able to commit to training. Plus, what’s important in May isn’t the same as what’s important in September, and the plan needs to reflect that shift in focus as the season goes on.

Without structuring an ultimate team’s season plan around the demands of ultimate and the unique needs of the team, players end up wasting time simply exercising rather than training, and a lot of potential performance and injury reduction is lost. This sounds really intimidating and risky, but it doesn’t have to be!

Fortunately, we exist to help you and have dedicated our careers to learning how to assist ultimate players and teams get strong and stay healthy. If you’re interested in learning more about all this stuff, whether you’re from the Seattle area or not, contact us at renultimate@gmail.com and we’ll help you out! We’ll do the heavy lifting (well, at least the mental lifting...y'all have to lift the weights!) and research for you so that a 30 minute conversation with us can go a long way to understanding how to put together your season plan!