The Ultimate Athlete Project in...Colombia

author - melissa witmer clinics

Seven cities, six weeks, and over 100 athletes makes for an intense but awesome trip through the beautiful country of Colombia.  In Medellin and Bogota I taught mainly captains, coaches, and club players.  Cali and Neiva players were mostly university students.   Excellent hosts, great food, and beautiful scenery are what every stop had in common.  More importantly, every place I visited players were passionate about learning anything they could to take their game to the next level.

The clinics were two full action-packed days over a weekend spread out over three evenings during the week.  Each clinic was a little different, but the basic ideas we covered remained the same.

The clinics were an all-encompassing tour of how to develop the athletic qualities necessary for the ultimate field.  I organized the clinics a bit like I would organize a workout.  We started each day off working on fundamental movement patterns, then did our high intensity and motor skills work right after a warm-up.  Lastly we did conditioning.

The first day was spent with more of an emphasis on multidirectional movement patterns.  The second day we focused more on linear speed and acceleration.  Each day was a combination of theory and practice.  Athletes learn by doing.  But we also took time each day to summarize key points as athletes took notes and practiced putting together their own workout plans.

Keep reading for a virtual clinic of your own!

A Weekend of Ultimate Fitness

Day 1: Morning

The Foundation

I started every clinic talking about the neutral spine, the athletic position, the squat, the lunge, and the hip hinge.  We returned to fundamental building blocks of athletic movement as at least one of them applied to every other topic.

The first goal is to help athletes feel what a neutral spine should feel like.  In almost every strength training exercise, having a neutral spine is important for safety.  Experimenting with the athletic position and the relationship between the center of mass and the feet helps athletes get the most benefit from speed and agility drills.

We reviewed at least one of these fundamental postures or movement patterns as they applied to the other topics throughout the weekend.

Mobility and Stability

Once the neutral spine position was established, we talked about how the role of the core is usually to maintain this position while the hips and the shoulders remain mobile. We looked at common compensation patterns that can exhibit themselves in spinal posture if mobility in the shoulders and hips is not maintained.  We did many drills to help the athlete become aware of the difference between movement of the spine versus proper movement of the hips and shoulders.

The next step is learning some mobility drills which can be used to maintain and increase the mobility of the hips and shoulders.  Many of these drills become part of the training regimen by putting them into the warmup routine.  This ensures that mobility is taken care of on a regular basis and prepares the joints to move through their full range of motion in training.

Complete Warmup

A complete warm-up does not have to take a long time, but it does should consist of three parts.

  1. Mobility
  2. Body
  3. Nervous System

First, we do some mobility drills and possibly some stretching.  Second, movements of medium intensity with a full range of motion in the joints get the blood flowing and raise body temperature while getting the body ready for higher intensity movement.  Third, we do drills that focus the nervous system and get the muscles firing at full intensity.

Agility and Quickness Drills

Footwork drills are all about deviating and returning to a balanced athletic position.  When you can understand how various drills are related and understand the basic concepts behind them all, it is much easier to get your body to do what you want it to do!

Here is where we really revisit the relationship between the center of mass and the feet.  It is the feet moving outside of the center of mass that allows an athlete to push themselves in the direction they want to go.  The ability to move the feet outside the center of mass and back under quickly allows the athlete to be quick, to disguise their movements, and to change direction rapidly.

While doing line or ladder drills the athlete should be aware of their center of mass.  In this waltz and cut drill, the athletes center of mass stays at about the same height and also over the line between the cones until the final step when the athlete uses the step behind the center of mass to push himself in the opposite direction.

In addition to footwork drills, we spend a lot of time on progressions leading up to the 5-10-5 drill.  In this drill, athletes learn how control of the hips is influences foot placement and quick changes of direction


Again we started with the fundamentals.  Before getting serious about training for jumping, the athlete has to be able to control their own body weight when landing.  So first we worked on landing mechanics with both legs and on one leg.  (The following video is of high school kids in Chapel Hill, North Carolina).

We then went through a progressive series of plyometric drills with a large focus on form and the details.  If you can do one series of plyometric drills really well, the same principles can be applied to all of the others.  These main principles are learning to use the hips and get full extension.  Additionally, we emphasized complete focus on each repetition, recovery between repetitions, and landing quietly with good form.

Day 1 Afternoon

Strength Training

After lunch, we talked about strength training and program design.  We discussed how to put together a basic strength training plan with hip dominant, knee dominant, pushing, pulling, and core work.  Exercises of each type were demonstrated.  In all of my writing, I emphasize the importance of including single-leg training and exercises that challenge core stability in addition to working the upper or lower body.  We discussed various ways of designing a program depending on the number of days per week and equipment available.

In Colombia, there are many “outdoor gyms” which have benches, pullup bars, and other types of equipment.  Though the equipment is limited, in Bucaramanga we found many exercises we could do of all types on their outdoor gym.

I was very happy to clear up many misconceptions about strength training.  Some athletes are still under the impression that strength training will cause them to get larger and become slower.  We talked about using different repetition ranges and lifting protocols for different purposes and how to organize their strength training into a long term plan that will get them the type of results they are looking for.

Warm-up II and Conditioning

After the strength training talk and digesting lunch, it was time for conditioning!

We took this opportunity to do a second warmup and experiment with more options for mobility and warm-up drills.

Because we worked on primarily lateral motion in the morning, we echoed this with a multidirectional/lateral conditioning session in the afternoon.  Conditioning workouts were very similar to what I plan in The Ultimate Athlete Project with two halves of intervals to ensure high intensity, high-quality work.

Athletes divided into groups of 4 players each so that the work/rest ratio would be 1:3.  Part 1 consisted of three exercises that everyone did twice.  Then we rested for 4 minutes and did part 2, going through the line 4 times.

Part 1: My typical lateral movement workout

rest 4 minutes

Part 2: 5-10-5 , 5 frog jumps and repeat

Day 2: Morning


Practicing Partner Stretching

First thing in the morning we talked about stretching theory and practice.  This wasn’t something I had originally planned for the clinics but there were so many questions and misconceptions surrounding the topic of stretching, I couldn’t ignore it.  Most ultimate players still think that the flexibility of a muscle is related to its risk of injury, and this just is not the case.  So we discussed what actual research and practice tell us about injury prevention.  We discussed the science behind stretching; when to use it, and different ways to do it.

Linear speed and acceleration

Next, it was on to another opportunity to try more warmup drills before working on linear speed and acceleration drills.  Strength training is more important for speed development than speed drills.  However, running is a motor skill and so it pays to help athletes develop awareness for what their bodies are already doing while running.  We worked on arm action and again emphasized the importance of hip mobility in sprinting.

Acceleration is more important than top-end speed in ultimate and so we spent more of our time on acceleration drills.  Drills like the lean/fall/run drill and the three-point start help athletes to learn the best angle of acceleration.  Like any motor skill, these things are learned by experimentation, trial, and error. 


The sessions during the day are roughly in the same order of what they would be if you were doing a workout including several athletic qualities at once. Mobility, warmups, speed/agility/plyometrics, then conditioning.  So, following our linear speed work, we did another session of interval training.  We did a few intervals at 80% sprint speed.  During the workout, athletes were able to pay attention to the running mechanics we had just practiced

Day 2: Afternoon

Program Design

After lunch, we again worked on integrating everything we’d been learning through the weekend into a practical plan.  Players spent some time putting together workouts for themselves based on everything we’d been discussing through the weekend.  This gave players an opportunity to evaluate what they were learning and to ask specific questions.  You don’t really understand something until you can apply it.  The clinics have not done their job is an athlete cannot go home and then integrate what they’ve learned into their workouts in the following week.

Drills with Discs

After two days of focus on physical preparation, we finally bring some discs into the picture.  Using drills with discs makes it more obvious how specific to our sport the work is.  Again we made a distinction between drills that are done to increase agility and quickness and those that are done for conditioning.  For agility drills, each repetition is done with complete focus.  We treat agility as a motor-skill and allow enough rest between reps for full intensity performance.  Conditioning drills may even look like some agility drills but they will not increase agility unless you are performing within the top 10% of your maximum speed.

Conditioning drills with discs are especially good during the preseason.  They are especially good for new players who need to work with a disc in hand as much as possible.  And they are great for kids because they are fun!  At the same time, as intermediate players become more skilled, they can perform the drills at faster speeds, naturally increasing the intensity.

Two common conditioning drills with the disc are mushroom drills and throwing shuttles.  Below, a friend from Lancaster and I demonstrate:



I have to give a HUGE shout out to AJUC for organizing the whole thing.  As an organization, they really have it together despite being a relatively new entity in Colombia.  Also, this would not have been possible without Andres “Frijole” Angel who was my main point person as I traveled all over the place.  Props to him for making it work despite some challenging logistics.

Thanks also to all of my hosts, local organizers, translators, and all of the athletes who took the time to spend a few days with me.  Two days is a long time to stay focused.  I appreciate the attention these players brought to the clinics and the passion that all of the players have for becoming better athletes and players!

If you’d like to have a clinic in your area, talk to your local or national organizers and have then get in touch!