What Professional Athletes Know that You Don’t

author - melissa witmer strength and conditioning training blog

Photo by Paul Andris for UltiPhotos

Newcomers to The Ultimate Athlete Project will find that some of things we do in the program are different to what they’ve done before. Having ultimate-specific conditioning is just one example.

Conditioning is important. But what really gets the highlight reel plays—skying someone, juking your defender, laying out for the catch—is power. Speed and power are the athletic qualities that make the most difference.

This is where so many ultimate players get off track. Ultimate players tend to be SO focused on conditioning that they often neglect the athletic qualities they need most for their best performance.

What athletes and strength & conditioning coaches know that you don’t

Here are three things that are critical to athletic performance training. These are practices and concepts that you won’t learn from fitness magazines or by taking group classes at your local gym. Most fitness mags and websites are created for the general populace seeking general fitness. Athletes who want to perform in a specific sport and peak at a specific time do things differently!

1. Understanding the Nervous System

Why how you feel during your workout is misleading!

Governs how you train for speed, agility, quickness, and jumping

I agree with coach Dunte Hector's perspective of how "...elite Texas ultimate workouts looked like an injury-prone pursuit of basic fitness."

Truth is, ultimate players are sometimes least likely to do the type of training they need the most.

This is because workouts that challenge the nervous system often don't feel difficult! But it's those workouts that allow us to be light on our feet, increase vertical jumping ability, and create a real difference in our ability to accelerate.

What I'm talking about are the types of sessions where you do max effort movements with a lot of rest in between. The rest between efforts is 100% necessary for the muscles to recover. It is required because want to teach your brain to fire as many motor units in the muscle as possible. It's about coordination, not about trying to get muscle fatigue.

Training for your nervous system has to be done when the body is well rested in order to be trained properly. Ultimate players who are pushing themselves to the limit every workout won't be able to get the real benefits of speed and agility work.

Read more about our UAP speed and agility work here or get our free 6 week SAQ course here.

2. Using the Principle of Supercompensation

Governs how you put your training sessions together

It’s easier to understand with a drawing, so I’ll point you to one of my YouTube videos.

Basically, after a type of training stress, your body has a period of reduced performance capability (if you tried to repeat the same workout immediately, you would obviously not perform as well, right?). And then your body recovers, adapts, and you’d be able to do the same workout more easily. So the key is to time your workouts for these supercompensation periods so that you have maximal adaptation.

Where this shows up in training for ultimate is that many players time intense workouts too close together. Without full recovery, your training stimulus is too low in the supercompensation curve and you don’t get maximal adaptation. You may even wear yourself out over the long term. Especially when it comes to conditioning, UAP workouts are often shorter than what many players are used to. This freaks people out at first.

About a month after a player starts the UAP, I often get an email asking, “Is this really enough? I’m worried this isn’t enough for me to really get results.” But two months later, I get emails saying, “I just got back from my first tournament/pickup game of the season and wow! I could not believe it.” I’ve had those same emails again and again. 

Our commitment to the long term plan means that we time our workouts for maximal adaptation per workout NOT maximum output per workout. And we aim for long term, lasting adaptation for durable athletes rather than quick results. This is why the UAP is structured over the course of a whole season. This is not a short-term fix but a several-month, “become a better athlete” program.

3. Planning with Periodization

Governs the long term plan. It’s important!

The most common mistake I see is that players want to improve everything at once. This works up to a point, but eventually you’ll hit a plateau. For example, when your body has to choose between adapting for endurance and adapting for more power, it always chooses endurance. This is why training for endurance limits gains in power.

With proper periodization we eliminate the conflict of interests by focusing on one athletic quality at a time. Or by working on complementary athletic qualities like speed and power.

The body adapts best if you focus on one main athletic quality you're trying to improve.  Rarely do you want to completely neglect any aspect of your training, but you always want to have a clear emphasis.

If you've been on a team that does track workouts, you may have experienced attempts at this.  You start out doing 400's, then 200's then gradually decrease the distances. The thought is: endurance first, then speed. However, if you don't have speed, in the first place, are you really training to help that speed last longer?  Now the more common thinking is speed and power first, then speed and power endurance.

In The Ultimate Athlete Project, you'll start off on a basic preparation to help you learn proper form and get used to different exercises.  Then we'll be alternating strength phases with power phases through the off season. Late Off Season is when we'll hit speed and jumping work hard.  Pre-season is when we'll focus more on conditioning and move to more sports specific work. I'll even have some disc drills for you. Read more about the Five Phases of your Training year here.


What Next?

The Ultimate Athlete Project can help you to finally unleash your athletic potential. Read more about the UAP and plus a bunch of endorsements from players just like you.

If you decide it's not awesome or just not right for you,  cancel any time, no questions asked.