We're calling for an end to winter slump and the beginning of effective off-season training.
Working out is hard in the winter, especially in Minnesota where the days are short and the cold is relentless. It can be especially difficult for young women to find successful and healthy off-season training because of the lack of accessible resources that are marketed towards women specifically looking to start strength training. The majority of weightlifting workout plans and media are targeted at men. Women’s health material is often filled with content about diet plans, toning muscles and weight loss. In fact the 2016 most popular weight loss plan, the 3 Week Challenge, reports customer demographics with 60% women. An unfair reality for active women is that we have to struggle with mansplaining at the gym, finding female workout spaces, and navigating an industry that perpetuates sexist beauty standards.
(Check out this mansplaining at the gym cumulation by buzzed. Sound familiar?)
To support strong, powerful, active women and girls we partnered with Ascent fitness and trainer Marissa Lyons to create a six movement workout for ultimate specific gym training. These moves build explosive power and strength while considering the female anatomy and resulting in performance increases on the field.
What anatomical differences impact athletes of different genders in the gym? What is the most effective way to train as a female ultimate player?
Ultimate is an explosive sport and requires strength to sprint, jump and throw. On average, male athletes are stronger than female athletes, due to higher levels of testosterone and structure. However, research shows that with training women can be just as strong. Also, research shows that women tend to naturally have more stamina than men. So in short female athletes will see the most improvement when they get off the elliptical and hit the weights.
What specific exercises can non-male athletes train to improve their on-field performance?
These 5 exercises are my essential exercises for all athletes – and can be done anywhere. Once, you master these there are endless amounts of drills and variations you can do to increase strength, power and endurance.
A. Deadlift – The deadlift is the foundation of all athletic movement. It strengthens your posterior chain and builds core stability allowing you to jump higher, run faster, and throw further. You can deadlift a Kettlebell, barbell, sandbag etc. Get the form down and then make this one heavy (don't be shy)!
B. Bulgarian Split Squat – Ultimate is a super asymmetrical sport – we pivot and lunge on one foot, we rotate one way to throw, and you probably also tend to cut off of the same foot over and over again. This imbalance over time can lead to injuries. Therefore, it is important to Isolate each leg for strength training to balance out your strength and prevent injury. You should feel this one in your glutes - make sure your knee tracks your toes and does not go in - at the bottom of the squat flex the glutes press through the ground with your foot. The goal here is to work up to 8 reps with 2/3 your body weight. You can use dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell. Start light and work your way up. Protip: do this one without shoes.
C. Crawl – Most women (unless trained) lack shoulder stability. This inhibits our ability to throw far, jump in the air with confidence, and layout safely. The crawl is the best way to build core strength from the shoulders to the hips. Plus, if you do it enough you will be able to make it a cardio workout. The coal here is keep your torso stable – put something on your back and see if you can crawl 10 yards without it falling off. There are no limitations to how you can crawl: do a box, crawl in circles, crawl across a log…
D. KB Swing – The Kettlebell swing takes the strength you build in the deadlift and turns it into power. This exercise is essential for increasing strength, vertical jump, and is also great for conditioning.
E. Jumps – To be better and safer at Ultimate – women must practice jumping. Start by practicing landing. Go up on your toes and come back down into a squat. Then just practice - add a few sets of jumps to every practice. Start with jumps where you land on two feet and work your way up to single leg landing. For example, do 4 sets of 3 box jumps. Jump to a height where your landing is so soft you barely hear it. Keep the reps low and add sets or complexity as you improve.
F. Hang/ swing/ pull/ climb: As mentioned earlier, in general, women have underdeveloped shoulders compared to our masculine counterparts. Once again this is partly biological, but it is also greatly environmental. In general, boys are more encouraged to do activities such as climb trees and throw things - these practices develop strong and stable shoulders. So, to build the shoulder strength, stability and range of motion needed to throw further, mark better, jump higher etc, we need to go back to the origins of shoulder strength: hanging and swinging. Yes, the monkey bars! Start by finding a bar that you can hang from at full extension. Lift your feet from the ground and just hang there until you can hang for about 15 sec. Once you have that down start adding motion. Swing your body side to side and back and forth. Then practice hanging with your arms bent, one arm bent the other straight etc. After doing this for awhile, start releasing one hand from the bar. Pro tip: go find a playground and hang, swing and climb. This type of exercise will strengthen your shoulders in all planes of motion which will make you a better thrower. I've also found Climbing gyms to be a great way to ease into this - use your feet to take some weight off and explore pulling yourself up a wall in various positions and angles.
Good luck on the workouts! Shoot us a picture of you or your team taking on the gym #StronGirlsMakeStrongWomen and check out Ascent Fitness of Facebook!
Introducing Inside Out, a weekly blog written by GUPI board member, Emma Piorier. Inside Out will reflect on Emma's experiences as a youth athlete within Club, high school and college Ultmate through the lens of gender and gender equity. The goal of Inside Out is to highlight the experiences of a youth female athlete, introduce thought provoking questions about gender in our sport and comment on current events within the Ultimate community. Emma hopes to create dialogue about the sexism that plagues athletics, dismantle the apathy we have towards subtle sexism and promote youth ultimate players.
Emma Piorier founded GUPI her senior year of high school when she became frustrated with the lack of inclusion, appreciation of and advocacy for youth female athletes in the Ultimate community. She is now attending the University of Puget Sound where she is playing frisbee, studying spanish and politics, hiking around Washington and writing for GUPI.