Movement Analysis: Lateral vs Forward Motion

strength and conditioning

Photo by Brian Canniff for UltiPhotos


Three players from Southpaw (open team, Philly) were recorded during a pool play game at Bell Crack 2010.  Their motions were then categorized and timed.  The categories of motion were walking/standing, jogging, running, shuffling, and sprinting.  Only motions exceeding about 2 seconds were recorded.

To think about how these studies might inform our training we’ll ignore standing, walking, and jogging and assume we don’t need to train for those. That leaves us with sprinting, running, and shuffling.  For this study, we group sprinting and running together as forward motion and label shuffling as lateral motion.


Here is how the player movements break down.

Handler 1
This player, described as a very active handler, was watched for six points which lasted 16 minutes 38 seconds. He spent 1 minute 53 seconds in forward motion and a remarkable 6 minutes 5 seconds in lateral motion.
Ratio of lateral/forward = 3.27 / 1

Handler 2
This handler was watched for five points which lasted 16 minutes and 32 seconds. During this time he spent 2 minutes 37 seconds in forward motion and 48 seconds in lateral motion.
Ratio of lateral/forward = 0.3 / 1

A cutter was watched for five points that lasted 9 minutes and 6 seconds. He spent 2 minutes 4 seconds in forward motion and 1 minute 47 seconds in lateral motion.
Ratio of lateral/forward = 0.9 / 1


Admittedly these results are not consistent and this is a very tiny sample size. There is a lot of variety between players. With more data forthcoming we might also expect to see differences for handlers v. cutters and offense v. defense. Nevertheless, it is safe to conclude that to be properly prepared for the demands of ultimate, a significant amount of lateral motion should be included in any ultimate player’s training program. Even the player who spent the least amount of time shuffling spent a full third of his time in lateral motion.


I highly recommend incorporating one or two days of lateral motion per week into your training program. Planning lateral-motion days between forward-motion days has the added benefit of working on slightly different muscle groups on different days.

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