Why you Need this Guide
Many ultimate players aren’t getting the best results from their workouts. Often simply because they’ve gotten stuck doing the same things they did in high school. Or perhaps they’ve bought into a popular general fitness plan because the marketing makes it seem reasonable enough.
If you think that might be you, then the great news is you’ve likely got loads of untapped athletic potential waiting to be unleashed on the frisbee field.
Even if you’re already pretty experienced in working out, even if you’re experienced in the weight room, there is still more potential in you to become faster and jump higher than you realize.
I know this is true because I’ve seen it happen for hundreds of ultimate players, and I’d like it to happen for you too.
That’s what this guide is all about. I’m going to help you understand the principles behind athletic adaptation so that you design an ultimate frisbee training schedule that WORKS.
Best of all, this does not require hours and hours of running. In fact, some of the ultimate frisbee workouts you’ll be doing are likely easier than what you’re doing now.
If you like the idea of training smarter so you can get more results in less training time, then this guide is for you.
Don’t have time to read all this now? Get the Ultimate Guide to your Ultimate frisbee workout as a convenient downloadable guide. Read and reference it whenever you need it!
Who am I?
I’m Melissa Witmer, creator of The Ultimate Athlete Project’s Strength and Conditioning program. I’ve travelled all over the world coaching players on how to train more efficiently for ultimate.
But before all of that, I used to be like a lot of you. I played a lot of frisbee. I trained a LOT, with sprint workouts, and lots of conditioning. I had an edge because I was also experienced in strength training. I knew a lot about being strong and being in shape. I even had a degree in Kinesiology.
But despite all of that - even though I was fit in college. Even though I had a ton of experience in the weight room, I became a much, much better athlete in my thirties than I ever was in my twenties. Why?
Because I finally got FOCUSED on training specifically for the results I wanted.
This guide is about helping YOU to get the results you want. Don’t settle for getting the same results as everyone else by doing the same workouts as everybody else.
You CAN do better and you can perform better.
I know these principles work for more than just me. I’ve used these principles to help hundreds of athletes from ages 16-52.
Just like my clients and UAP members, you can also become more durable, play full tournaments without soreness, stop being afraid of getting beat deep, be able to cover or BE the unrecoverable squirrely handler, and in general have more fun on the field by being able to athletically outmatch their opponents.
That’s what this guide is all about. So let’s get started!
Why your Ultimate Frisbee Workouts aren't working
Are you going to be an athlete? Or are you simply trying to get in shape? This is the first and most important decision.
Choosing General Fitness
Many ultimate frisbee players settle for using the knowledge they get from fitness blogs or YouTube channels. Or they simply continue to adapt what they learned from their high school or college sports experience.
The problem with a lot of popular fitness fads is that they are designed to help the general public. Sometimes with vague goals like "staying in shape." Or they are designed to help an overweight populace lose weight.
A trainer working with general fitness clients has the goal of keeping their clients. They can most easily do this by….
Making workouts fun by using a lot of variety
Making workouts feel hard so that people feel like they are accomplishing something and “getting what they’re paying for”
Choosing to be an Athlete
For Strength and Conditioning coaches who work with athletes, there is a different approach.
Athletes are committed, so we don’t need to worry as much about the above concerns. We can actually make a long term plan and focus on specific results.
Athletic performance training will have qualities like...
What do you choose?
I have no issue with people choosing general fitness workouts. If you play frisbee to stay in shape, then frisbee is also a general fitness workout for you. That's great! Be healthy, and be happy.
But if you are training to play frisbee, then I want you to understand how to do it properly or how to evaluate if a plan you’ve been given makes some sense.
Training specifically for frisbee is what I recommend for you if....
✓ You are trying to get to level 100% in their frisbee game
✓ You are trying to be efficient with their workout/training time
✓ You are focused on injury prevention, especially if you are getting older.(hey, it happens!)
In the rest of this guide I’ll be explaining the fundamental principles of athletic performance training for ultimate frisbee.
We will be covering
How to Get in Shape
In this section you’ll learn how to take advantage of the supercompensation curve to get in shape quickly without going for boring long runs.
Here’s where the magic happens. We’ll talk about what type of strength training you need and why it’s so important.
Speed and Agility
Learn the common mistakes most ultimate frisbee players make when trying to improve their speed and agility.
Making a Long Term Plan
A well thought out ultimate frisbee training schedule is the game changer that will help you break free from your training plateau. Make hard choices other players won't make and reap the benefits!
How to get in shape quickly for Ultimate Frisbee
The first thing I want to address is this…
Long runs are NOT the best way to get you in shape for ultimate frisbee.In fact, they will be counterproductive.
There are two reasons for this. Well, one main reason.
Your ultimate frisbee conditioning workout should mimic what you do on the field if you want it to transfer to the field.
There are two implications for this.
First up, intervals for ultimate frisbee training.
Getting in shape is about helping the body to learn to process and use more oxygen. The greatest increases in aerobic fitness will occur by working out at the speed where you’re consuming the most oxygen. However, this pace can only be maintained for six minutes before fatigue sets in and you literally cannot continue at the same pace due to muscle fatigue.
The fatigue you feel is caused by the buildup of acid in the muscle tissue. To avoid acid buildup, we would have to work out at intensities in which only the aerobic system is used. At this intensity, about 99% of the metabolic energy comes from the aerobic system. This is a pace that can be maintained indefinitely. But at no point will you actually be using nearly as much oxygen as you can. Working out at this pace does not produce gains in the aerobic system as rapidly as working out at higher intensities.
So the problem is, how do we work out at intensities in which we are using as much oxygen as possible without tiring out from lactic acid buildup?
The answer is interval training. The whole point of interval training is that you can extend the amount of time you spend using the most oxygen you possibly can with significantly less lactic acid buildup in the muscles. Beyond just being efficient, interval training is the best way to train for ultimate (or any other field sport) that requires bouts of speed and bouts of recovery.
Watch an actual game of ultimate. Pick a player and time how much time they spend in motion versus walking and standing around. You might be surprised! Between calls, the disc going out of bounds, and turnovers, there is a lot more standing around in ultimate than you might intuitively think!
So in addition to training your cardiovascular system efficiently, you are also training your body to recover rapidly from bouts of hard effort, just like you’d be doing on the field.
Stop running in a straight line
If all of your conditioning is on a track in a straight line, you may still become surprisingly tired when you step on the ultimate field despite having a good level of fitness.
The muscle groups you use in conditioning matter because the body works as a whole system. Fitness gained by bicycling or swimming does not necessarily translate as well as you’d expectto running. And fitness gained by running in a straight line won’t translate well to a sport where you are starting, stopping, accelerating, and changing directions many times per point.
Changes of direction require more core stability and single leg strength than simply maintaining movement in the forward direction. Conditioning workouts should include decelerations and changes of direction in order to reflect the demands of ultimate.
Use These Ultimate Frisbee Conditioning Workouts Instead!
With these three principles in mind, here is a sample of a typical workout we use in The Ultimate Athlete Project
Some of what we do in The Ultimate Athlete Project feels counterintuitive. It can be unnerving to do workouts that are different than what you’ve done before. I occasionally have athletes email me a month or two into our programming, worried that they might not be doing enough to get results.
And I understand! When I went into my first tournament I was afraid I wouldn’t last because I hadn’t run over 200 yards at a time in over 3 months. But not only did I last, I played in the cup all weekend and felt strong and fast until late in the day Sunday. Even more miraculously, I woke up Monday morning barely feeling sore at all! I could not remember that ever happening in my entire college career.
This is a common experience for my UAP members. At first they wonder if the volume or training is enough to produce real results. But those who stick with it often see results far beyond their expectations.
Get our FREE 6-week Speed, Agility and Conditioning plan.
“I just finished playing in my college club team's first tournament this last weekend, and it was easily the best I have ever felt during and after a tournament.”
~ Mitchell Fanning
“My condition towards the end of the season was awesome. At 36, I was probably the most ultimate fit I'd ever been. The key was I felt I could cut non stop. Even though I was still slower than many, my work rate was very high. I genuinely felt awesome at Regionals and other lead up tournaments.”
~ Wally Crocker
“We just had our first tournament yesterday, and I lasted the whole day. (Okay, maybe the last game was a little rough) I played puke/chase/mark in our zone and junk defense almost every point! It is amazing how not-so-sore I feel today!”
~ College age female UAP member
So, trust the principles and trust the training. You’ll be doing shorter, easier more frequentworkouts. It might feel too easy, and you’ll get much better results than what you’ve tried before.
If that sounds like fun, sign up for our free 6-week Speed, Agility, and Conditioning plan.
Your Ultimate Frisbee Gym Workout
If you want to be fully prepared for big tournaments, you are going to need to do some strength training.
Ultimate Frisbee Training Exercises
Many ultimate players get their strength training info from fitness magazines/blogs or from other products created for the general population. But most of the general population just wants to look better. Bodybuilding type exercises predominate these types of workouts.
We don't want to look better (well okay, we probably do). But what we REALLY want, andwhat this guide is about, is on the field performance.
You will still see some traditional exercises like the squat and the bench press in our programming, but you're also going to see strength training exercises that use your muscles in ways that are transferable to how you use your muscles on the field. Strengthening your muscles in the way they were intended to be used on the field is the key to injury risk reduction.
This concept of emphasizing more full body, complex, single limb exercises is called“functional strength training.”
Functional Strength Training
1Trains “movements not muscles”
2Emphasis on core stability
3Prioritizes single leg, lings arm training
4Takes place in a variety of movement plains
Check out one of my favorite functional strength exercises, Backward lunge to SLDL.
Try this without weight for a set of 15 or so and you'll feel that it hits those stabilizing muscles on the outside of your hip hard! These are the small muscles that guide the motion of the prime movers (your quads and glutes).
Overlooking these small muscles or letting asymmetries creep into your movement patterns increases your injury risk. This is why single leg exercises are so important for your ultimate frisbee lifting routine.
Contrast the above with isolation exercises like those weird hip adducter machines. This is NOT functional strength training. It does nothing for the neurological connection between your brain and your body as it is used in real life.
Here are five favorite functional ultimate frisbee training exercises to add to your ultimate frisbee lifting routine
WHY Strength Training for Ultimate Frisbee is Important
I think a lot of players do strength training simply because they know it’s something they should be doing. Maybe they could say they do it for injury prevention and some vague notions of performance gains.
But here’s the thing. Strength training with a professionally designed, periodized program will help your game in ways you won’t expect.
Let’s talk about how you feel Monday morning after an ultimate tournament.
My UAP member, Chris says,
I'm 45, and I was in the best playing shape of my life after 1 off-season in UAP. Before starting, I literally felt like I'd been in a car wreck after tournaments. After a season of lifting/training specifically for Ultimate, I did not feel like that after tourneys
In the dead of winter, a friend told me that I was looking really fast at indoor league. That was mind-boggling to me, because I hadn't been running at all, only doing the strength training and some amount of agility work as space permitted.
~ Kristen Franke (while captaining Scandal)
Yes, you can get faster without running! In fact, too much running can be detrimental to your speed. Functional strength training and power development will improve your running efficiency. And this translates to better speed and better endurance, especially over the course of a tournament.
Throw farther without throwing
I'm already throwing further than a month ago even though I haven't even been practicing my throws AT ALL, just doing all the exercises in the prep phase and off season phase 1. :)
This is what functional core training can do for you.
The Best Strength Training Protocols for Ultimate Frisbee
Many players simply find some strength training exercises they like and do those over and over again. That’s a sure recipe for a plateau.
The truth is, there are different sets and reps schemes that will emphasize different muscle recruitment patterns and different strength characteristics.
It’s a continuum, but in general
Functional strength training helps reduce injury risk, trains the core very well, and makes sure your strength and power translate to on-field performance. But heavy lifting and bilateral exercises help you get strong in a way that functional strength training will not. So you’ll want to hit both ends of the spectrum.
Additionally, there is a strength/power continuum to consider in order from least to most resistance and fastest to less fast
2Medicine ball throws
3Power focused exercises using an additional 30% of bodyweight - like snatches, high pulls, and jump squats.
4Speed strength exercises - like speed pushups, Romanian rhythm squats, and Russian Step-ups
None of the above methods are “better” or “worse” but all should be integrated into a full program for best results.
Strength forms a basis for generating power. So a strength block before a power-focused block makes the most sense.
This is why we choose to emphasize different lifting protocols in different phases of training. We do this with an organized, periodized program that emphasizes different strength and power protocols in an order designed to get maximal adaptation. You’ll learn more about this in Chapter 6 of the ultimate frisbee workout guide.
Okay so how do I get started?
There are a lot of variables! So how do you put all the pieces together?
If you’ve already got the basics covered and are ready to learn more about how this all fits together, join our email list. We’ll start you off with an offseason training education mini-course. You’ll get more in-depth advice on how all of the above fit together.
If you just want to get started on a complete plan that’s been battle-tested by literally thousands of ultimate players, you can join the Ultimate Athlete Project S&C program here.Join the UAP S&C Program
Speed, acceleration,j u m p i n g, changing direction, & q u i c k n e s s, are all related.
They are all part motor skill and part nervous system training. To train these athletic qualities we use primarily the phosphagen pathway of energy production. We’ll skip the science but what you need to understand is that this energy pathway requires significant time in betweenbouts of effort in order to work properly.
Adaptation is driven by intensity
Intensity is about output not about effort. In order to get adaptation to speed and agility training, the training stimulus must be done at or above 90% of your current maximum ability. If your max vertical jump is 20”, executing a jump above 18” will cause your body to adapt to jump higher. Any jump executed below 18” does not promote physical adaptation.
Truth is, ultimate players are sometimes least likely to properly do the type of training they need the most. This is because workouts that challenge the nervous system don't feel difficult! Unlike cardiovascular training, you don’t get out of breath or feel tired. Unlike intense anaerobic training you don’t feel any burn in your muscles. So it’s impossible to tell during the workout whether anything is happening.
If you’ve only done general fitness training or haven’t worked with a professional strength and conditioning coach, then this training WILL feel different.
It is normal not to understand it fully until you experience the results for yourself. So here is a sample ultimate frisbee speed and agility workout with the proper rest intervals included.
Sample speed and agility exercises for ultimate frisbee
In this speed and agility workout we’ll focus on speed and jumping. We’ll use three exercises with appropriate rest intervals in between. The entire session will take about 25 minutes including your warmup.
First, start with an ultimate frisbee warm up...
--Now the exercises--
3 Step Approach Jump
Works on the footwork and explosiveness needed for getting discs in the air on the move. If you have a visual aid to focus on like a vertec or a friend standing on something holding a disc that’s even better.
1Jump off the right foot, rest 30 seconds
2Jump off the left foot, rest 30 seconds
4Rest 60-90 seconds before the next exercise
Looks ridiculous, but this is one of my favorite single leg plyometric exercises. Focus on slamming your front foot into the ground to catapult yourself both up and forward as explosively as possible.
16 strides right foot forward, wait 30 seconds
26 strides left foot forward, wait 60 seconds
3Repeat three times
4Rest 90-120 seconds before the next exercise
Three Point Start to 40 yard sprint
This drill is about pure acceleration. If you’re not comfortable in a three point position, it’s fine to start standing up with one leg slightly in front of the other. Attempt to get up to full speed as quickly as possible.
1Start with right foot forward and sprint 40 yards, rest 90 seconds
2Start with the left foot forward and sprint 40 yards, rest 90 seconds
3Repeat three times
Want a 6 week program to work on your speed, agility, and conditioning?
Scheduling your SAQ training so that it’s done while you’re able to perform at max intensity is important. This means not doing SAQ work at the end of practice. Sometimes it may mean not doing a heavy leg day in the gym. Doing vertical jump training or SAQ drills at the end of practice when you’re too tired to perform near your max capability won’t really get you anywhere.
So let’s move on to the next section about how to plan your ultimate frisbee workouts and then how to plan your ultimate frisbee training schedule.
Creating an Ultimate Frisbee Workout
The Order of your ultimate frisbee training exercises
The order you do things matters. If you put your conditioning first, for example, you won’t elicit adaptation in speed or agility.
As a general rule, you want to start with a warm up, then do anything targeting the nervous system and/or phosphagen metabolic pathway, and your conditioning will always be last.
Any time you have a workout targeting multiple athletic qualities, put your modules in this order:
1Part 1: Ultimate frisbee warm up
2Part 2: Speed and Agility
3Part 3: Strength
4Part 4: Conditioning
This order puts things in the proper order based on the metabolic pathway being used. This means we put fast exercises using primarily the phosphagen system first and things that use primarily the cardiovascular system last. In this way you have the type of energy needed to do each type of exercise and get the adaptation you’re seeking.
Here is a body weight ultimate frisbee workout covering all of the above areas. Make sure to get a warmup in first - you can use the one above in chapter 4.
The Ultimate Frisbee Warmup is a good thing to have on hand for reference. Print it out or keep it on your phone. You can use it before pickup, practices, or any ultimate frisbee workout.
In the workout above we are targeting everything in the same workout. This is a good strategy when you are getting started in more ultimate frisbee focused training. It’s also a reasonable strategy for maintenance or general fitness.
However, if you want to get more impressive athletic performance results, you will need more focus and an organized plan.
What does an organized plan look like?
Let’s get to it in the next section!
If you want to succeed in ultimate, you need to think about your training in more than just the short term. Understanding the big picture can help you better focus on what needs to be done today in order to elicit the best performance many months from now when games matter most.
The most common mistake I see is that ultimate players want to improve everything at once. Workouts with a little strength, some agility work, ending in conditioning are popular. But the body adapts best to training when you focus on one main athletic quality at a time not only within a workout, but also within a training block.
As you can see in our ultimate frisbee workouts above, you can’t include everything you need in one workout. And in fact, you shouldn’t include everything you need even in the same week. This is because of the law of competing demands.
The major problem is that when your body has to choose between adapting for enduranceand adapting for more power, it always chooses endurance. This is why training for endurance limits gains in power.
Power and endurance adaptations are conflicting because they use different metabolic pathways. Powerful movements like jumping, laying out, and making sharp changes of direction, use primarily the phosphagen metabolic pathway.
The phosphagen pathway is built for max effort of just a few seconds. When you are training for endurance, you’re using primarily the cardiovascular metabolic pathway.
With proper periodization in the UAP, 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 that use the same metabolic pathway.
Rarely do you want to completely neglect any athletic training, but you always want to have a clear emphasis.
This careful, sequential planning is the primary difference between training like an athlete versus training for general fitness. We stack training blocks one after the other and get BETTER overall adaptation than the same amount of time spent on everything at once. This is why I’ve been able to help players who have been training for years and make them even better.
In our programming we have many phases that change every 4 weeks. Each phase is related to what comes before and after. And we create a full schedule based on the athlete’s most important tournament or part of the year.
To keep it simple, here are a few basic rules that can help you organize your training.
1Focus on 1-2 athletic qualities at a time.
Training everything at once can work for a little while but you’ll eventually plateau. It’s not as efficient or as effective as focusing your training on 1-2 athletic qualities at once. For example you could have a training block devoted to building strength, or to cardiovascular endurance, or to speed and agility work. But trying to do everything at once will not yield the best results.
A good length of time for a training block is 3-6 weeks.
2Train complementary, not conflicting athletic qualities
If you train power development and vertical jumping in the same training block, this will work because those are complimentary athletic qualities. Conflicting athletic qualities are those that use different metabolic pathways. Training endurance and vertical jump in the same training block will be counterproductive to your vertical jump training. This doesn’t mean no cardiovascular training at all. But it should not be the focus if your main goal is power development or anything that trains the fast twitch muscle fibers.
3Put your training blocks in order
Strength forms a basis for generating power. So a strength block before a power focused block makes the most sense. Strength endurance and cardiovascular endurance blocks make sense 6-8 weeks prior to the season so that you can be in shape in time for tournaments.
And when thinking about your training year, there are Five primary phases:
The Five Main Phases of Your Ultimate Frisbee Year
Post season: focus on recovery. Take care of any physical therapy and rehab needs. This is also a good time for cross-training with fun non-ultimate frisbee activities as your main source of exercise for a few weeks.
Off Season: this is where you will focus on the strength training principles you learned in chapter 3. You’ll want to do less conditioning and less playing so that you can avoid the law of competing demands.
Pre-Season: You’ll want at least 8 weeks of pre-season to focus on cardiovascular fitness. Make sure you’re following the principles of Chapter 2. I’d also recommend getting in some workouts on grass in cleats before your main tournaments and practices.
In Season: here is where you’ll want to decrease the volume of your workouts as the physical demands of the season get more intense.
Taper: Two to three weeks before your biggest tournament is time to decrease the volume of your training even further. This allows for micro-injuries to heal and gets you to a place of full recovery, ready to play at your very best.
What if I don’t have a regular season?
Many folks have repeating seasons (indoor, outdoor, beach, etc) that span the full year. This can leave you feeling like you don’t get the opportunity to focus on an offseason.
I understand the desire to perform at your peak at every playing opportunity. The hard truth is, that’s just not realistic. If you want to unleash your full athletic potential, you WILL need to prioritize.
What this means for each individual will be different based on goals, training age, etc.
For a player who is new to the game, playing more may be the best route to improved frisbee performance. For a player like this, I would still recommend following a periodized schedule somewhat. The tradeoff is that the off season gains will not be as effective as they would be with a true off season. You definitely want to be on some sort of strength training plan in order to help fight the wear and tear on the body from playing most of the year.
For a player with a good amount of skill who is aiming for a national team or going into a trying situation for a new team, I would recommend cutting out some playing opportunities during part of the year so that you can experience at least one true off season in your playing career. This will help you experience what is possible for yourself athletically. In following seasons you’ll have a better understanding of the tradeoffs you’re making in playing all year versus setting aside time for training.
Keep in mind, it does not have to be all of nothing. You can still play once or twice a week in the off season without doing much damage to your training adaptations. Anything more that twice per week of casual play and you will be making compromises.
Tradeoffs are no fun. It sucks to feel like you’re not in good shape in the off season. But it also sucks to be inefficient with your training time. If you want to have a breakthrough season because you’ve worked hard on strength and power development, then you may have to suffer a few months of feeling “out of shape.” The good news is that conditioning adaptations don’t take long. And when you get back to conditioning, your running economy will be much improved. Not a bad trade!
Take the Next Step
Now you’ve learned how to choose exercises that translate to the field, how to put them together in a workout, and how to start putting it alltogether in an organized plan.
I want to help you take the next step by not just reading about ultimate frisbee workouts, but by DOING them
What can I help you with most? Choose one and get started.
Do it Yourself
Use everything you’ve learned in this guide to create smarter workouts for yourself. Check out more free resources and workouts at our website!Learn more
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