An Easy Conditioning Plan

by | April 14, 2016, 8:30am 6

Conditioning workouts don’t have to be complex or super intense to be effective. This post will detail a simple way to organize your conditioning and encourage you to emphasize frequency over difficulty.

If you’ve had trouble sticking to a conditioning program in the past, or if you don’t feel ready for the ultimate season until you start playing in tournaments, then this method is going to be great for you!

An Easy Format

When I was younger my conditioning consisted of going out and running as much as I could. I assumed that the farther or longer I ran the better. It didn’t occur to me that even actual runners don’t train this way. And I didn’t think about the fact that most of my time on the ultimate field isn’t spent running in a straight line. Now I know better and you don’t have to make the same silly mistakes.

Instead I now alternate days of linear and multidirectional movement. For both types of workouts I predominantly use interval training which is more transferable to ultimate and also more effective in creating adaptation to training.

A common schedule for me would be to do more linear focused conditioning on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Then do lateral or multidirectional focused conditioning on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The multidirectional days stress the body in a way that transfers to playing ultimate. Having linear days in between is good because those workouts are less stressful but still provide the conditioning you need.

Example of a linear workouts

My staple is the 80/20 workout. This is an interval workout that involves 20 seconds running at 80% sprint speed followed by 40 seconds of rest. Each repetition should be about the same speed. This means the first few repetitions will feel easy and they will get more difficult as you go. Each repetition should be done with good running form. When form starts to be difficult to maintain, it’s time to stop.

For other examples of linear workouts:
The Science of Interval Training
Three Interval Protocols I’ve Used Successfully

Example of a lateral movement workout

Take a circuit of three exercises: skater hops, shuffles, and short shuttles and do them for 30-second intervals with rest periods between each exercise. Early in the preseason, start with very low volume (4-5 repetitions) and longer rest intervals of 90 seconds. When I work the volume up to nine repetitions, I drop the rest intervals down to 60 seconds and begin again at 4-5 reps.

For other lateral or multidirectional movement workout ideas:

My Standard Lateral Movement Workout
Simple Format for Small Spaces
MC’s The Cutting Tree

My lateral workouts are usually higher intensity intervals with incomplete rest. This is another reason for them to be less frequent than the lower intensity linear intervals above. Emphasize good form and being able to execute each interval explosively. The purpose is to train yourself to be explosive for more repetitions. Don’t practice moving at lower intensity. Instead increase your rest intervals until your body adapts.

Pro Tip: For linear days I recommend sneakers on a track or on grass. For multidirectional days I recommend cleats on grass so that you best replicate the stresses of the ultimate field.

Easy Does it

A common error among ultimate players is to think every conditioning workout has to feel super hard in order to get results. This can backfire if your workouts are so hard that you have trouble motivating yourself to do them. It’s also not the most effective or efficient method of creating positive adaptation.

Extremely difficult workouts are not only not necessary, but may even be less effective. The above format will produce efficient adaptation by focusing on frequency rather than difficulty.

Every type of training stimulus has its own unique window of opportunity where applying that same stimulus leads to adaptation. For example, if you have a heavy leg day at the gym and did the same thing the next day and the next, you would not get adaptation, you’d get a decrease in performance due to overtraining. If you did a heavy leg day once every two weeks you would also not get adaptation because that’s not frequently enough.

For cardiovascular work the supercompensation curve is much different. The window of recovery is less than 12 hours, so elite runners will often train twice per day rather than once. What this means for you is that a short and relatively easy cardiovascular-oriented workout will likely lead to better adaptation than hard workouts done twice per week.

Recovery is Key

One of the most important things my athletes learn from being on my training programs is the importance of recovery. In the first phase, many players have said they find the workouts too easy. However, recovery plays a large role in your overall training, one which should not be undervalued.

The ability to recover between workouts is crucial if you’re going to increase your frequency to training every day. The amount of acid buildup in the muscles will influence your recovery period. Workouts that are long and intense will build up more acid in the muscles and should not be done every day. The main reason I use interval training in the above workouts is that it allows for work at a higher intensity without the same buildup of acid. Also the duration of the workouts is relatively short. The longest conditioning workout should be about 30 minutes including the warmup. A workout that includes some speed and agility drills will last about 45 minutes, no more than one hour.

In brief, thinking about frequency and recovery is key for improving your conditioning. Take care to challenge yourself with both linear and lateral movements and pay attention to what your body is telling you as you progress.

If you enjoyed this post and want to give this type of training a try, you can sign up for my full Six Week Speed, Agility, and Conditioning Program. It’s free. This program was designed for players who are just starting to think about ultimate specific training or for players who want to use these ideas to supplement their strength training.

Note for Ultimate Athlete Project (UAP) members reading this. The above schedule has conditioning 5 days/week but the UAP does not. Does this mean you should be doing conditioning five days a week? Probably not. In the preseason, the programmed strength training is designed to build your strength endurance which will help your speed endurance more than the above conditioning only format.

Related Posts:
Ultimate Conditioning 101
Video summary of Conditioning Principles

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  • Tamir Stulberg

    Great article, Melissa. Having started with the 6 week SAQ program and then graduating to the full UAP program, I can say that the first really helped me see the effectiveness of short but frequent workouts, while the latter has shown me that periodization (working on strength for 4 weeks, then power for 4 weeks, etc) can really change how I move as an athlete.

    • Melissa Witmer

      Thanks Tamir! Glad you’ve enjoyed and learned from both!

  • Adam

    When you reference the buildup of acid, what kind are you referring to? I’ve been under the impression that recent scientific research has disproved lactic acid as the culprit behind muscle soreness.

    • Melissa Witmer

      good question. Yes, lactic acid specifically is not the culprit. However, an acidic environment in the muscle is still created by the anaerobic metabolic pathway. This inhibits muscle contraction short term and this type of training at high volume does require longer recovery periods.Feeling sore and needing recovery aren’t totally linked either. For example, you may not get sore from a lower body lifting session but that doesn’t mean you don’t need the 48 hour recovery period.

      • Adam

        Very interesting and enlightening! Thanks Melissa!

  • Ohio Valley

    I understand the importance of training to be explosive for multi-planar movement, but why not train to be explosive/move at high intensity for linear movement as well?