Three Common Training Misconceptions: Part 3

by | February 10, 2011, 10:25am 0

In this series of articles, I address three misconceptions I regularly hear being discussed in the Ultimate community. My hope is that players will train smarter if they have a better understanding of the concepts behind the misconceptions.

Last time I addressed the misconception that harder is always better when it comes to training for Ultimate. Today, in the last part of the series, Misconception #3!

Misconception #3: “Biking/Swimming/P90X/ will get me in shape for Ultimate.” Conversely, “Nothing will get you in tournament shape other than going to a tournament.”

Both of these misconceptions are due to a lack of understanding of training specificity.

There is nothing wrong with biking, swimming or P90X as a means of increasing general fitness, but many players insist that some sort of cross training or other is the best thing for getting in shape for Ultimate. My response is “compared to what?” If it’s compared to sitting on the couch, then yes, by all means any method is better. In the end, players need to choose a workout program that they will actually complete. However, many players do not understand the extent to which adaptations are specific to the type of work being performed. For example, cardiovascular fitness gained by biking is specific to biking and will not necessarily translate to cardiovascular fitness in running. Flexibility gained by static stretching does not necessarily translate to dynamic flexibility .

Athletes who are serious about training primarily for the sport of Ultimate should relegate cross training and other random things to the early offseason. These methods should be used for fun (nothing wrong with that!), or for convenience. Popping in a workout video is sometimes better than nothing if you can’t get to the track.

Photo by

On the other end of the spectrum are those who say that the only thing that will get you in tournament shape is a tournament. Fortunately, this is not true. With proper planning, it is entirely within the athlete’s control to be prepared for the demands of tournament play before attending any tournaments.

If a player is not in tournament shape before a tournament, it may be because their training consists primarily of running forward. It is perhaps true that cross training will produce better results compared to unidirectional running. Rarely in Ultimate is anyone running in a straight line for long. An preliminary movement study by Ultimate Results tracked three players during a game of tournament play and found that players spent at least one third of their time in lateral (shuffling type) motions. To be sport-specific, this amount of lateral motion should be reflected in any player’s training program.

Movements such as shuffling, stopping, and changing directions use stabilizing muscles and core muscles that are not well trained by running forward. Additionally, accelerating and decelerating place far higher demands on the body than does steady state running. Training in movement patterns similar to those used on the Ultimate field is the key to preparing players to be in tournament shape before the first tournament.

With smart training, it is possible to be ready for tournaments before the season is underway. This should, of course, be the goal of any adequate training program. With comprehensive preparation, it is possible to wake up on Monday morning feeling healthy and ready to commence training on Monday.

Summary and Application

As a player, the type of training undertaken will be influenced by many factors such as available time, commitment level, and the level of competition faced. Not every player will choose to do completely Ultimate-specific workouts. To make wise choices about training, understand that the adaptations of the body are very specific to the type of training that is done. The best methods of training for Ultimate will focus on motor skills, metabolic demands, and movement patterns that are used in Ultimate. Minimizing or eliminating extraneous activities such as cross training is an important part of focusing on Ultimate-specific training for the best results.

Ultimate requires explosive movements that make use of the anaerobic metabolic pathway. Cutting requires the ability to accelerate and decelerate rapidly. Defense and handler cutting require a lot of shuffling and lateral movement. Incorporating activities such as shuttle runs and lateral movement days into a training program is the best way to be prepared for the demands of an ultimate tournament.

Sample Workout

Dynamic warm-ups are key - Photo by

Here is an example of a lateral movement workout that I have used with excellent results:

First, start with 7-10 minutes of dynamic warm up. Emphasize opening the hips during the warm up.

Next, perform a few footwork drills. In footwork drills, you want to focus on explosiveness, and also on accurate placement of the feet to improve coordination and control. One simple drill uses five cones placed in a line a little over two feet apart. Keeping the hips parallel to the line of the cones, run sideways with your footfalls landing directly in front of each cone. After all the cones, your last ground contact should be graceful and on one foot without having to hop afterward to regain balance. This is more difficult than it may sound. Being able to stick the landing is an important indicator of one legged strength, coordination, and balance.  Focus on quality of movement, not quantity.  Do only 4-6 trials in each direction and allow rest between trials.

The main workout consists of repetitions of 30 seconds of lateral motion followed by 90 seconds of rest. Lateral motion can include simple skater hops. To do skater hops, pretend you are speed skating, explosively bounding side to side as you keep your back straight, your knees bent, and your hips low. Lateral motion can also include shuffling or running between two cones about ten feet apart. In the running, I envision being in the cup or approaching the mark. My shoulders stay approximately in line with the two cones, but my hips are facing more toward the direction of motion and I keep my arms out as if I’m in a passing lane or in the cup. I like to square up as if I’m on the mark when I get the cone and touch the top of the cone before turning and running the opposite direction. Start with five repetitions of 30s work 90s rest in the first week. Add a repetition every week until you are up to 8 repetitions. It may seem strange to do such a short workout but this type of training places a much higher demand on the body than steady state running.  It is important to start at a very low volume of work to allow adaptation and prevent overuse injuries.

I hope you’ve found this series of articles useful and that you’ll be able to apply the concepts we’ve discussed to your training.  If you’re wondering how I apply these principles in my own training, feel free to visit my blog at  Best of luck in preparing for your tournaments this season!

Feature photo by Fuyoh!.

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