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From Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Johnson:

As a strength and conditioning coach, players and coaches ask a lot of questions about training for ultimate. Most often, the first question sounds something like, “What should our team do for conditioning?” On the field, ultimate players do spend a great deal of time running, but they also spend even more time resting. Unlike soccer, where players stay on the field for many minutes at a time, ultimate consists of several short action sequences split up by rest periods. Ideally, playing ultimate several days per week will provide plenty of sport-specific endurance. However, because practicing every day is frequently impossible, many players do supplemental conditioning.

In general, conditioning allows an athlete to repeat moments of high intensity speed or movement throughout a game. Often, my goal is to improve recovery time so my athletes can consistently perform at a high level, even with limited rest during field stoppages or between points.

Although I utilize many types of conditioning techniques, including various shuttle distances, lateral movement endurance and linear speed endurance, I want to demonstrate an easy interval training exercise that can be helpful for any player. Interval training is a conditioning method that plays with work and rest periods to mix aerobic and anaerobic endurance to meet the specific demands of a sport.

Field Length Repeats

This is one of my most recommended pre-season or off-season intervals. After setting up a high school or college field (70 yards long x 40 yards wide), a player runs the 70-yard distance at 80-90 percent effort, then walks the 40-yard width. That is one repetition. By going around the field, alternating running (length) and walking (width), the player is applying an interval training approach of higher intensity work and active rest. This is a great introductory workout that prepares players for more intense conditioning later on in the season.

Generally, I recommend beginning with 5-6 repetitions and adding 1-2 repetitions per week. To reduce the risk of overuse injuries, only increase the repetitions by 20 percent per week. For example, if you do five reps this week, add one rep next week. When you get up to 9-10 repetitions, try adding two repetitions until you reach 14-15 in total. This can be done 1-2 times per week, though I would limit it to once if you are using other conditioning methods as well.

This is just one of many ways to improve your conditioning. While conditioning will not make you faster, it will help you to make use of your speed more often. I recommend obtaining a program from a strength and conditioning professional that also includes many other essential training qualities including speed, agility, tissue quality techniques, flexibility, power development, strength and injury prevention.

Ben Johnson, CSCS, is the strength and conditioning coach for the Philadelphia Spinners. When he is not training with the Spinners, he can be found training others at MBSC Thrive located inside City Fitness Philly’s Graduate Hospital facility.

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