Ultimate Frisbee Tournament – 6 week training program
I recently attended the inaugural Australian Division 2 Nationals tournament in Melbourne, Victoria. This was a two day open tournament and I was playing for the Tasmanian representative team, Quoll.
As far as tournaments go this was a fairly typical 2-day affair in terms of game schedules. We had a good run through the pool-play which resulted in us skipping the cross-overs but playing right through to the grand-final. All up we played 3 games per day, most of which went to full time.
This post details the training program that I used to prepare myself for the tournament. I put this together 6 weeks prior to the weekend of the tournament and started straight away. The program is designed to provide improvements in as many Ultimate-relevant aspects as possible. That said, there’s a few things to note before getting started:
1 – The program wasn’t specifically “new”
Last October I attended Mixed Nationals, a 3 day tournament. I put together a similar training program in the lead up to this tournament. There were a number of differences here and there but I had something to work off before putting together the program detailed in this post.
You can read about my Mixed Nationals preparation in great detail on Freak Outs’s blog. Our team blog is available here (Note – the link auto-filters to show my posts).
2 – This program doesn’t include enough focus on team-training
Ultimate in Tasmania is a relatively small affair. Things are growing but our representative team was made up of geographically separated players. The core were from Hobart but we had five players (out of 12) who were from other areas. From the Hobart group, only a few of us were able to regularly attend training. As a result, the first game of the tournament was the first time we had played together as a team.
Ideally a training programme would include at least 2 team training sessions per week. Working together on skills and more importantly, tactics, would be a very important addition to any training program for a team-sport. The program I will detail leaves little space for these activities but, if they were available, I would have made room for them.
3 – The training program was for me, based upon my needs and interests
Whilst I think the program is quite comprehensive and would be relevant to any Ultimate player preparing for a tournament the fact is that I developed it knowing I would be the one completing it. The general ideas and concepts are suitable for everyone but I chose exercises that I know I enjoy, and activities that appeal to me. For example, road-riding is a passion of mine but could be replaced with any long-term cardio such as running, swimming or ideally playing lots of Ultimate! I also had a few minor physical niggles that I had to cater for.
With those things in mind, here’s how I laid out my week. I will explain each of the exercises in more detail after the schedule:
Morning: Upper body workout
Afternoon: Leg and core workout
Evening: Summer League (Intermediate Division)
Morning: 45k ride
Evening: Leg and core workout
Lunch: 5-8k run
Evening: Throwing and team training
Lunch: 20k ride
Evening: Leg and core workout
As you can see, a pretty full on week. This schedule was repeated 6 times over to fill out the 6 week training program. That said, our Summer League finished half way through so I added in another Throwing session to replace it.
Admittedly I didn’t do every single exercise every week. I think there was only 2 weeks where I did everything I had planned. If I did miss something it would normally only be one thing per week, such as the shorter ride or a sprint session.
Here are the details of each exercise and why I chose them:
Upper Body Workout
I include an Upper Body Workout in my program to add a bit of a balance and to also ensure that my upper body has some strength for throwing the disc and the general athletic demands that a frisbee tournament places on your body. My legs get a good workout from my regular running and riding but I need to specifically target my upper body to help it keep up.
Leg and Core Workout
The Leg and core workout is included to ensure that my legs and core have the strength and flexibility to deal with the demands of the rest of the training program, and ultimate the tournament. I was doing this three times a week but for most people 1-2 times would be sufficient. I had an increased frequency in order to cater for a few niggles I was experiencing in my knees and lower back.
The exercises were as follows:
3 X 15 single leg calf raises per leg – 30kg added weight
3 X 15 single leg step ups per leg – 30kg added weight
Forward hops over obstacle – 15 each leg
Sideways hops over obstacle – 15 each leg
10 minutes of skipping (2 steps right, 2 steps left, 2 steps both)
Side-plank – 3 X 45 seconds per side
3 X 15 - fitball exercise involving lying face-down on the fitball and raising your torso in the air (kinda like anti-sit ups)
A few other stretches to target specific problematic muscle groups of mine.
Whilst I generally run a few times a week as a matter of course I always add in some sprints to my regime when preparing for a tournament. Ultimate involves a lot of stop-start motion on your feet, running from point to point and then doing it all again. Your legs need to be ready to respond and your heart rate needs to be used to rising quickly, then settling back down again as soon as possible.
Overall I want to maintain an ability to run into space, run into another space, clear out of the way and then do it all again as many times over as required. Sprint training is excellent for getting your body used to the efforts required in a game. This then lets you just get into a space, get the disc and be able to concentrate on important things like throwing instead of how fast you are breathing and how fast your heart is beating.
I also use sprint sessions to practise my sharp-turns. Using the chop-stop technique I aim to get my centre of gravity low, in a controlled manner, and be ready to spring out in any direction as required.
For the sprint session I normally undertake something along the lines of:
5 minute warm up jog ( I run to a field or something similar)
6 X 20m sprints, back and forth between two points. I repeat this around 6 times with a 30-40 sec jog between each set.
6 – 8 X 50-60m sprints with a 60-80 second jog between each sprint. For example, jog around an oval but sprint flat out up one of the sides.
5 minute warm down jog (running back to home/work)
Alternatively if I am feeling like something a little less structure I will do a 20-30 minute Fartlek session. In either case the sprints will start to get hard towards the end. For inspiration I imagine I am chasing a disc down towards an imaginary end-zone. You wouldn’t stop running in that situation would you?
45 and 20k Rides
As mentioned above, these exercises are in the program to introduce some longer-term cardio workouts. They are a fairly selfish inclusion. Arguably it would be more beneficial running but I love riding too much to not get a couple in a week. That said, riding does use different muscles to running which means you can run your legs to fatigue in the running sessions and still get a good cardio workout on the bike on different days.
5k and 8k Running
Running is a fundamental part of the game of Ultimate. I’ve talked about the importance of sprint-training above however I believe that distance running is equally as important. 5 – 8k runs are not really that impressive in terms of distance but they definitely get your legs, lungs and heart working at a good rate for a good period of time. I find this distance sufficient for Ultimate training, although more is always better if you find the time!
For me the distance running is key to being able to last on the long points. Towards the end of the game late in the second (or third) day of a tournament I want to be the guy who can run hard throughout a long point and still have the legs and breathe to cut long to the end zone to score. Alternatively, I want to be the guy who hounds his opponent on D relentlessly throughout the game, and has the ability to cover a long cut and contest the disc in the end-zone if required.
It is those things I think about when the running gets tough. The rest of the time I just enjoy running and trying to crack that 4min/k barrier over 5ks (which I managed at the end of this training program!).
One of the key bits of advice I have learned from other Ultimate players who provide advice (Primarily Ultimate Rob and Brodie Smith) is that you need to work on your throws, a lot! I particularly like this post from Ultimate Rob that explains about where his passion for Ultimate began, and how it started with hours and hours of throwing practise.
As a result I try and get out and throw as much as possible when preparing for a tournament. Throwing sessions are the one thing on my training program that I actually did more of than what I aimed to do (actually I might have got a sneaky ride or two in). For me throwing sessions fall into two categories:
1 – Solo-practise, long throws.
This makes up the bulk of my throwing sessions when preparing for a tournament. I take 5 or 6 discs for a field and work on whatever throws I need to for a good 30-40 minutes. Music is optional. Sometimes it distracts me whilst at other times it really pumps me up and I get a really energised throwing session going.
For me, my primary weakness in throwing is the reliability of my long throws. As a result most of my solo sessions are spent working on both my backhand and forehand hucks. A pretty simple formula of throwing one disc as far as I can, then trying to throw the rest as closely as possible to the first.
On most fields I will get about 50% of the way down the field with a throw so I can get two throws in per field length. I will often do backhand in one direction and forehand in the other. However, if I feel my backhand is kicking I might just work on my forehand after warming up with my backhand for a while. My forehand is never kicking more than my backhand
On fields with soccer goals I sometimes aim to get it through the posts. Throughout this regime I also wanted to work on my hammer so I used this throw to gather my scattered discs together before changing direction.
2 – Friendly practise, shorter throws.
My partner also plays Ultimate and we like to go and practise together sometimes. Some of my team mates also appreciate a dedicated throwing session before training. When these occur I’m focusing on my shorter throws, backhand and forehand. I will practise various release points and also my inside-outs/outside ins.
So that’s it! A comprehensive set of exercises that should provide goor preparation for an Ultimate tournament. None of this needs to be set in stone, the schedule can be manipulated and exercises swapped in and out as per your preference. Having one rest day a week is very important and I did also lighten up on the training in the few days leading up to the tournament.
As for the results, our team didn’t lose a game until the grand final, where we were beaten by two points. As a result we received a silver medal. Fitness-wise I was pretty happy with my performance. I was able to contribute to the team consistently throughout the tournament and was still outrunning opponents right up until the end.
Due to our team situation we were running out of subs by the end of the second day. This played on my mind mentally a bit and my performance suffered a bit as a result. Unluckily for me I was landed on quite heavily by an opponent in the third last point of the tournament resulting in some serious ligament damage to both the inside and outside of my right foot. As a result, I can’t say I played through the whole tournament but it wasn’t really my fitness that let me down.
The one aspect I was disappointed with the most was the reliability of my throws. I didn’t back myself for many longer throws and the ones I did attempt didn’t come off as well as I would have liked. That said, I still assisted with plenty of goals and am very happy with my tournament performance overall.
If you have any questions about the tournament, the training or any of the specific exercises please feel free to leave comments below! More sports-related posts coming soon.