For years Ultimate Frisbee has lived on the outskirts of the athletics world — it was something college kids were obsessed with and that was about it. But all that’s changing. These days Ultimate is a legitimate sport, with 55,000 members, recognition by the International Olympic Committee, national championships, a broadcast partnership with ESPN, and some super-fit participants. “Playing Ultimate Frisbee means moving nonstop on a football-sized field,” says Tom Crawford, CEO of USA Ultimate. “You need speed, agility, quickness, and endurance to be an effective player.” Want even more proof of how intense this sport can be? Try out this workout created by Tim Morrill, owner of Morrill Performance, who trains professional Ultimate Frisbee athletes from around the country.
This workout is split into three sections: A warm-up, some agility work, and a conditioning portion. Perform it in the order below.
Equipment: You’ll need a miniband (a smaller resistance band that can be looped around your ankles or legs), six orange cones, a fitness ladder, and a kettlebell.
Phase 1: Three-Part Warm-Up
1. Stationary Mobility and Activation Sequence
• Miniband In/Out: Place the miniband around both legs, just below your knees. Squat down with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Drive your knees out as far as possible, hold for two seconds while engaging your glutes, then bring knees toward each other. Do 10 reps.
• Split Squat Hold: Stand with feet hip-width apart, then step back with one foot and place rear knee down on ground (front knee should be bent at a 90-degree angle). Engage glutes and lift back knee one inch off the ground. Hold for 20 seconds, repeat with other leg in front.
• Split Squat: Start out the same as the move above, but instead of lifting the back knee slightly, drive up through both legs and attempt to straighten both knees. Lower back down, tap the ground with your back knee, and repeat. Do five reps, repeat with other leg in front.
• Lateral Squat: Perform a squat with toes forward and feet in a wider-than-normal stance—about 18 to 24 inches wider than shoulder-width. Do 5 reps.
• Single-Leg Reaching Stretch: Stand on right leg, knee slightly bent. Lift left leg out behind you, hinge forward, and reach your arms forward. Keep bending until your torso is parallel to your arm and left leg is straight out behind you. Return to start. Do five reps, repeat with other leg.
2. Active Stretching Sequence: Set up two orange cones 10 yards apart and do each of the following moves for 10 yards.
• Knee Hug: Walk from one cone to the other, pulling each knee up and hugging into your chest.
• Heel to Butt: Walk from one cone to the other, and with each step, kick your heel up to your butt, grab your foot with your hand, and perform a thigh stretch.
• Leg Cradle: Grab a leg with one hand under the knee and the other over your shin. Pull the leg up toward your chest to stretch your hip rotators. Walk a step and repeat with other leg, repeat.
• Spiderman: Take a huge lunge forward with one leg, then place hands on ground by front foot. Stretch out the hip, then take a huge lunge forward with other leg, and walk your hands forward until your hands are near your front foot so you can stretch out the other hip. Continue this way, always keeping low to the ground.
• Inchworm: Start in plank position, then walk your feet toward your hands so you stretch your hamstrings. Walk hands forward until you’re in a plank position again and repeat.
• Reverse Single-Leg Reaching Stretch: Perform the same movement as the Single-Leg Stretch above, then take a big step backward. Perform with the other side and repeat until you move the entire 10 yards.
3. Patterning Sequence: Use the same cones you set up 10 yards apart and go back and forth.
• Shakeout Skip: Perform a mellow skip and shake out your shoulders, arms, and hands to let the tension out of your upper body. Do this for 10 yards.
• Sprinters Skip: Perform a more aggressive skip, moving your feet on and off the ground as fast as possible and keeping your thighs separate. Do this for 10 yards.
• High Knees: Aggressively punch knees up as you move forward for 10 yards.
• Carioca Hip Twist: Turn sideways and move by twisting your torso and bringing your legs in front of you and then behind you. Do this for 20 yards.
• Carioca Knee Punch: Perform the same movement as above, but overemphasize the knee movements and hip swivel. Do this for 20 yards.
Phase 2: Speed & Agility Workout
Being good at Ultimate Frisbee requires a lot of very specific foot movements, which is why you need to practice these three different agility exercises. The focus is on improving foot speed and seeing how fast you can change directions. Many of these movements use a fitness ladder placed on the ground.
1. Ladder Foot Speed Sequence: For each of these three movements, perform twice slowly, then twice as quick as possible, alternating which foot you lead with.
• Two Feet Each Box: Start at the bottom of the ladder and quickly move to the other end, putting one foot in a square, then the other foot in the same square, then moving on to the next square.
• In In Out Out Lateral: Stand at one end of the ladder, standing to the side of it. Step one foot into the first square, then the other, then both out, then move on to the next square, moving sideways.
• In In Out Out: Stand at one end of the ladder, straddling it. Step one foot into the first square, then the other, then both out so you’re straddling it again. Move on to the next square.
2. IFP Agility & Serpentine Drills: IFP stands for Inner Foot Push, a movement often used in Ultimate Frisbee. It’s when you push off of the big toe side of your foot and is the best way to make a quick 90-degree change of direction.
• Ladder Jab Step: Stand at the bottom of the ladder. Quickly jump right foot into the first square, then the left foot, and then jump the right foot outside the ladder with a jab step (lift left knee high and push off on the inside of the right foot to change direction). Continue this way working up the ladder, alternating which foot lands outside. (See video of this movement here.) Do two lengths of the ladder, moving explosively, resting for 30 seconds between.
• Full Speed Serpentines: Set six cones up in a zigzag pattern, at least five yards apart. Run up to the first cone, then run back and forth, staying on the outside of the cones, and using the jab step to change directions quickly. (See video of this movement here.) Do four times, resting 90 seconds between.
3. OFP Agility Sequence & Crossover Sequence: OFP stands for Outside Foot Push, which is also used a lot in Ultimate Frisbee. It’s when you push off the pinky side of your foot and is the most effective method for quickly changing directions 180 degrees.
• Crossover Stick With Ladder: Stand to the right side of the ladder, looking down its length. Bend knees and squat down, with torso close to parallel with the ground. Shift your weight onto your left foot, push off the pinky side of your left foot and cross your right leg in front of you, landing on the right foot inside the ladder, then quickly landing with both feet on the opposite side of the ladder. (See video of this movement here.) Do two lengths of the ladder, moving explosively, resting 30 seconds between.
• 5-10-5 Short Shuttle: Set up three cones in a straight line, five yards apart. Start at the middle cone in the same starting position you had in above move. Lean slightly to one side, then push off the pinky of your inside foot, cross the outside foot in front of you, and run to one of the end cones. Use the same movement (pushing off the pinky of the inside foot and crossing your outside foot in front of you) to switch directions and run to the far cone. Do the same movement to switch directions and return to the middle cone. (See video of this movement here.) Perform this four times, resting 60 seconds between.
Phase 3: Power Endurance & Conditioning Finisher
This is a circuit with strength and conditioning moves to improve acceleration, hip extension, and conditioning. Perform it four times straight through without resting.
1. Kettlebell swing: 10 reps.
2. Staggered start sprint: Start with both knees bent, right leg in front and left leg slightly behind. Sprint for 20 yards, overemphasizing your hip extension.
3. Straight Leg Sit-Ups: 10 with both legs straight on ground (keep arms vertical the whole time), five with left leg straight and right leg bent, five with right leg straight and left leg bent.
4. Single-Leg Hip Lift: Lie on your back, knees bent, feet hip-width apart. Lift right foot off ground, then push through left heel and raise hips off the ground. Squeeze your glutes and keep your core engaged the whole time. Lower and repeat five times, then switch legs.
5. Push-Up: 10 reps.
6. Side planks: Hold for 10 full breaths on each side.