Resisted Running: The Absolute Best Conditioning Mode For Ultimate

Resisted running is the best way to get in shape for ultimate.

Rogue Weight Sled.Resisted running is the absolute best conditioning mode for Ultimate, period.

What is resisted running?

Resisted running is any type of linear sprinting that is done against significant horizontal resistance. This resistance can come in the form of a sled, a resistance band, or even a partner. Here is a clip of the Boston Whitecaps doing their sled pushes during a training session:

Resisted Running Clip

With these particular sleds they are doing what is known as a “low push”. This means they are not running quite as upright as they might when they are sprinting unencumbered. Sleds that are dragged behind can be used to achieve a movement pattern more specific to actual sprinting. Either way, sleds are the best implement for resisted running, if you have access to one, use it.

If you don’t have access to a sled your next best implement is a teammate and a rubber band. Resistance bands are available for relatively cheap at Perform Better and if you only use them for resisted running they will likely last for several years of frequent use. If you don’t have a rubber band but still have a partner, you can still do resisted running, but you’ll have to sacrifice your arm movement.

Why is resisted running so good?

Two words: concentric force.

Concentric force is the force that humans produce as their muscles contract. By contrast, eccentric force is the force produced as muscles lengthen. Think of the upward phase and the downward phase of a squat; upward is concentric, downward is eccentric.

When we perform resisted running, we are removing about 95% of eccentric muscle action and performing a sustained predominantly concentric action. Concentric muscle action is the portion of movement that actively requires the muscle cell’s to utilize ATP, its main energy source. By constantly processing energy, we are placing an enormous demand on our body’s overall energy system. Other advantages include single leg and core strength, glute and quad activation, and sprinting mechanic specificity.

If you have a resistance band you’ll loop it around the waist of the runner and the resister will dig in their heels to slow them down. If both people weigh about the same, the resister will probably be able to stop the runner in their tracks, this is obviously counterproductive so the resister should strategically apply stopping force depending on how fast/long they want the runner to run. One cue that helps the resister maintain control is “walk, run, sprint”. This will prevent them from being yanked out of their shoes. If you don’t have a band, you can clasp hands with a partner and they can resist you like a linebacker. Again, this robs you of valuable arm action, but can be done at any practice.

When should I use resisted running? For how long?

Ultimate points are short and intense. While a typical point may be 2-3 minutes, a 2 minute sled push is not useful: it’s too repetitive and tiring to sustain for that length of time. A 30 second sled push, however, is achievable. When programming your conditioning it is helpful to design a work/rest ratio which varies relative to the intensity of the training. With sled pushes (high intensity), a ratio of 1:2 (long rest) is still incredibly taxing. Try for 3-4 of these as a finisher after practice or weight training. If you are able to do more than six rounds, you should increase either load or speed.

As with any conditioning mode, resisted running should come at the end of your training day. There is plenty of logic behind intermittent conditioning during a practice (so you learn to play tired) but assuming our primary goal is to leave all your effort out there, you should save conditioning for the end. But let’s zoom out and look at when we want to do this within our season.

In addition to being more exhausting, concentric muscle action leads to far less delayed onset muscle soreness. This means that this type of conditioning can be done more frequently and is remains appropriate during tapering before important tournaments. I certainly know the feeling of nervous energy pre-Regionals and wanting to do more than just work on throws in the days leading up to the big weekend. Keeping your conditioning level high without fatiguing your central nervous system during the days before tournaments is valuable, and resisted running provides the optimal mode to do so.

  1. Patrick Kelsey

    Pat Kelsey is a head strength coach at Breakside Strength and Conditioning and PK Performance, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and a Functional Movement Specialist. He has a degree in Applied Psychology from Skidmore College, where he played and captained. He is the Strength & Conditioning coach for several club and college teams and athletes in the Northeast.

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