Pittsburgh’s Rodu Training Is World’s First Ultimate-Exclusive Gym

Rodu Training in Pittsburgh is the first-ever ultimate-exclusive gym.

Rodu Training in Pittsburgh.
Rodu Training in Pittsburgh.

At a glance, Rodu Training looks like any other functional fitness gym en vogue across the country.

There are plates, pull-up cages, sleds, 3,000 square feet of turf – all the equipment and esthetics that have become synonymous with modern fitness. It isn’t until you reach the center of the space that owner and trainer Rob Dulabon tips his hand.

There, in plain sight, are four 175 gram Discraft Ultrastars.

“Rodu is an Ultimate specific training facility geared toward Ultimate athletes getting ready for their seasons,” says Rob Dulabon about his new endeavor.

“Whether it’s rec league, youth players, elite club players, professional players, women, men…It’s open to everyone in the Ultimate community in Pittsburgh, but only the Ultimate community in Pittsburgh.”

With Ultimate as the out front focus of Rodu, are the days of being the outlier person that other gym goers thinks plays Frisbee Football coming to an end?

Ultimate specific fitness is not a new idea. Leaders and advocates in the game like Tim Morrill, Ren Caldwell, and Melissa Witmer have been servicing the community through online programming and clinics for years. But an 11,000 square foot structure designed to serve the Ultimate community… that is a little outside the scope of what players and coaches have become accustomed to.

Rob Dulabon at Rodu.
Rob Dulabon.
Dulabon’s athletic resume offers accomplishments in high level Ultimate as well as fitness; four trips to college nationals with Pitt, a strength and conditioning specialist certification, a gold medal with Team USA at Beach Worlds in 2011, a certification in functional movement screening, three year of club with Washington DC’s Truck Stop, and most recently Temper.

“I’ve always been interested in fitness and training in different ways,” Dulabon said. “I feel like I’ve filtered a lot of stuff along the way through my own personal training to make this as sport-specific and applicable to the game as I can.”

Dulabon talked to Ultiworld in depth about his approach to programming, like using a work:rest ratio that emulated the cut-and-clear nature of Ultimate, the necessary adjustments to training that need to be made during different parts of the season, and stressed the quality of an exercises reps over sheer volume.

There are many movements Ultimate shares with other sports but it’s the combination of those that makes the game – and the preparation – unique.

Stephen Hubbard, the strength and conditioning coach for the AUDL’s San Francisco Flamethrowers, described the approach to training for Ultimate.

“Ultimate is a field sport. It’s a throwing sport. It’s a jumping sport. It’s a laying out sport – so you need to be good at those things,” explained Hubbard, who trains members of the Flamethrowers at CrossFit Power Grid in the Bay Area. “If your training doesn’t help you be good at those things, it’s not good training.”

The road to Rodu Training has some pretty modest beginnings. A few years ago Dulabon began training a few local Junior Worlds applicants in a friend’s garage. He eventually moved the group to a CrossFit space, and a little while later into the massive expanse it is now.

Dulabon’s experiences with youth strength coaching are going to come in handy. Success with younger players will be paramount is Rodu is to be a success. With the rapid growth of Ultimate at the youth levels kids are growing up with the game, not stumbling upon it at the club sports fair during freshman orientation.

“I have been noticing the tides changing in that regard, especially around Pittsburgh,” Dulabon said about Southwestern Pennsylvania’s growing youth scene.

“I broke my thumb practicing with The [DC] Current a couple years ago, went to the doctor and her son played in the middle school league. Earlier that day I went to Walgreens to pick up a brace for the thumb and the guy who helped me had a son who played in the high school league.”

Five years ago those interactions don’t happen.

As a market, Pittsburgh should be a good measuring stick of whether or not Rodu will become a blueprint for similar gyms in other Ultimate hubs.

The Community for Pittsburgh Ultimate has roughly 1,700 members. In 2014 there were two open club teams, three mixed teams, and a women’s team. The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon are both within the city limits. With a middle school league, nearly year round high school leagues, and Camp Spirit of the Game, kids can start playing Ultimate as early as age 7. Rodu is also a partner and the official strength and conditioning facility of the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds, the city’s first year AUDL team. It would appear that the client base is there.

If Pittsburgh is unable to support Rodu it’s hard to imagine a facility like this existing elsewhere.

With seasonal leagues, the pro game, and club tryouts getting more competitive all the time, the off season window for Ultimate players is shrinking. Year round Ultimate requires year round training.

“To have a dedicated program that goes through preseason, in season, off season, peaking at the right times, tapering properly…” Dulabon reflected. “I’m excited to try to provide that for as many people as I can.”

***

The game is growing in many different ways. This is yet another well-deserved, logical step in the progression of any sport that considers itself… well… a sport.

Stephen Hubbard made an on point observation on a strange phenomenon when I asked him about his reaction as a player and fitness trainer to discovering that an Ultimate-centric gym even existed.

“I think everyone in the Ultimate world is always surprised when there’s some advancement,” he said. “Like, Wow! Ultimate, really? We’re on TV now? Or Ultimate? We have gloves for this sport now? That’s crazy! We have college scholarships. Any time we move forward towards larger amounts of people, larger amounts of influence, it’s always surprising. We always think of ourselves as countercultural or not the way everyone else is. Like that, I was surprised and delighted.”

Why are Ultimate players always surprised when progress is made? We should have nice things like specialized training centers. Believe in the product. Ultimate is sweet.

“I’m done being surprised,” added Hubbard. “This sport is awesome enough that I’m not going to be surprised when we’re in the 2024 Olympics.”

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