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Tuesday Tips: How to Have an Ultimate Practice by Yourself

You can get better even without a throwing partner.

Scandal’s Sandy Jorgensen. Photo: Brian Canniff — UltiPhotos.com

Tuesday Tips are presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Spin Ultimate

In the toughest of times, most of us just want to play ultimate.

Unfortunately, getting a team together to practice just isn’t feasible right now. So then, the question is, how can you practice your ultimate skills by yourself?

It may not be pretty, but there are still great ways to improve as an ultimate player, even when you are all alone. 

Check out the drills, routines, and exercises below, be sure to find a safe space with lots of room away from others, and grab whatever ultimate equipment that you can. If you have a stack of discs and cones, you can still run an ultimate practice without as much as a throwing partner.

Warm Up

This is actually the most tempting part of a practice to skip when you’re by yourself, but it is the easiest to do alone. It is also the most important. 

Use your same team warmup you always do and really focus on not rushing. You want to mentally and physically prepare yourself to bring your best effort, and this is especially difficult while you’re on your own. Go through an entire loosening up and stretching routine, preferably with dynamic movements, and then grab your discs.

Just like always, it’s good to get several tosses in before the meat of the practice. Instead of throwing to someone, do your best to set up a target or cone about fifteen yards away. Aim for head height and try to get at least a round of forehands and backhands in each way, even better if you can do a variety of releases.

Grab some water and get ready for each of the following drills. A reminder, take water breaks between each drill and don’t push yourself if anything is hurting you.

Drill 1: Go-To Drill (Flip and Charge)

Warm up the hands and legs with this easy drill to open. Instead of going to a disc that others throw, take a disc and flip it up in the air a few feet in front of you.

Then, plant and attack the disc at full speed, catching with both hands and running through. This is simple, but it is good practice for muscle memory and a nice ease in for the rest of your workout. 

A good player, when focusing, should be able to do fifty flips and catches in under two minutes.

Drill 2: (Invisible) Three-Person Mark

Another great drill to loosen up the body and mind is three-man mark. You’ll just have to do it with only one person. 

Set up two cones ten yards apart. Run to one and start stalling, imagining another player in front of you pivoting and faking. This is actually a great time to focus on the mark basics of shuffling feet and staying low. It doesn’t matter that there isn’t someone there with a disc: practice being light on your toes, reacting to imagined movements, and flashing your hands quickly. 

When you hit stall five, switch and run to the other cone. After three rounds of this, you should be breathing heavily and feeling it in your legs. Take a quick break after three rounds and then try to repeat three sets of three.

Drill 3: Triangle of Death

This is a classic that is actually fairly enjoyable to do by yourself.

Set up three cones in a small triangle with a stack of discs in the middle. Then set up four cones down field. Do two on the right and two on the left. There should be a set where an under cutter would be coming and then a set for a good away shot.

Remember, you are trying to throw at head-height where the cone is. Usually this drill is fast and furious, but it might be worth a pause every rep to track your flight of discs. This isn’t a “grip it and rip it” — focus on control and accuracy.

Flip a disc and cut around the cones, catching it, turning and throwing to the under. Grab another disc as you watch the first fly, checking your accuracy. Repeat for the other side. Keep going, aiming for half the discs thrown to unders. Then, reverse the cut angle and throw your deeps. 

Your legs will be burning, and it’ll be great practice to throw in rhythm when tired.

Drill 4: Cone Cutting/Route Running

This is excellent practice that should honestly be done more often without discs.

Set up a series of cones. This can be done in a serpentine pattern or in a simulation of traditional cuts you might make in horizontal or vertical stack. Practice running a route, planting hard, imaging the disc flying and then sprinting to go get it. Work on clearing hard as well, in the situation that you don’t get the disc. Take a long breath in between each cutting segment, with jogs to reposition, and then hit it hard.

Ten routes in a row can build fitness and muscle memory. Changing the cutting angles to vary based on position and desired targets can be even better for you. Try under cuts, deep routes, handler cuts, and more.

Drill 5: Flow Drill / Shadow Cutting

Less focused on disc or cutting skills, this drill is designed to practice team offense or defense, without a team.

Set up a game situation and what you want your imaginary players to do. Then focus on your role and where you need to be in the play.

A prime example: Practice catching an under, throwing a reset, and then clearing. It might feel a bit ridiculous the first time you do this, but setting up good clears can be essential in improving your game.

Another few ideas: handler throw-and-gos or resets or moving with a stack and setting up a continue cut. 

You’ll need strong visualization, but you can incorporate throws into this, whether quick resets or long passes where you follow the disc.

One of the best ideas is to practice throwing up field, clearing out of the way hard, and then resetting in your next position.

Drill 6: Breakmark

In order to keep from getting bored or going insane, you need to add some personal competition into this mini-practice.

Without a team to join in, this is tough, but try to make it fun.

There are a couple of games you can do. The easiest is to set up a mark on yourself (invisible body works in a pinch, but even better if you can get a tree, a net, or some other obstacle) and a target downfield.

Your goal is to hit that target above an 80% margin (8/10 throws), but each time you need to “break” the mark in a different way. For example, you can throw only one inside out forehand before you need to switch to an O/I forehand or backhand or some other throw. 

Practice pivoting, faking, and hitting the tough shot. This is great if you can hang a target or a bag on something like a soccer goal, net, or tree. Get competitive and strive for perfection.

Scrimmage

Unfortunately, there is no real substitute for scrimmaging.

It can actually be a decently fun challenge to try to toss discs to yourself and get down the field quickly without a turnover, but your time is much better spent at this point finishing up your drills (and conditioning) before heading inside to watch ultimate game footage and analyze it thoroughly.

There are many different ways to do this, but one of the best in this situation is to pick a player and watch them, rather than just trying to follow the overall game flow. Analyze, critique, and learn.

Conditioning

You’re probably already tired, but a good finisher is a great way to build toughness and endurance.

Try agility cones, a HIIT workout, or simple shuttle sprints. 

Don’t push too hard. Aim for 6-8 reps at close to max speed with good rest in between.

Do Your Best and Enjoy It

The new mantra during this tough time is do your best.

Will an ultimate practice by yourself be anything close to the real thing? Of course not.

But is getting out into a field and practicing throwing, cutting, and visualizing better than doing nothing? Of course it is.

Give it a shot, get into shape, and prime your body and mind for when ultimate returns.

  1. Alex Rummelhart
    Avatar

    Alex "UBER" Rummelhart is an Ultiworld reporter. He majored in English at the University of Iowa, where he played and captained IHUC. He lives and teaches in Chicago, Illinois, where he has played for several ultimate teams, including the Chicago Wildfire and Chicago Machine. Alex loves writing of all types, especially telling interesting and engaging stories. He is the author of the novel The Ultimate Outsider, one of the first fictional works ever written about ultimate.

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