How Your Training Plan to Build Speed Includes Going Slow And Building Strength

An Ultimate Frisbee training plan to build speed through strength and slow endurance running is very similar to training for cycling and running.

How Your Training Plan Can Build Speed By Going Slow And Building Strength

  • Do easier long, slow days mixed with really hard days
  • Take some more rest
  • Build in longer distance runs
  • Build strength through heavy lifting, especially in the off-season
  • Train speed with specificity
  • Increase calorie intake
  • Add at least one day a week of yoga

It’s one of the ironies of a training plan to build speed: you need to build up a base of slow endurance.

Regardless of your sport, if you need speed, you need to go slow – and build strength – to get fast. 

I work with a young man hoping to earn a place on a professional Ultimate Frisbee team. 

Ultimate is a high-intensity game with a lot of short sprints, twisting, and jumping, as well as catching and throwing strength. 

Since he works on many of the sport-specific skills in team practice twice a week, we’ll set up a training plan to build speed through slow endurance running, with strength work and yoga, the two things you need to be a durable cyclist and runner.

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Here’s what he sent me for his current work:

What I do so far: 

  • M: Team practice (sprints and pro agility as well as extended scrimmage) 
  • T: HIIT training at the gym. Circuit training (lots of bands and glute work) interspersed with incline treadmill sprints
  • W: Team practice. Same thing as before.
  • Thursday: lift day. Heavy squat, heavy deadlift, Romanian split squats are the main lifts. I turn it into circuit training with core work, and full body explosive stuff (kettlebell, power clean, push press). Then I end with plyometric burnout
  • F: I try to play pickup. If not, I do sprint workouts on track. Start by running a mile and dynamic warmup. Then I’ll either do 10×200 or 6×400. Throwing with partner in between reps. Then end with some agility work. 
  • Then on the weekend, I either have a tournament or spend one day for rest and the other day for the long run.

That’s a lot of intensity with not a lot of rest

My first thought is that even though he’s 22, this is a LOT of intensity!

If he wants a training plan to build speed, here are the seven parts: 

  • Do easier long, slow days mixed with really hard days
  • Take some more rest
  • Build in longer distance runs
  • Build strength through heavy lifting, especially in the off-season
  • Train speed with specificity
  • Increase calorie intake
  • Add at least one day a week of yoga

Build a training plan to improve speed by going slow

Our training plan to build speed works through building strength and going slow.

Since he has team practice two days a week with the team, those are priority days. 

That means he should come into practice relatively well-rested and prepared. 

Ideally, then, he would have practice on Monday and Wednesday, and then do his rest day or an easy workout on Tuesday. 

Thursday and Saturday would be sprint days with heavy lift days.

Friday would be an easy run with some speed work built in.

Sunday would be the long run. (Since the long run precedes the Monday team practice, we’ll monitor fatigue as we build up the mileage and time.)

This would be in the off-season and would change as the tryouts get closer. 

We add yoga recovery on Tuesdays and Friday.

This is the rough training plan to build speed that needs some flexibility due to the client’s work schedule. 

Your training plan to build speed should have easy days

Generally, I try to schedule an athlete’s training with hard days and easy days. 

That way, the thinking goes, an athlete has an opportunity to recover from the previous day’s hard work. 

For example, if his schedule permits, I suggested that my athlete do a sprint workout in the morning and then lift right after or as soon after as possible. 

His focus is on getting faster, not becoming a bodybuilder.

So we want to be fresh for the sprints and not worry about how much he lifts. 

The stress of weight lifting is still going to trigger adaptations whether he deadlifts 150 or 200 pounds. 

And recovery is critical here: he has to let the training stress marinate so that he gets stronger and faster with time. 

He doesn’t necessarily need to take a day off, but throwing the disc or going for an easy run are also okay. 

However, knowing this client and his inability to go slow at anything, I would definitely recommend he spend his off-day watching movies with his girlfriend!

A critical element in our training plan to build speed is to actually rest and recover. Only in recovery will he build the strength to get faster.

Build speed by running slowly

Doing sprint training does work in a training plan to build speed.

But your gains will be temporary and limited.

However, doing long slow runs at a pace where you can still nose-breathe is the opportunity to spend a lot more time building the aerobic adaptations he needs. 

For example, a long easy run will build more mitochondria in the cells, which, in turn, will allow him to go faster and sprint more often. 

Plus, building endurance will help him in the latter parts of an Ultimate match. 

The key in the training plan to build speed is to go slow and build time in the endurance zone. 

You want to be able to keep your heart rate low, generally under 130 bpm, and be able to breathe easily through your nose. 

Lifting heavy weights will improve speed through strength

Lifting heavy weights provides several benefits: increased muscle fiber strength, increased hormone release, and better joint stability. 

Again, we’re not looking to be a body-builder or powerlifter so the amount of weight the client lifts is irrelevant. 

What matters is the fatigue we’re building, followed by the recovery.

While there’s some evidence that muscle-building doesn’t require a specific number of repetitions, what matters is fatigue. 

We’re looking to tire out the muscles so that they rebuild themselves with more strength.

Lifting heavy takes less time plus has the added benefit of hormone release. 

The lifting schedule, which always includes core work, is highly dependent on the time of year. 

If he can get three days a week of the heavy lifting in the off-season, that’s better. 

Once a week during the season is sufficient. 

Deadlifts are an important lift since they involve so many muscle groups. 

Doing a full-body routine makes up the rest of the training plan to build speed

Improve speed training with specificity

In Ultimate, like soccer, you run slow for long periods, interspersed with short high-intensity sprints. 

So in the preparation phase in the training plan to build speed, we want to do the kind of longer sprints he discusses: 200 or 400m distances. 

He would do these in the morning on the same day as the heavy lifting. 

The plyometrics he mentions are also good on the sprint days. 

My client clearly has hops. To build even more speed strength, he should jump down from a box, then immediately jump onto another box. 

This movement will highlight the eccentric or lengthening of his muscles.

With the sprint training to build endurance and strength to get fast, I would do 15 seconds sprint, 15 seconds off, and build up to 10 minutes.

Then rest 5 minutes, then repeat 2 or 3 more times as he’s able. 

The goal is to build up time with the sprint times. 

So our training plan to build speed includes specificity and plyometrics. 

Eating more will improve speed in the training plan to build speed

Especially since my client is a young man, he needs to up his nutrition game. 

He eats a healthy diet, but he just doesn’t eat enough calories. 

In some ways, he needs to consider this an eating contest! 

With this level of volume of exercise, he needs to consume a lot of calories. 

Since he is already at a low body fat percentage, he may need to drink calories with a weight gainer. 

He will need a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. 

Good nutrition is always part of a training plan to build speed and endurance. 

To build a durable body, yoga is critical for mobility

The Ultimate season, like many competition seasons for cycling and running, is long. 

He needs to be durable and resilient throughout the season. 

So we add at least two days of yoga into his training plan to build speed

These are Yoga Recovery sessions where we simply focus on improving our range of motion and opening our joints. 

The idea is not stretching, but creating additional mobility and improving blood flow and recovery.

Every training plan I build includes yoga practice in order to increase durability and good health. 

How does Ultimate Frisbee compare to endurance sports?

Most of the training philosophy is the same for all endurance sports. 

The difference is the specificity of training. 

For cyclists and runners, we build the same base with long endurance work, shorter interval work, heavy lifting, and yoga. 

Then, as our competitive season draws closer, we focus more on the needs of our specific event. 

For example, if we race criteriums, our cycling training plan will include a lot of short intensity bursts. Likewise, if we run marathons, our running training plan will include longer intervals. 

Building a base for Ultimate is a great example of what matters for endurance training: building a base and working on weaknesses in pre-competition, then training specifically for your target events. 

Want to know more about what you can achieve? 

I help a limited number of cyclists and runners achieve their goals with more strength, endurance, and mobility. 

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Paul Warloski is a: 

  • USA Cycling Level 3 Coach
  • RRCA Running Coach
  • Training Peaks Level 2 Coach
  • RYT-200 Yoga Instructor
  • Certified Personal Trainer