4 Steps to a Picture Perfect Layout
It’s been five years since I wrote up a few thoughts on “Learning to Layout: Practice & Progression“. I improved a little early on, but it wasn’t until I played beach ultimate more consistently that I’ve been able to more consistently lay it with good form (triple/full-extension) on O and D.
A friend of mine today asked me about how I learned to layout so I thought I’d share my current thinking on learning and training the layout.
Step 1: Start watching people layout, whether it’s via YouTube playlists, Callahan videos or other compilations, Pinterest boards or in person.
Step 2: Visualize success. An easy way to start is the week before a fun tournament or practice event. At least a few days that week, watch videos and visualize. Imagine the other players on the field. See the disc moving as you predict the opportunity to layout. You want to catch that disc.
[As it turns out, I started learning what I think is an easier layout on D–defending a 7-cut (cutter goes open side and towards the line of scrimmage, then clears horizontally to the break side for a gut shot or inside break). In this layout D (as in defending a break backhand around a flat forehand mark on the non-trapped side), your path as a defender parallels rather than intersects the cutter’s motion, which makes it an easier D to attempt. (In contrast, defending an in-cut may require your path to the disc to intersect your cutter’s).]
Step 3: Practice, and then strengthen triple extension. What is triple extension? It is extension at the ankles, knees, and hips. Traditionally this is done with power cleans (i.e. with a barbell from the hang position), although I personally have taken a break from cleans to spare the shoulder. Some folks do this with KB swings, but you should be doing some form of triple-extension exercise.
Personally, I’ve switched away from a lot of barbell and KB triple extension to more bodyweight training (I might discourage box jumps for this purpose, since they don’t directly encourage triple extension). Explosive Calisthenics: …Using Bodyweight-Only Methods is one place to start (for example, practice bodyweight vertical jumps with relatively low-reps-per-session < 10. Then progress to jumping from a walk, jog, or run. Throw your hands in the air as if you were reaching for a disc.)
Step 4: Train fast, be explosive, and make it so.
The saying “train slow, be slow” isn’t exactly true, but the point is that you want to be moving quickly and explosively in your training at least some of the time. Vertical jumps and power cleans start to get at this, but don’t quite capture the single-leg hip-flexion-and-extension pattern you execute during a non-handler layout (i.e. exploding off a single leg rather than two legs).
How do you train this single leg explosiveness? Try the TRX Sprinter Start, if you have access to a suspension trainer. Note how you start to move explosively off a single leg, jumping really. Unlike a standard bodyweight jump, the force vector is closer to horizontal than vertical, which more closely simulates a layout in Ultimate.
I also like using a slideboard (or ValSlide etc.) to do mountain climber intervals if you have access to one. The slideboard lets you avoid excess lumbar rotation/flexion while focusing on fast hip flexion and extension with glutes firing.
Is your anterior core strong enough to withstand actually laying out? Mine wasn’t but after a lot of learning (thanks Kelly Starrett et al. and whoever invented the various dead bug variations) it’s getting there. If you are there, then get to it. The more beach I play, the more I find it a great time to practice those layouts with good form.