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What makes a good layout? Open lanes, full extension, landing square, and the three last steps

October 30, 2016

What makes a good layout? Let’s take a look at Anna Nazarov’s layout D in Fury vs. Riot 2016.

As discussed on the FB study group, Nazarov changes her angle part way through her defensive strike. But backing up a bit, note how she dictates as a defender before the cut even happens, staying tight enough to force her cutter under yet staying close enough (arms distance) to contest the under. As a high-level defender she takes away not only the away cut but by making up distance by laying out, the under cut as well.

As a defender, what does it accomplish to change the angle of attack? One way to look at this is to consider how to play defense on under cuts. Traditionally you either try to (1) push the defender out by taking the “inside lane” (that is, you stop the inside-out flick look) or (2) you push the defender closer the middle of the field by contesting the outside lane. In this clip, Nazarov first contests the outside lane, but switches to contest the inside lane. This allows her to get close enough to layout on D.

When we analyze game situations and talk about the game, we often talk about cutting lanes to describe rough lines of space, either by cutting up the field into thirds (see “rule of thirds”), or by looking relatively to a player and seeing the rough line of space between them and where they would ideally like to receive the disc. In this situation, it’s worth thinking not only about the offensive/cutter lane, but what you can call the defensive lane. The defensive lane refers to the line that a defender can take to intercept the disc. In the clip above, note how the defensive lane is close to the cutting lane but parallel and not completely overlapping. This means that the lane is relatively open, even though the cutter tries to get into the defensive lane at the end. Since the lane is open, the layout here is not only more viable but relatively safe compared to when the defensive lane and the cutting lane intersect (rather than staying parallel).

But back to Anna’s layout. What makes this such a good layout? Besides the open lane, Nazarov’s layout is set up powerfully by three strong steps, executed with triple (“full”) extension, and lands squarely on the ground. Let’s dive into each of these in turn.

Nazarov is a speedy defender, but what really allows her to make up the ground are the three steps preceding the layout. She stays with her cutter up until that point, but note how her last three steps are not only faster but stronger. In training terms, she is increasing her RFD–her rate of force development, aka power. These powerful steps enable her to make up the ground, battling for those inches.

How do you get that last 3-step “nitro” or “turbo”? There’s a lot of specificity when it comes to training in the gym and on the field. Slow, grinding strength is great, but eventually you need to develop power by moving weight (such as your body or a bar) quickly. Not only do you need to move it quickly, but you need to use rep ranges that afford power development. This is why when you take a look at how Olympic lifters train, they talk about singles, doubles and triples. That is, instead of just 5×5, 3×8, or 5-3-1, you might just attempt a lift once or twice or thrice. This allows you to move more weight, of course quickly in the power clean / snatch case, since you are doing fewer reps. How do you enact this in the gym? Check out Dan John’s rule of ten to start.

After training for power in the gym (your program has power work in it right? :)), you must train and practice that power on the field. Not just accelerating from a standstill but accelerating from a jog or run. Nazarov and Remi Ojo are good examples here. Great layouts accelerate in the last few steps AND the take-off itself.

Next the take-off. What makes a good take-off and how do you train for it? Again there’s a lot of specificity here. There’s a concept called “special strength” you can look into, or the SAID principle–specific adaptation to imposed demand, but the short story is that strength is developed at specific joint angles in specific force vectors. In a layout, this force is exerted not mainly vertically (defying gravity aside) but horizontally. Thus your training must also exert horizontal force with those specific joint angles for best effect. I like the TRX sprinter start with a hop although you can develop base strength with step-ups and step-throughs.

Nazarov’s layout is good because she executes it with full extension. In the Olympic lifting context, they talk about triple extension at the ankles, knees, and hip. Here, a good layout has not only triple but quadruple extension, including a proud chest where the t-spine doesn’t cave but extends just enough to stay stable.

Finally, Nazarov lands square. That is, just like as in a good anti-rotation plank her shoulders and hips form a square. She doesn’t crumble or land on the side–a sure way to get injured. By training anti-rotation in core exercises, from planks to push-up position shoulder taps to Pallof presses, learn to stay square when lifting or laying out.

Summarizing, what makes a good layout?

– Fight for or find an open defensive lane parallel to the cutter
– Go into another gear by powerfully accelerating in the last three steps
– Accelerate into the take-off rather than slowing down
– Make (and train) the force vector as close to horizontal as possible rather than leaping and falling
– Go into full extension at the ankles, knees, hips and chest
– Stay and land square as in an anti-rotation plank

Finally, if possible hang onto that disc on O and D. Catch your Ds! 😉

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