The 9 Best Soccer Conditioning Drills to Improve Fitness
Marcelo Brozovic. The Croatian player set the record for the most kilometers run in a single game, which was 16km.
There is no point for me to explain why you should be fit to play soccer…it’s pretty obvious.
Instead, I’ll just say this: A good yet unfit player will perform for 10 minutes, but a good AND fit player for as long as 120 minutes, just like Marcelo Brozovic did against Japan.
So, you must realize that soccer isn’t always played with the ball… the off-the-ball game is equally important.
What Are The Best Soccer Conditioning Drills?
When it comes to building a conditioning program tailored around futbol, you need to be mindful of how you approach each exercise.
There are other things to think about when building your conditioning for soccer, or any sport for that matter. Here is what conditioning in sports is:
Conditioning drills for soccer rely on your position and your style of play, of course. But in general, athletes need a minimum fitness level to perform and display their skills.
So whether you are a coach looking for your next conditioning drill or a player who needs to improve his fitness, let’s look at 9 soccer conditioning drills that will improve your fitness.
Always remember to properly warm up before the exercises, and to recover after your workouts.
1. Shuttle Runs
Shuttle runs are a fundamental soccer conditioning drill, one of the best to increase your level of fitness.
It is sprinting back and forth between two points or markers, simulating quick changes of direction, which are important in soccer matches.
Many call this the ”suicide run” or simply ”suicide”. The only difference between shuttle runs and suicides is the gradual increase in distance in a suicide run.
Shuttle runs are beneficial because they involve major muscle groups and drill them for soccer match situations like sprints and changes of direction. It is the soccer workout you need to get in match shape.
Benefits of the shuttle run:
Developing Agility and Quickness
Acceleration and Deceleration
How to Perform:
Set up two cones approximately 20 yards away.
Start at the first cone, and run at your maximum speed to the second cone. Touch the ground, and immediately run back to the starting point.
Continue this back-and-forth motion as fast as possible.
Start by doing 3 sets of 6 motions (1 motion = back and forth run). When the fitness level is increasing, raise the distance to 30 yards or add more motions.
Of course, you can modify the reps and sets according to your fitness needs and level.
2. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
The HIIT soccer workouts are the most realistic conditioning drills you can do as a player.
During a game, you aren’t simply running at the same pace. You are walking, jogging, and sprinting at random times, a HIIT workout works on that aspect (think of an aggressive player who loves to pressure).
HIIT also enhances anaerobic fitness (lack of oxygen), which is crucial in soccer or even futsal for quick sprints, tackles, and explosive movements.
It helps you recover faster between high-intensity actions, and to make sure you perform better in these crucial moments.
HIIT workouts are generally shorter than traditional endurance training but deliver comparable or even superior results.
Benefits of the HIIT method for soccer players:
Improves both aerobic and anaerobic capacities, and can be tailored to individual fitness levels and goals.
Short workouts (But very demanding)
Going around the field or any long-distance area, start jogging around for 2 minutes to warm up.
After 2 minutes, start your intervals with a jog of 60% maximum effort (Vo2 max) for 90 seconds.
Sprint at maximum speed for 30 seconds
Go back to jogging for another 90 seconds
- Repeat this process
Repeat the sprint-rest cycle for a total of 8-10 rounds. After your fitness level has increased and you can handle more, increase the sprint time by 15 seconds at a time.
3. Box-to-box runs
This exercise is a great conditioning drill to pace yourself and improve your soccer fitness.
Soccer conditioning workouts are not always about high-intensity runs.
Sometimes, medium-level runs paired with short recovery periods can also improve fitness and make you a better soccer player.
This is the case with box-to-box runs.
This drill can also be included in team training sessions if you are a coach. You can align all your players on the box and make them run to improve overall soccer conditioning.
Benefits of the Box-to-Box runs
How to Perform:
The starting line is one goalkeeper box. Start by running to the opposite box in 15 seconds.
Once there, rest for 15 seconds and run back to the starting point in 15 seconds again.
Do the back-and-forth runs 8 times in the beginning. When your level of fitness is improved, you can lower the time to get to the other box.
4. Ladder Drills
Investing in a ladder is a great addition to your soccer training equipment!
Ladder drills are great for soccer players as they combine fast twitch muscle groups with conditioning drills.
Although the ladder drills won’t actually improve agility (despite common belief and the name ”agility ladder”), it is a great way to improve soccer conditioning.
It also is a great warm-up for your training session.
Benefits of the Ladder:
Ladder drills target foot speed and coordination.
Honing your ability to make quick and precise movements.
How to Perform:
Place a ladder (or cones 2 feet apart) flat on the ground.
Stand at one end and move through the ladder, stepping in and out of each square as quickly as possible.
Perform a variety of ladder drills, such as the “in-out” and “side shuffle,” to improve different aspects of agility.
I would do the ladder exercises at the beginning of my training sessions.
It is preferable to do 2 rounds of each variation, and not go for more than 5 variations since it can exhaust players fast.
5. The Field Run
The Field Run is a great way to combine long-distance running with fitness and fast recovery.
It consists of running around any soccer field. On the field’s length, run at 60% or your maximum effort, and on the width, run at 90%.
All my coaches made their players run this drill. It is an effective conditioning drill in the preseason. It can also be used for warmup.
Benefits of the Field Run:
Recovery while running (similar to HIIT).
Improves fitness and speed of long-distance running
How to Perform:
Start at one corner of the soccer field. Run the length at 60% of your maximum effort (vo2 max).
When you get the width, sprint from one corner to the other at full speed.
At the end of the corner, jog the length again at 60%.
If used for a warmup, run the field between 4-8 times. During preseason, you can go between 8 and 16 times, or as much as your team’s ability.
6. Weighted Runs
Weighted (slowed) runs are great conditioning exercises since they combine power and acceleration with fitness.
It’s a drill players need since it works on their explosiveness during soccer games.
There are 3 variations of this high-intensity drill, depending on your situation:
- If you are in a gym, use a sled with weights.
- If you are alone, you can use a parachute, a weighted vest, or a backpack filled with books (there is always a way folks)
If you are a coach, make your team hold each other back by the waist while they sprint (or use bands).
Benefits of Weighted Runs:
Combine major muscle groups (quads, glutes, hamstrings) with anaerobic fitness.
How to do them:
Place 2 cones in a line 10 yards apart.
Start at one line, and push the sled as fast as possible to the second cone. Push it back to the starting cone.
If done with a parachute or teammate:
Place 2 cones in a line 10 yards apart.
Sprint to the second cone as fast as possible (while the parachute slows you down or your teammate holds you back by the waist).
I would do 3 sets of 2 sprints. This exercise is commonly used as a warm-up exercise.
7. Hill Sprints
The famous hill sprints (or any incline sprint) is one of the most demanding soccer conditioning drills out there.
Running drills for soccer are already very beneficial, but adding the incline aspect combines the strength and explosiveness needed to outperform opposing teams during your next soccer game.
You can do them at any hill, or on an inclined treadmill.
- Great for power generation
How to Perform:
Start at the bottom of any hill and sprint up to the sommet. Jog back down and repeat 3 times.
Do 3 sets of 3 sprints. Trust me, it is more than enough to work those quads. This exercise requires a lot of energy from your body!
8. Cone Dribbling
Conditioning drills for soccer can sometimes be done with soccer balls.
The cone dribbling drill is great for combining players’ endurance and skills. It also works with your dribbling.
We often forget to link both aspects of the game. Cone drills are great for doing that, as the player is navigating through cones while focusing on pushing the ball through the space.
Linking the concentration and focus part of the game with a little bit of running is another approach to your conditioning-building journey!
Benefits of cone dribbling:
Enhance your ball control and close dribbling skills, which are crucial for maintaining possession under pressure.
Improve your footwork and agility
How to Perform:
- Set up a series of cones in a straight line, about one yard apart.
- Dribble a soccer ball through the cones, as quickly as possible while maintaining control.
- Once you reach the end, dribble around the last cone and come back through the cones to the starting line.
I would do 4 sets of cone dribbling per practice (1 set being a back-and-forth go). You can add conditions to make it harder, like only using your right foot or only using the inside of the foot.
9. The ”S” Drill (My Own)
When I went to a tryout for a very good team, I performed well and was feeling confident…until the coach told us to grab a ball and get into pairs.
This is where most people fail….(clever coach).
This exercise exposed me and ruined my tryouts (it’s fine I got a better team afterward).
However, I never stopped using that drill to improve my conditioning and I recommend it to every player (or coach).
The ”S” drill consists of running with a ball through a little designated space and coming back. It is an awesome drill to combine soccer dribbling with conditioning and recovery.
It can be done in pairs, or by yourself with a rest time.
Improves fitness level
Improve ball control and dribbling skills
Lowers recovery time
How to perform:
Set up 2 outer cones 30 yards away. Set 2 inner cones in the middle of the two outer cones, 3 feet apart.
Start at one outer cone, and dribble at full speed forward until you reach the 2 inner cones.
Dribble through the inner cones, and sprint until the last outer cone.
Dribble around that last outer cone, and come back to the starting point the same way (dribbling through the inner cones).
Run it 5 times. You will end up at the opposite side of the starting point. From there, pass the ball to your teammate and he will start his sprints.
- During that time, your teammate will run while you walk and recover back to the starting point to receive his pass.
This exercise should be done in 3 sets of 2 reps. One repetition is the 5 runs and 1 set is all the runs (10 for you) of the team combined.
For coaches, you can make a race out of it. A team wins by finishing first compared to the other pairs around them.
Incorporating these soccer drills into your training routine can significantly enhance your performance on the field.
Remember that consistency and dedication are key to reaping the benefits of these exercises.
Once you improve your fitness and conditioning, you can become more focused on your actual soccer skills during training.
Whether you’re an aspiring amateur or a seasoned professional, improving your conditioning will undoubtedly give you an edge in the world’s most popular sport.
Always remember that these workouts are very demanding. You will need a couple of days for recovery afterward to avoid overtraining and injuries.
So, lace up your boots, grab a soccer ball, and start conditioning to reach your full potential on the pitch.
Your teammates and opponents won’t know what hit them!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How to determine if you are fit enough?
The best way to determine if you’re fit enough is by doing the beep test. This test allows you to know where you are compared to professionals in terms of soccer fitness.
You can also tell if you gas out rapidly during training or games, or whether your muscles give up when you don’t want them to.
Why are soccer conditioning drills important for players?
Soccer conditioning drills are crucial because they help players improve their physical fitness, agility, speed, endurance, and other attributes that are essential for success on the soccer field.
These drills enhance a player’s ability to perform at their best during matches.
How often should I incorporate conditioning drills into my soccer training routine?
The frequency of conditioning drills can vary based on your fitness level and goals. Generally, 2-3 sessions per week can be beneficial.
It’s also essential to integrate these drills into your overall training plan and periodize your workouts to prevent overtraining.
Are there specific conditioning drills for goalkeepers?
While many conditioning drills are applicable to all players, goalkeepers may benefit from additional drills tailored to their position.
These drills often focus on quick lateral movements, diving, and reaction speed.
Can I use these drills for youth soccer players?
Yes, many of these drills can be adapted for youth players. However, it’s crucial to adjust the intensity and duration to match their age and skill level.
Safety and proper technique should be a priority.
How do I prevent injuries while doing soccer conditioning drills?
To minimize the risk of injury, ensure that you warm up properly, maintain good form during exercises, and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts.
Additionally, include strength and flexibility exercises to support your conditioning drills.
How can I track my progress with these drills?
Keeping a training journal, recording your times or repetitions, or using fitness tracking apps can help you monitor your progress.
By setting specific goals and regularly measuring your performance, you can assess your improvement over time.
Can these drills be used for preseason conditioning?
Yes, soccer conditioning drills are valuable for preseason preparation.
They help players regain their fitness levels, sharpen skills, and build team cohesion in preparation for the upcoming season.
What’s the best way to incorporate these drills into a training session?
It’s good practice to include conditioning drills at the beginning or end of a training session.
Warm up with dynamic exercises like high knees or side shuffle, engage in the drills, and then cool down with static stretching and recovery techniques.
How long does it take to see significant improvements from soccer conditioning drills?
The rate of improvement varies from person to person. Typically, consistent training over several weeks or months is needed to see significant progress.
The key is to stay committed and progressively challenge yourself in your workouts.