Soccer Conditioning Workout – 3 Hardcore Fitness Drills

Are your workouts letting you down? To be a soccer player, especially an elite one, it is imperative that you're in top physical form. On average,

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Are your workouts letting you down?

To be a soccer player, especially an elite one, it is imperative that you’re in top physical form. On average, soccer players can run up to  10km a game depending on the position. Although the game is highly technical and can be considered in isolation, technical skill, strength and cardio occur in concert. For example, in order to carry out that powerful shot from outside the box, your body relies on it’s strength to fuel that specific action, or when you’re exploding down the right wing at top speed cutting by defenders, your muscle strength and cardio are activated in order to facilitate your explosions on the field. Therefore it is not shocking to know that soccer is a very physically demanding sport. The question is, are you conditioning yourself in the best possible way ? 

When exercising muscles,  the best way to see results is through repetition.  Say your goal is to be able to bench press a certain amount, by incorporating a certain number of sets followed by an appropriate number of reps and increasing the weight when performing the rep becomes too easy, you’ll eventually reach hypertrophy (tissue enlargement). The same approach applies with cardio.  Similarly to muscles, the heart itself is a muscle; exercising a muscle over and over will increase the strength organ, as well as overall stamina. For myself, muscle training was a lot easier  to measure than cardio.

Because of this I will provide you with a few exercises that test both your muscle endurance and your Vo2max (maximum rate of oxygen consumption). They’re easy to set up and can be done at a local soccer parks or parking lots. Here are the best soccer conditioning workouts out there

3 Hardcore Fitness Drills

#1 The Gauntlet
This conditioning exercise places a large emphasis on cardio output.  The fantastic part about the gauntlet is that there is no designated time you’re expect to finish by. All you are required to do is finish it. This is a perfect drill to master by repeating over and over again.  Ideally this exercise should be performed on a standard track, as it will be easy for you to measure your distance.  Here’s how you do it:

1 Mile, 1 Minute Rest
800 Meters, 1 Minute Rest
400 Meters, 1 Minute Rest
200 Meters, 1 Minute Rest
10 x 40 yard sprints

As I said previously, there is no specific time frame for you to finish by, however, it is always great to push yourself.  That being said, here are some general guidelines for times:

Mile- 6:30
800m- 3:15
400m- 1:15
200m- 0:35
40s: 6.7s (under 7s)

#2 The Yo-Yo

This drill’s main focus is to test your recovery ability, as this is an incremental test. This drill is extremely practical as we constantly see the ‘stop/start’ motion exhibited in matches – transitioning from attacking to defending. With a higher focus on cardio output than its cousin, the beep test, this drill emphasizes the ability to change pace and recover over a long period of time rather than just testing your ability to produce a steady pace. This is crucial for all positions, but especially midfielders and defenders. Unlike the gauntlet, there are preset times in which you are expected to run a certain distance at a certain pace. This is a great exercise to check your repeat sprint ability. Details:

Set up cones as pictured below. The rest zone is the space between the cones that are 5 m apart. Start off there. When you hear the beep, start running to the cone 20 m away. Make sure you step next to the cone,  then turn around and run back. You have to arrive back in the rest zone before the next beep. Check out this video if you’re confused about what to do. The full audio for the test can be found for free here.  To be considered a top level athlete you must achieve a score of 21 or over.


#3 Soccer Suicide

Suicides did not get their name from being easy. This drill focuses primarily on muscle endurance and aerobic ability and it is tough! This must be performed on a standard soccer/football field.  To do a soccer suicide you must sprint from the goal line to the 6 yard line and back, then immediately turn around and sprint to the 18 yard line and back. Then sprint to the half way line and back, sprint to the other 18 yard line and back, the other 6 yard line and back, and finally sprint the whole distance of the field and back.   This drill is very physically demanding, however that is good because we want to simulate  a real game scenario.  A good time to aim for to complete a soccer suicide for a top level player is 3 minutes. For an extra challenge, give yourself a 2 minute break after finishing a complete suicide, and then aim to do another one in under 3:20.

To re-iterate, repetition produces results.  If you tackle these drills with determination and heart you are bound  to  find great results. Leave a comment to let me know what you think of these drills, what results you have seen with them, or just to let me know if you would like to see more of this type of content.

Best of luck!



  • comment-avatar
    John Rico 1 year

    Hey there! I found your article very informative and interesting. MY brother loves to play soccer and he’s incoming 9th grade. He’s planning to join to his school soccer team and this is a great conditioning workout for him to do this summer. Do you think that normal sprint and jog will do the thing? or is it better to follow this 3 workout? Thank you for sharing this information.

    • comment-avatar

      Hi John,
      Glad to hear your brother is trying to take his game to the next level! As for “normal” sprint and jog workouts, it would all depend on the distance, speed, and ratio of sprinting vs jogging. The 3 workouts we have written about are essentially just sprinting and jogging, but they are setup to simulate the cardiovascular demands of a soccer match. Running & sprinting will make you fit over a very long period of time, but you may not be able to be fit ENOUGH to finish a game. So just jogging isn’t very efficient.

      These drills simulate the effort-to-rest ratio of a soccer match, and really challenge your cardio to meet the demands of a soccer game, rather than a cross country runner or other endurance athlete. Bottom line: jogging usually isn’t enough of a challenge to get you fit enough for soccer, regardless of if you throw in some sprints. Maybe we will make a post on this in the future. Stay tuned, and good luck to your brother!

  • comment-avatar
    Lyle 1 year

    Aw I always hated doing fitness drills when I used to play football, it’s definitely not one of things I miss about it!! I was a goalie so I was never quite as fit as the rest of the time, like I wasn’t fat or anything I just remember being quite a bit behind the rest.

    But to fair I never made any real effort to improve so I really shouldn’t complain, the game’s changed and just like goalies being good with their feet, they need to be fit as well. For anybody that plays football competitively they could make great use of these exercises.

    • comment-avatar

      Hi Lyle,
      You’re absolutely right. The game is changing and keepers need to be good with their feet and also quite fit as well. As footballers we all hate doing the fitness drills, but they are necessary if you’re serious about your game! 

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