If you want to become a better football player, then working on your fitness is unavoidable. Even the most skilful player in the world is of little use if they’re off the pace inside the first five minutes of a game.
These four tests from Chris Barnes, sports scientist for football GPS tracker PLAYR, will let you know exactly where your football fitness levels are. Normally the tests are conducted using timed gates, but we think you can get by with a smartphone and a friend to perform them. Barnes has also provided benchmark scores, for professionals and an average range for amateurs. Why trust these numbers? Because PLAYR has been developed by Catapult, and the company’s tech is used by top football teams the world over. If you feel like your scores are not where you want them to be, then you’ll find some exercises you can do to improve below.
Football Fitness Tests
Set out a series of markers in a straight line at 0, 10, 20 and 30m. The player taking the test stands at the start, and the person timing stands on the 10m mark. On command, the player sprints through the 10m mark and the timer records the time they pass the marker. Repeat for 10m, and then do twice for 20m and 30m. Take the average score across the two efforts for each distance.
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Set out markers at 0, 10 and 15m. The player stands at the start and the timer stands at the 10m mark. On command, the player sprints to the 15m mark, turns on their right foot and sprints back through the 10m marker. The timer starts the stopwatch as the player passes the 10m mark on the way out and stops as the player passes the same mark on the way back. Repeat twice for left and right foot turns, and take the average score for each.
The table below are average scores for right-footers – reverse if you are left-footed.
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Mark out 100m on the pitch. The player stands on the start line. On command, the timer starts the stopwatch and the player runs to the other marker, turns and runs back and forth continuously for ten lengths.
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YoYo IRT Level 1
You will require the YIRT(1) test and have to wear headphones or bring a Bluetooth speaker to hear the beeps. Set a track out with markers at -5m, 0m and 20m. The player starts at the 0m mark. At the start of the trial the player runs to the 20m mark, turns and runs back to the 0m mark. The player then has 10sec to walk to the -5m mark and back before the next run. The test starts slow and progressively increases in tempo. The player continues until they cannot keep pace with the beeps. Record the number of completed 40m shuttles. Your result is that number x 40.
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How To Improve Your Scores
Does your football fitness need work? These drills from Barnes can help you log more impressive results in the tests above.
1 Max Acceleration
This drill is designed to improve your speed over 5m and 10m. Stand on the sideline. On command, sprint as fast as you can to the 18-yard box (around 12m). Walk back slowly and repeat three times. Add variation by starting side-on or with your back to the pitch.
2A Sustained Speed
This series of drills are designed to improve your speed over 20m and 30m.
Start on the sideline of the 18-yard box. Jog to the six-yard sideline then sprint at a maximum effort to the other side of the six-yard box. Ease off to the 18-yard sideline, turn and repeat. Rest for 60sec and then repeat for five times in total.
2B Sustained Speed
Start on the sideline. Jog to the 18-yard box and run as fast as you can across the box, before easing off and jogging to the opposite sideline. Turn and repeat. Rest for 90sec and repeat for four times in total.
2C Sustained Speed
This drill requires a partner. Place markers 30m apart. One player begins with the ball on the start line, and the other player starts 1m behind. The drill starts with the first touch of the ball. Both race to the 30m point. The ball player must have five touches of the ball in the 30m. Walk back slowly, change roles and repeat. Perform the drill five times for each player.
This is also done with a partner. Set up a four-point, Y-shaped course with 5m between the markers. Player A sprints from the base of the Y to the midway marker 5m away, checks to the right marker and then returns to the start. When they’re back, player B starts. Alternate checking to the left or right marker. Do two sets of six sprints for each player, resting for 3min between sets.
Another partner drill. Set up markers 5m apart, two to the left and two to the right, so you zigzag forwards, with start and finish markers in the middle of the zigzag pattern. On the command, sprint as fast you can to each marker, then jog back from the finish. Then your partner goes. Do two sets of six sprints for each player, resting for 3min between sets.
A final partner drill. This is performed at 80-90% of your speed capacity. You both start on the sideline. Player A runs to the 18-yard box and back, player B then does the same. Then repeat for the near-side six-yard box sideline, far-side six-yard box sideline, and far-side 18-yard box sideline. Rest for three minutes and then repeat once more. Build up to a total of five reps over time.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.