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4 Football Conditioning Drills That Work


One football tradition that will never die is good old fashioned team rivalries. But America’s favorite sport has evolved. It is a faster, more explosive game. The average play now lasts only about five seconds with an average 30-second rest between plays. Games are intense, especially against top rivals.

A good 50 years ago, it was a different story. A running back would just be responsible for running the football. He’d run for a good distance and then have a few minutes to rest. Today’s running back needs to catch the ball out of the backfield, pick up on the blitz, cut away from oncoming blocks and run for a touchdown—all in around five seconds.

Since football’s game play and game speed have evolved, so must its conditioning routines. There is no room for standard 100-yard sprints or gassers. These football conditioning drills train the cardiovascular system aerobically. Football conditioning must now be tailored toward anaerobic training. This is the only method capable of producing athletes who can keep up with the demands of the game. 

“Football is largely an anaerobic sport, but players also rely heavily on their aerobic system, to help them recover between plays,” adds Jon Drees, strength coach and owner of Drees Performance Training (Minneapolis). “To improve endurance, football conditioning drills need to both increase the athlete’s ability to sprint for a longer period before slowing down, while also improving the athlete’s recovery time between plays.”

Coaches, try the following football conditioning drills. These will help you condition your players to generate incredible results next season. 

Conditioning for Football


Interval Sprints

Drees recommends performing Interval Sprints to prepare football players for the stop-and-go nature of the sport. Perform 8-12 sprints for 40-60 feet with 10-20 seconds of rest between sets.

Sprint Ladders

The sprint ladder is a demanding conditioning drill that requires repeated bursts of exercise with not a lot of rest, mimicking the rigors you’re likely to encounter during a football game.

  • 2 x sprint 10 yards, rest 10 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 20 yards, rest 20 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 30 yards, rest 30 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 40 yards, rest 45 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 30 yards, rest 30 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 20 yards, rest 20 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 10 yards, rest 10 seconds between sprints

Sprint/Stride Intervals

Here’s where a coach can use 100 yards effectively. But you need to fine-tune the drill a little to make it more appropriate. Instead of all-out sprints, have the players perform interval sets of 20-yard sprints and 20-yard strides for the full length of the field. Striders are particularly beneficial to players. They help players develop greater stride length. This means they’ll be able to cover more ground in less time, resulting in greater speed production.  A set would be:

  • 20-yard sprint
  • 20-yard stride
  • 20-yard sprint
  • 20-yard stride
  • 20-yard sprint

Rest 30 seconds between sets and repeat for a total of four to 10 sets. Start on the lower set range at the beginning of your pre-season training and increase volume as your conditioning progresses.

Tempo Runs

Tempo runs are another drill for which coaches can use the full 100 yards of the football field.

  • Have players start at a corner of an end zone and stride for 100 yards
  • Focus on long steps, slower than a sprint, faster than a jog
  • Jog across to the opposite side of the end zone
  • Stride 100 yards again
  • Walk across the end zone to the starting point
  • Repeat four to 10 times.

Again, start with the lower training volume (four sets) early on and increase it as the season progresses.

Huddle Sprints

Another drill from Drees, this is similar to a Tempo Run but is designed to simulate the duration of a play and walking/jogging back to the huddle. Sprint for 40-60 feet, jog back to the starting line after each sprint and briefly rest in your starting position for a total of 20-30 seconds between sprints. Repeat 8-12 times.

Shuttle Sprints

If you’re indoors or have limited space, Drees prescribes Shuttle Sprints. These prepare the athlete for the energy demands of the sport, as well as train the body to decelerate and re-accelerate quickly. Simply sprint for 20-30 feet, change directions and sprint to the starting line. Repeat 8-12 times, resting for 10-20 seconds between sets.

Four Quarters

This is one of the best conditioning drills around in my opinion. It trains players to push a max effort consistently through every quarter of a game.

Sets/Reps: 4×4 (two to three minutes rest between quarters)

  • 10-yard sprints with a 10-second rest between sprints
  • 20-yard sprints with a 20-second rest between sprints
  • 30-yard sprints with a 30-second rest between sprints
  • 20-yard sprint, 20-yard stride, 20-yard sprint, 20-yard stride and 20-yard sprint with a 30-second rest between
  • This ends one quarter. Go again three more times.