Home / Insights / The ULTIMATE Guide To Football Fitness Training in 2024

By Ben Young | FITNESS | January 12, 2024

The ULTIMATE Guide To Football Fitness Training in 2024

Simply put, the physical demands of modern-day football are the toughest they have ever been.

As players get fitter, stronger & faster, the game is changing and the physical demands are also increasing. 

Unless you are fortunate to play for a team that dominates possession, it is rare that you are able to dictate the tempo of the game. Therefore if you want to be an effective player, having high levels of football conditioning is critical.


By being in top physical condition and always working on your football fitness training it allows you to keep up with play, make sure you can show your talent and also ensures you are not clouded by fatigue at the most important periods of the game.

Having a high level of fitness is a required attribute for top players so they are able to cope with the intense demands, recover between bouts of intensity and to ensure performance is consistently high game to game, week to week, season to season.

To help you on your mission to develop your football fitness we have produced this guide to cover all things football fitness training to help.

In this guide, you will

  1. Understand the physical demands of football
  2. Understand the energy systems football requires
  3. Understand how to map your football fitness training to the energy systems that are used in football
  4. The football fitness training methods to use to best improve your game
  5. TEST yourself against the best by taking our FITNESS CHALLENGE
  6. Learn How to improve fitness for football

At E-Perform we feel it is so important for players to take their careers into their own hands. 

Having a basic understanding of all the parts of your game and how to improve them will make you the ultimate professional and set you on a path of rapid development & improvement. 

We, therefore, try as hard as we can to make all our information as simple and easy to understand as possible.

Of course, if you want to go deeper and get even more information, workouts & understand how to tailor your sessions to your individual fitness & goals please check out our Fitness for football E-Book.

Football player workout plan
Football player workout plan
Contents hide

The physical demands of football

Due to the evolution of sports science players, both professional and amateur now wear GPS units such as the brands below which allow us to understand and monitor how much, how intense and how often the most physically demanding parts of the game occur.

By understanding the demands of the game we are aiming to improve we can tailor our training to it to ensure we are training specifically for the sport and all the hard work we complete in our football fitness training is going to directly benefit our game.

Types of GPS for football

Stats sports GPS System

Catapult Football GPS System

Player Teke

Player Teke Football GPS Units



How is football fatiguing? What makes you tired in a football match?

In professional football, players are typically required to cover distances between 10-12 km in a 90-minute game. This distance is interspersed with frequent bouts of high-speed running, accelerations, decelerations and changes of direction.

Although 10-12km can sound like quite a lot of distance to cover. We know that it is not just the distance that fatigues players, it is the types of efforts within the total distance.


To make this example simple;

Your average walking speed is:

5.6Kph

The average speed of 10Km Match in 90 minutes is

6.6 Kph

You can see from the above that it would not require a player to be very fit or fast to complete a 10KM distance in 90 minutes, the average speed of an overall game, is walking or very slow jogging speed.

Therefore, the fatiguing physical demands of football actually come from acceleration, deceleration, change of directions and high-speed sprinting – rather than just the total amount (volume) of work the players perform.

These accelerations, decelerations & changes of direction are the aspects that are hard, that cause fatigue and that we need to get fitter and conditioned for.

This is our starting point for football fitness training. In addition to the in-game demands we also have to consider these demands happen game upon game, week on week, and with players ending up playing up to 40-60 games a season the season-long demands over the whole year.

“What we know is Fitter and stronger players recover faster”

Football player workout plan

Football Fitness & Its Impact on mindset and Football Psychology

Research also clearly supports the benefits of high levels of fitness from a physiological standpoint, but even more so it has a huge impact on the mental side of the game. 

Players suffering from fatigue are known to become more error-prone than when in an un-fatigued state. Decision-making decreases and therefore performance levels can drop.

It is also easy to notice that this can be a problem that stacks up the deeper you get into a season/tournament or a game.


As more errors are made due to fatigue, confidence can drop further compounding the fatigue & mindset.

The good news is that every player can improve their individual levels of conditioning and we will show you how you can tailor this to optimise your training for maximum success.

Football player workout plan
Football player workout plan

Make football fitness training your weapon in your performance

It is our belief that making your fitness a weapon in your game is one of the simplest things to do to gain a competitive advantage and every player should maximise their physical part of the game to allow them to show their best in every match & not allow fatigue to hold them back.


‘I have never tried to hide the fact that it is my intention to become the best”

Cristiano Ronaldo



Whether it is becoming a player defined by work rate with the relentless box-to-box actions, or simply being fresh & without fatigue clouding your judgement or execution in the critical moments of the game. 

We have all experienced those moments such as goal-scoring opportunities that end up over the bar just because your legs ‘have gone’ and your touch suffers right at that critical part of the game. 

Don’t let that be you. It is in your control.

In order to improve your fitness for football, we think it is important to have a basic understanding of what you are trying to improve. 

Therefore we have put together the below guide to give you the headlines & wrap your head around the exact outcomes you are trying to achieve.


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Or Click the banner below to sign up for our football workouts app!

Football player workout plan
Football player workout plan


Energy systems and how they relate to football fitness

THE AEROBIC SYSTEM FOR FOOTBALL

KNOWN AS: THE ENGINE

This system uses the oxygen that we breathe in and is transported to the muscles to be used by the muscle cells’ energy producers called mitochondria.

When is aerobic fitness used in football?

The energy produced from this system is relatively slow and is therefore associated with low-intensity- moderate-intensity activities. 

This energy system will power us for a long time and takes a long time to fatigue, therefore we will associate the aerobic system with your in-game work rate and ability to recover & keep going.

How does the aerobic system help your fitness in football?

The more time spent within this energy system the less fatigue that will be developed. 

Football is a game that is played for over 90 minutes and we need to have the underlying aerobic capabilities to cope with this, the higher our aerobic capability the less demand we place on the other energy systems that are faster to fatigue and may result in increased fatigue levels. 

The aerobic also helps with recovery between high bouts of exercise by helping to remove lactic acid produced from anaerobic activity.

Aerobic Football Fitness Training: In simple terms

The bigger your aerobic system is the less you use the other energy systems. 

The other energy systems fatigue fast and the aerobic system fatigues slow, so we want to stay away from using them as much as we can and keep using the aerobic system.

 In essence, a big ENGINE = We keep going for longer & recover faster.

Football fitness training: The Aerobic system



The Anaerobic System: THE SPRINTER

This system uses stored energy in the muscles called muscle glycogen and breaks this energy down without oxygen. 

A by-product of this form of energy is lactic acid, this is associated with fatigue and that burning feeling you may feel when completing high-intensity activities. 

Rest between high-intensity activities is required to break down this lactic acid before you can rely on this energy system again.

When is it used in football?

This system is, therefore, faster and associated with higher intensity activities that last between 10 seconds & up to 2 minutes, imagine that period in the game where there are multiple transitions, so you are running from end to end as fast as possible, or you are required to complete multiple efforts in a long block of work to defend a lead or maintain an attack of the highest intensity.

Anaerobic Football fitness training in simple terms

High-intensity activities that last between 10 seconds & up to 2 minutes utilise this system

A-lactic system:

Also does not require oxygen like the anaerobic system, however, this system supplies the immediate energy needed for the highest intense muscle actions which last for a few seconds.

When is the A-lactic energy system used in football?

The A-lactic system shows itself in moments when you need to have a quick burst or change of pace to beat an opponent to the ball. Players that seem to continually have that burst of pace or repeatedly do high-intensity actions throughout the game will have a well-developed a-lactic system.

The A-Lactic system in football fitness training in simple terms

High-intensity activities that last between 0 seconds & 10 seconds.

Now we understand the 3 components of fitness we now need to understand

 

Football player workout plan
Football player workout plan

3 COMPONENTS OF FOOTBALL FiTNESS TRAINING

Using these established thresholds previously discussed it is possible to break down training into three key groups and their unique importance to our fitness program.

1. Low-intensity football fitness training (LIT)

All work completed below aerobic threshold. This will not be covered in the fitness training sessions as work completed here will not improve your fitness. 

However, it is important to understand this zone as you can spend time here associated with active recovery and body composition.

Medium-intensity football fitness training (MIT)

This is the work completed between the aerobic threshold and the anaerobic threshold. Work here will be focusing on solely aerobic conditioning that is below maximal.

High-intensity football fitness training (HIT)

This is the work completed above the anaerobic threshold. Training here will prepare you for higher intensity periods specific to football to the demands of football.



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HOW TO GET FIT FOR FOOTBALL – THE FOOTBALL ENERGY SYSTEMS!

High-Intensity Training Methods for football fitness

We will briefly outline each training method we can use and why they are both important from a physiological standpoint and their game relevance.

Intervals Training (long and short)

What is interval training?

Intervals are common in sport and training and the objective is to train around your maximum aerobic speed and VO2 max, this will therefore increase your aerobic capabilities and Maximal Aerobic Speed ability.

Why is interval training important for football fitness?

This is important in football as we mentioned your ability to maintain a higher VO2 max will decrease the anaerobic cost associated with high-intensity activities, further the game is often broken down into high-intensity work that is not maximal, For example getting back into shape and working from within shape or transition from defence to attack creating support runs and finding space.

How do we prescribe interval training to make it specific to football?

Long Football Interval Training


Duration: Are longer than 1 minute

Intensity: Between 80-120% of your Maximal Aerobic Speed

Work:Rest Ratio: 2:1, 1:1 or 1:2

Short Football Interval Training

Duration: Are shorter than 1 minute

Intensity: Prescribed at 0-30% Aerobic Speed Reserve

Work:Rest Ratio: 2:1, 1:1 or 1:2

Interval football fitness training with active recovery

The intervals mentioned above include a passive recovery where you will not be moving between sets, as the game can be active even during rest, we can also use active recovery, running at lower %MAS between 50-70%. 

This will result in reduced work intensity, therefore, shifting long intervals to 80-100& MAS and short intervals to 90-120 %MAS.

Tempo Training for football fitness

What is tempo training?

Tempo work is popular within football as it increases the work completed at high-speed running thresholds, as we know high-speed running can dissociate between playing levels and has a protective effect against injuries this then becomes very important to football.

How do we prescribe tempo training to make it specific to football?

Intensity: Tempo running is normally completed at around 20-50% ASR.

Duration: and often around 10-30 seconds but can be up to 60 seconds.

Rest: 1:3 work to rest ratio.

The objective: is whilst not running at a maximal speed to feel light and springy every repetition.

Sprint interval training for football

What are sprint intervals in football fitness training?

Sprint interval training (SIT) is essentially maximal sprinting for more than 15-20 seconds.


Some coaches will call this lactate production or lactate tolerance as the energy system that will be used in the anaerobic and A-lactic and you will be producing a lot of lactic acids, prepare to feel the burn.

Why are sprint intervals important for football fitness training?

This type of work will often be seen within the game in periods of large transition, last-ditch tackles, and maximal sprinting to get through on goal and will increase your ability to cope with these demands and work under higher lactate zones due to increased tolerance.

How do we prescribe tempo training to make it specific to football?

Duration: 15 – 20 seconds

Intensity: near-maximal

Rest: 2 Minutes + between reps to allow the body to recover from lactate production and maintain maximal sprinting speeds.

Repeat sprint training for football fitness training

What is it?

Repeat sprint training involves maximal sprinting once again but for a shorter time(<2-8 seconds) and therefore distance and with short rest periods (<20 seconds).

Why is repeat spring training important for football?

The ability to repeat sprints over short distances repetitively represents worst-case scenarios within the game where work will be at its highest. Often these periods will be scattered throughout a game, but it is important to be conditioned to this work to limit its fatiguing effects.

How do we prescribe repeat sprint training to make it specific for football fitness training?

The aim is to repeat the sprint efforts with short rest time with low decrements in performance throughout the set.

Football player workout plan
Football player workout plan

ENOUGH TALK –> LET’S GET ON THE GRASS

Here are some football fitness sessions to get you going!


Sign up for our FREE Football fitness training ebook – Delivered straight to your inbox!

To help your understanding but also to give you a few examples of sessions which can help your game straight away try these 6 workouts below. 

However, if your fitness is a priority for you (and we think it should be as a footballer) We are soon to be releasing a football-specific football fitness and conditioning app. If you would like to be the first to hear about the release of the app & become a VIP user sign up for the waiting list now for free.

In addition, make sure you check out our ebook Fitness for Football. It brings you THE BEST fitness drills for football & gives you a 16-week program in a simple useable ebook, delivered immediately to your phone. GET THE E-BOOK HERE 

We also guide you through fitness testing so you can make the sessions bespoke to you & really transform your game.

How to improve fitness for football

Use the football fitness sessions below to learn how to improve fitness for football.

Football Fitness Training Session 1: THE player X Challenge

Football Fitness Training Session 2: THE player X Challenge

Football Fitness Training Session 3: Repeat sprint training session

Football Fitness Training Session 4: Sprint interval training session

Football Fitness Training Session 5: Tempo Training Session

Football Fitness Training Session 6: Interval session (Long & Short) session

We hope you have enjoyed this article. If you are interested in taking your game to the next level check out the E-Perform Fitness for football E-book.

It has been written by fitness coaches currently working in the game at the highest level. The E-Book goes through the WHY behind all elements of fitness and conditioning, and fitness testing & finishes with a 16-week program to accelerate your game to the next level. Make your fitness a weapon in your game today and grab our E-Book!

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Football player workout plan
Football player workout plan

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