8 Soccer Conditioning Drills for Elite Fitness

Anyone that plays soccer will need to keep on top of their fitness and training in order to be as successful as possible, and encouraging players to do this will only increase their chances of being successful.

If you want your team to have an elite fitness level, you are going to need to come up with some exercises to keep them working on their fitness.

An elite fitness level is going to help your players to maximize their potential when it comes to playing soccer.

To reach such a level, they are going to need to be conditioned, which you can do through a variety of different training exercises.

In this article, we are going to share various soccer conditioning drills that will focus specifically on fitness and also working as a team.

These are two things that need to be practiced if you want to condition a successful team, so you can try these drills out for yourself.

8 Soccer Conditioning Drills for Elite Fitness

We will share some helpful soccer conditioning drills for elite fitness below, so you can try them out with your team. This will allow you to practice key skills and develop fitness to maximize your chances of success.

3 Vs 3 Drill

You will need 6 players to compete in this small-sided game of 3v3 to goal.

Players will only be able to mark the player that they have been matched with on the opposing team throughout the game, which can create a more difficult aspect of fitness during the game. 

The purpose of this game is to work on developing fitness and endurance through these short but intense games.

Players that are taking part will need to work to stay with and defend their designated opponent, but they will also need to make use of wick cuts and a change of speed to create more space on offense.

This can help to improve their conditioning, while taking part in game-like play.

  1. You will need a playing area of around 25x16 yards, with two full-size goals on either end. You will need to have a goalkeeper in each goal, and then divide the players into teams of three.
  2. Give each team a different jersey color, and ensure that there are no more than 4 teams per field. If there are more than 4 teams, you will need to create another field or increase the size of the field to accommodate a 4v4 game.
  3. Divide all of the balls evenly between the goals, and leave the balls inside the goals. The goalkeeper will be in charge of starting a new ball for their team if the ball goes out of bounds on the other team. One goalkeeper starts with the ball for their team.
  4. You should have 2 teams start on the field, with the rest of the teams off the field to collect any balls that do manage to go out of bounds. You should decide on a time limit for each game, but they should be somewhere between 1 and 2 minutes long.
  5. Before the start of each game, the players will need to be matched up with one player on the opposing team, and this is the player that they must defend. This is also the only player that will be able to defend them for the duration of that game
  6. The two teams will then compete to score the most goals, and the players will have to run and cut to get open, or defend their marked opponent. Once a team has scored a goal, the goalkeeper will start a new ball from their goal. The team that scored will be allowed to start with the ball after they score.
  7. If the ball does go out of bounds, then the goalkeeper of the team that didn’t touch the ball last will start a new ball.
  8. At the end of the round, the team that has the most goals will win. You can rotate with other teams at the end of each game. You can repeat these games for around 5 to 10 rounds, depending on the age and fitness level of the players. If there are only 3 teams playing, allow for a short break between games.

Coaching Tips

You should try to challenge the players to compete with their matched up opponent, and players should want to score, while not allowing their opponent to beat them.

You can also encourage the players to keep moving and change direction when needed, as this will make them more difficult to defend, while providing them with the opportunity to receive the ball with space to create.

You can teach the players to be aggressive with the ball, as they will need to try and beat their opponent 1v1 in this game in order to score. The players will need to be decisive and make themselves difficult to defend.

You can also motivate the players to run and defend to make the most out of the activity and increase their overall endurance.

4 Vs 4 Line Touch

This drill works when two teams will play against each other to goal. However, whenever a team loses possession, they will have to sprint to their own end line before they are allowed to try and win the ball back.

This type of game has many different purposes, and it is a high-intensity and small-sided game that focuses on game-like play with extra elements of fitness.

Players will need to be constantly on the move and work hard to keep possession of the ball and score.

Although, they have to deal with the added element of running back to their end line and back before they can defend their opponents from scoring.

  1. You will need to set up a rectangular shaped playing grid that is marked with cones. This should be around 25 yards wide and 35 yards long. You can increase or decrease the space, depending on the age and fitness level of the players.
  2. You can then proceed to place a full-size goal on each end line, and position one goalkeeper in each goal. If you do not have goalkeepers, then you can use mini goals instead.
  3. You should divide the players into 3 or 4 teams of 4 or 5 players. The best setup will have 4 players per team, but there should be no more than 4 teams per field. If there are more than 4 teams, then you will need to create 2 fields. Assign either team a different colored jersey.
  4. You will need to divide all of the soccer balls between the two goals evenly, and then have the two teams step onto the field. One goalkeeper will start with a soccer ball. The rounds will need to have a time limit, and around 2 to 3 minutes per game should be more than enough time.
  5. The goalkeeper with the ball will play the ball to their team on the coach’s signal, and the team will attempt to score in the opponent’s goal. The opponents will try to win the ball from them.
  6. If the defense team wins the ball from the team that is on offense, then the team that has lost the ball will need to sprint to touch their end line before they are allowed to try and win the ball back.
  7. Every time that the team on defense wins the ball back from the other team, they must complete 3 passes before they are able to score a goal. When a team loses the ball, they will need to sprint back to the end line as quickly as they can to try and get back and stop the team from scoring a goal.
  8. If the team successfully scores, then their goalkeeper will get a new ball and start again. After each round, the team with the most goals will be declared the winner of the round.

Coaching Tips

You will need to stress the importance of the sprint and being able to recover on defense as quickly as possible before attacking the team.

The players can be challenged to immediately turn and run to the line after they lose possession. This means that they need to be aware of their surroundings as they should not hesitate when their team loses possession.

You should encourage both offense and defense to communicate with each other, and the players should be able to help each other to make decisions and push each other to defend quickly.

You can also educate the players to move the ball quickly after gaining possession, before the other team has time to recover and defend.

Dribbling Patterns

This game involves players partnering up and alternating working through a series of dribbling patterns as quickly as possible. The patterns will involve turning, cutting, and running with the ball around cones. 

The purpose of this game is to develop a player’s ability to dribble and keep control while they do so, especially at high speeds. 

It will also work to increase their fitness levels, and it is a great activity to encourage players to get touches on the ball and increase their control of the ball.

  1. Players will need to partner up with one ball and four cones. Each pair of players will need to spread out across the field and set up their four cones, which should be set up as two cone gates. They should be around 8 to 12 yards away from each other, and the gates themselves should be around 2 to 3 yards wide and immediately across from each other.
  2. One of the players will work while the other player rests, and the first player that is working will start with the ball behind one of the gates. Each round should be around 30 to 60 seconds long.
  3. The first player of each pair will start by dribbling the ball on the command of the coach, and they will dribble through their gate, towards the other gate. Once they have dribbled through the middle of the other gate, they should turn outside of the gate with the ball and then proceed to dribble back to the middle of the first gate to repeat the process.
  4. They will need to dribble as quickly as possible while their partner has a rest, and when the round is up the original player will pass the ball to their partner, who will repeat the above dribbling process.
  5. You can repeat this process as many times as you would like, but around 8 to 12 rounds will usually suffice. You can mix up the dribbling patterns to keep things interesting and allow players to work on different dribbling techniques.
  6. Players will also be able to work on their change of direction and cuts in this activity, and rather than dribbling through and around the gates, the players will perform a 180-degree cut with the ball in between the two gates. Players can cut the ball with the inside, outside, and bottom of their feet.

Coaching Tips

You should always try to challenge the players to dribble at full speed, and this will increase their ability to control the ball at fast speeds.

It will also allow them to get the most of the activity when it comes to fitness. 

You should also remind the players to keep the ball close to them when they are dribbling to make it easier to change direction easily with the ball.

The players should take short and quick touches when they are turning around the cones, but then take bigger touches that get out in front of their bodies when they are dribbling to the next gate.

This will allow them to get up to speed faster. 

Always encourage players to use both of their feet when they are practicing turns and cuts around the cones.

Rectangular Stations

You will need to set up a rectangle inside the field by using 6 cones. These cones will represent a station and an exercise.

Your players will start at the first cone and work their way around the rectangle, performing an exercise when they reach each cone.

The players will need to sprint between each cone and start the following exercise as soon as they get to the next cones.

The purpose of this activity is to work on the fitness of the players by using both short sprints and total body exercises to target the lungs and major muscle groups of the players.

The players will work to increase their lung capacity as well as their muscular strength.

  1. Once you have set up your cones, you will need to number them from 1 to 6 in a clockwise direction. You will then need to divide the players into around 4 to 6 groups of 3 to 4 players, depending on how many players there are.
  2. The group should stay together and form a line behind cone number 1. All of the players in the first group will start with the first exercise at cone 1. As soon as the group gets to cone number 3, the next group in the line will start their turn at cone 1.
  3. Once the last group has finished their trip, the entire group will rest for around 45 to 90 seconds before group 1 starts again. You can increase the rest period if the players need it, depending on their age and fitness level. Each group should run through this task between 3 and 5 times.

Station Exercises

  • Cone 1 - 10 push-ups and sprint to next cone
  • Cone 2 - 10 sit-ups and sprint to next cone
  • Cone 3 - 10 Squat jumps and sprint to next cone
  • Cone 4 - 10 push-ups and sprint to next cone
  • Cone 5 - 10 sit-ups and sprint to next cone
  • Cone 6 - 10 knee jumps and sprint to resting place

Coaching Tips

It is really important to encourage the players to challenge themselves in order to be able to get the most out of this exercise.

You should encourage them to do full repetitions at each station and to sprint as quickly as they are able to towards the next cone.

You should tell the players to perform their exercises along the outside of the rectangle, and make sure that all players have been warmed up properly and stretched before taking part.

This will ensure that the risk of getting injured is as low as possible. This should not be the first activity of the session.

Sprinting Tic Tac Toe

The final conditioning drill that we are going to mention is sprinting tic-tac-toe. This involves players running back and forth between a tic-tac-toe setup, while trying to place their team jersey’s color down in order to win the game.

Two teams will compete against each other and players will take turns running out to the box to move their team’s jersey markers until one team manages to get 3 in a row.

The purpose of this activity is for players to be able to compete against each other in a fun manner, while also working to build fitness through repeated sprinting.

 It will allow players to increase their maximum speed and quickness.

  1. You will need to divide the players into teams of around 3 to 4 players. You should try to use an even number of teams, so nobody has to sit out the game. You will need to create one tic-tac-toe box for every two teams, and you can use either cones or agility hopes to do this.
  2. You should set up a cone gate that is around 3 to 4 yards wide and 25 to 35 yards away from the tic-tac-toe box. This will be where the players sprint from towards the box. You should assign two teams to each cone gate, and have the players form a line behind each cone on the gate.
  3. You will need to give three colored jerseys to the first three players in each team line, and the competing teams will need to have two different colored jerseys. They will need to keep the jerseys in their hands, and place them inside the tic-tac-toe box on their turn.
  4. Following from the coach’s signal, the first player in the line of each team will sprint to the tic-tac-toe box, place their jersey inside one of the nine small squares and then sprint straight back to the line to tag their partner’s hand.
  5. Once the next player’s hand has been tagged, they will be able to proceed to sprint to the tic-tac-toe box themselves, place down the second jersey and sprint back to tap the next person’s hand. The third person will then run to repeat the process.
  6. If the third person on either team wins, then the round is over, a winner is announced, and all players are allowed to rest before the next round. However, if the third jersey does not win the round for either team, then the person that laid the last jersey will need to sprint back and tag the next player’s hand.
  7. This could be a fourth player, or back to the first player, depending on the size of the team. Once they have been tagged, they can sprint to the tic-tac-toe box and move one of their own team’s colored jerseys to try and get three in a row and win.
  8. This process will continue until one of the teams is able to get 3 in a row and win the round. Once there is a winner, allow the players to have a rest before resetting the activity and going again.

Coaching Tips

You should challenge the players to sprint as quickly as they can to and from the tic-tac-toe box, and remind players to choose quickly and smartly when they are placing or moving their team’s colored jersey.

You should encourage the players to help out their teammates and push each other to get the best out of the activity.

You can also remind the players to enjoy the activity, while benefiting from the fitness aspect of it.