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How To Improve My Stamina for Football

Football is a long game, so possessing good stamina is essential if you want to be able to compete at any decent level. I’ve been looking at how to improve my stamina for football matches, so that I can last a full 90 minutes and have enough energy at the end of a game to run past players and hopefully score a goal (that last part doesn’t happen too often).

They say that footballers will cover an average of 10km per game, but because I want to be better than the average footballer I want to make sure my body can go further. So I’ve spent time finding exercises and drills that are going to help me to increase my stamina and give me a competitive advantage over my competition.

My key training takeaways are

  1. Mimic the demands of your sport wherever possible.

  2. Mix my training between different energy systems (I’ll explain more shortly).

  3. Don’t take it easy. Make sure you aren’t just going through the motions in your training session…in short, Push yourself.

Let’s dive into these three points before going into some actual drills and exercises you can do.

Mimic the demands of your sport wherever possible

When you think about increasing your stamina it’s highly likely you thought “easy, I’ll just go for a long run”. However, experts say this actually isn’t the best thing to do.

In fact, research has shown that over the course of one minute footballers will change their movement pattern 11 times.

It’s very rare in a football match that you are jogging at a consistent pace for a long period of time. Most games will find you having to change pace regularly, going from walking to sprinting to jogging to stopping. You’ll be turning sharply, getting up off the ground and jumping off one and then both legs as you compete to win the header or ride the tackle.

The research tells us that for 25% of the time footballers are walking, 37% of the time jogging, running at submaximal speeds for 20%, sprinting for 11% and 7% of the time we are moving backwards.

To ensure your body is ready to take on this challenge, you need to prepare for it. And that means making sure the drills you do in training mimic the movements you make on the field.

Mix my training between different energy systems

Yes, most footballers will cover 10km in a match (every team has that one lazy striker that doesn’t), but like I said before, this 10km isn’t at one steady pace. It’s a mix of sprinting, jogging and walking. To perform these actions your body needs to pull from different energy sources, so we need to make sure we mix up our training so that we hit each energy system. 

For very high intensity work your body uses a system called the ATP-PC system, for high intensity it uses the anaerobic system and for low intensity work uses the aerobic system. 

During long, steady runs your body only uses the aerobic system, which is why it’s not ideal to focus solely on long runs to get yourself ready to play a football match.

Don’t just go through the motions in your training session

This one is pretty simple really. You can’t expect to train at 70% and then perform at 100% come game day. 

Make sure you are pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. This can be making sure you get all the way to the line before stopping, it could be completing that last rep when you really don’t want to or it could be as simple as remaining focused so that all of your movements are sharp and deliberate.

In short, if you want to play like a beast, you need to train like a beast.

Alright, now let’s dive into some exercises and drills so that you can start working on improving your stamina.

First up we have…

Matt Sheldon’s – “John Terry Workout”

This exercise is an absolute killer! But you are guaranteed to see improvements in your stamina in just a few weeks.

For this you are going to need a treadmill, so access to a gym is required.

Jump on and set the incline on the treadmill to 12%. Next, set the speed to 18Km/h or 11.2mph, of whatever speed is suitable for you.

Now the idea is that you run for 20 seconds and then rest for 40 seconds, and repeat that for 15 sets. Sounds easy doesn’t it …try it!

Hit this consistently two to three times a week and as your stamina increases make it harder by either ramping up the speed, increasing the number of sets…or, if you’re a real beast…both.

Four Four Two – Building Stamina and Endurance in Your Legs

If you’ve played in any competitive football match, no doubt you’ve felt that burn in your legs. These drills are designed to build endurance in your legs as much as in your lungs, and they all use game realistic movements and include a ball…who said working on your stamina had to be boring.

For these drills you’re going to need a partner to serve you a ball, once you complete your set you can switch and let your teammates have their go whilst you get your rest.

Drill 1

Setup a 20 x 20 square with 4 cones in each corner. Your partner is going to stand in the middle of this grid with a ball at their feet and you start on one of the cones.

Your first movement is to start heading straight towards the next cone, as you get about a third of the way along the line make a sharp change of direction and sprint towards your partner. 

At this point your partner plays the ball into your feet and you pay a bounce pass back to them. As soon as you make this pass you then change direction and sprint out towards the cone you were originally heading for.

As you round this cone, the next line is where you get your active recovery and slowly jog to the third cone. 

You then repeat the same thing along the back line, as you get a third of the way along, make a sharp change of direction into your partner and play another bounce pass. Again, as soon as you play the pass change direction and sprint towards the fourth cone.

As you round the fourth cone and head back to the start, it’s time for you to get your active recovery in. Repeat this for 2 minutes and then turn around and go back the other way, using the opposite foot.

Once your four minutes is up, switch with your partner.

Watch the rest of the video for additional killer drills that will help to improve your stamina.

Unisport – Acceleration, Deceleration and Change of Direction

For these next few stamina improving drills from Unisport, all you need is an outdoor space and some markers or cones.

Zig Zag Explosion

In this first drill you will be working on accelerating, decelerating and changing direction.

Setup your cones in a diamond shape about 10 yards apart from each other, with one cone in the centre. From here you are going to start on one of the points of the diamond, facing away from the centre.

When you start you are going to turn around as quickly as possible and sprint towards the centre cone, as you reach the cone you want to decelerate around it and then accelerate out to the cone on the right. Again as you reach this cone, decelerate and round the cone to the left and accelerate towards the final cone, which will be directly opposite from where you started.

Stop here for a short 5 second break and then repeat, this should end you up back at the starting point. Repeat this 10 times before changing direction for another 10 laps.

Pro Tip: To speed up your change of direction, focus at landing your foot which is nearest to the cone on the ground as you change direction around the cone.

Square of pain – High intensity stamina

Setup a square of cones 20 to 25m apart from each other and along one side layout an agility ladder.

You’re going to start on the side which has the agility ladder on it. From your first cone you are going to sprint up alongside of the agility ladder to the second cone, turn around and then head back through the agility ladder in the direction you just came from.

Once through the ladder, continue on sprinting around the square at about 85% intensity. As you return back round to the first side, go through the agility ladder once more. Then rest for anything between 30 seconds to 90 seconds (depending on your current stamina levels). 

Repeat this 8 to 10 times. Simple.

Suicide run a.k.a Doggies, a.k.a Shuttle Runs

And finally from Unisport we have the classic…Suicide runs.

If you’re a footballer there’s very little chance you haven’t already felt the pain of these beauties.

Simply setup 3, 4 or 5 cones in a straight line all about 10 yards apart from each other. 

In truth, the distance between the cones can be whatever you like, but in Unisport’s example they are using shorter distances. Going back to point one earlier, these short distances closely mimic the demands of a real game.

Start at the first cone and sprint towards the second cone, when you reach it you need to change direction and sprint back towards the first cone. Once back at the first cone turn sharply and sprint towards the third cone.

Once you get to the third you turn sharply and sprint back towards the first cone. Repeat this until you have sprinted to every cone and back.

7mlc – Full Pitch Fartlek Training

For Michael Lewis Cunningham’s stamina workout all you are going to need is a football pitch, or a large space.

In his workout you use the length of the field and break it up into different sections, and in each section you are going to work at a different intensity.

Section 1 is from the byline to the edge of the penalty box.

Section 2 is from the edge of the penalty box to half way between the penalty box and the halfway line.

Section 3 is from this halfway point to the halfway point on the other side.

Section 4 is from the halfway point to the edge of the penalty box.

Section 5 is from the edge of the penalty box to the byline.

You start by lightly jogging section 1. When you hit section two you ramp up your speed to ¾ pace. At section 3 you increase your speed to about 85 / 90% effort. At section 4 you reduce back down to a jog and section 5 you recover with a walk.

When you reach the opposite byline that is one complete rep and you turn around and repeat the same routine going back the other way. Repeat this for 10 repetitions for a complete workout.

SimplySoccer – Recovery Day, Ball Mastery

But you can’t be all go go go when training to improve your stamina. As important as the work is the rest you give yourself. This is why I think Dave from Simply Soccer has the perfect drill for your recovery days.

Rest days don’t have to be days where you do anything. Instead you can work on improving your relationship with the football. 

For Simply Soccer’s drill you set yourself up a small area, 2m x 2m would be enough, and work on manipulating the football in multiple ways. 

This can be practising specific turns, roll overs, drag backs. Do whatever comes to you as you move the football.

Do this drill flat out for one minute and you’ll be surprised at how much energy it actually takes. Repeat this 1 minute on 1 minute off for 10 minutes.

Other good recovery day activities are things like juggling the football, practicing your first touch playing the classic game of ‘wallsie’ and if you have a partner, header tennis.

So there are some great drills for improving your stamina for football, now there are no excuses. Get yourself up and out onto the field today and start increasing your stamina!


If you have any other drills you’d recommend, tell me in the comments below.

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