6 Conditioning Workouts For Football Season

Table of Contents

What do football players dislike the most about football season? Conditioning. And what’s one of the most important things you can do to prevent fourth-quarter disasters? Conditioning.

When I was a player, I HATED conditioning. I was on the O-Line, so conditioning was no friend of mine. But now that I’m on the other side, I won’t go into a season without a well-conditioned team.

And the ideal situation for me is to have players show up when camp opens already in prime football shape. That can make the difference between winning a championship or heading home early in late fall.

So make conditioning a priority!

Here are 6 Football Conditioning Drills to build endurance before the season and to help maintain peak conditioning until the last snap of your season.

#1 – Tempo Runs

I love tempo runs. They are beneficial because they improve your metabolic fitness. They are also versatile because they can be used as a primary conditioning or recovery tool by adjusting the number of repetitions.

The other nice thing about tempo runs is that all you need is a football field. So even if you only practice on half a field, you can still make these work by upping the number of reps.

Follow these steps to maximize the benefit of tempo runs.

  • Take a warm-up lap around the football field. Pick an end zone to start at – the starting spot will be where the goal line and sideline intersect (where the pylon would be). For the lap, work up the sideline, across the opposite goal line, back down the other sideline, and across the goal line to where you started. This should be an easy jog.
  • After the warm-up lap, stretch for 15-20 minutes using whatever pre-existing routine you have, but make sure you loosen up your legs and back.
  • Once loose, it’s time to start the first rep. Begin where you started your warm-up lap. Stride out for 100 yards along the sideline. Take nice, long strides, but don’t sprint. Your speed should be between a jog and a sprint.
  • When you reach the opposite goal line, turn and jog across the goal line to the opposite sideline.
  • At the opposite sideline, turn and stride back 100 yards along the sideline back to the original goal line.
  • When you reach the goal line, turn and walk back to the starting spot.
  • That is one rep.

The goal is to do ten reps, but if you or your team are coming off an offseason, start at four reps and work up to ten. You can also use four reps of tempo runs in-season as a recovery workout.

#2 – Resistance Running

Another great conditioning workout is resistance running, which is slightly different from some of the other drills on this list. 

Resistance running is less about straight-line running to build up aerobic fitness and skews more to developing anaerobic benefits and building agility, balance, and lower body strength.

For this drill, you need two players, four cones, a resistance band, rope, or something similar, and a timer or stopwatch.

To set up the drill, place the four cones in a diamond shape 5 yards apart. Assign each cone a number from 1 to 4.

Have one player (Player B) loop the resistance band (or substitute) around the other player’s (Player A) waist and stand behind that player.

Player A starts 5 yards away from cone #1 in an athletic stance.

Follow the steps below to execute the drill.

  • Player B calls out a number (1-4), and Player A then explodes toward that numbered cone while breaking down and stopping when reaching the cone.
  • Player A backpedals to the starting spot.
  • Player B calls out another number.
  • Repeat the cycle, going for one minute and resting for 30 seconds per rep.
  • Go for 5 (or 10) reps and then switch roles.

This is a great drill to help with explosiveness and complements workouts that focus on more extended endurance training.

An alternative way to do the drill if a partner or resistance band is unavailable is to set the cone formation up on a steep hill, using the incline as resistance.

#3 – Sprint Ladders

In my opinion, no conditioning drill list should be without sprint ladders. That’s what I remember most about my football playing days. And not in a good way! 

While running them may not be fun, they are effective at building a football player’s endurance.

They are effective because they do a great job simulating the energy output required during a football game: going hard for a play, resting for just a bit, then going hard again on the next play and the next, etc.

Sprint ladders are just as they sound – running sprints that increase in distance with each consecutive sprint until you reach the top of the ladder, and then you work your way back down with consecutively shorter sprints.

Similar to tempo runs, all you need for this drill is a football field and a way to time your rest. This is a great group drill because you can spread a bunch of players along the goal line.

A recommended 50-yard sprint ladder is as follows. Of course, you can tailor the distance and rest time to your specific needs. In fact, I remember doing 100-yard sprint ladders during my playing days – usually, after a game where we lost and made lots of mistakes!

  • Goal line to 10-yard line and back, rest 10 seconds
  • Goal line to 20-yard line and back, rest 20 seconds
  • Goal line to 30-yard line and back, rest 30 seconds
  • Goal line to 40-yard line and back, rest 40 seconds
  • Goal line to 50-yard line and back, rest 40 seconds
  • Goal line to 40-yard line and back, rest 40 seconds
  • Goal line to 30-yard line and back, rest 30 seconds
  • Goal line to 20-yard line and back, rest 20 seconds
  • Goal line to 10-yard line and back, rest 10 seconds

This ladder will get the endurance up and also has a built-in cool down when coming down the ladder.

Although, given its demanding nature, it’s probably something to work up to when coming off the offseason.

#4 – Fourth Quarter

Like sprint ladders, four quarters is a fantastic conditioning tool that simulates the energy output needed during a football game.

One thing to keep in mind while working through this list of drills is that it’s not just about speed endurance and overall cardio endurance, but it’s also about building up mental endurance. 

You want to be in the best physical and mental shape when the fourth quarter rolls around, so your body and mind can do what’s necessary to win the game.

How many times have fourth-quarter mistakes cost a team a win in a game? I’ve seen it more times than I care to remember.

That’s why drills like sprint ladders and four quarters are so essential, because they push your mind and body to the limit, as a football game should.

All you need for this drill is a football field and a way to time your rest. This is also another excellent group drill.

A recommended fourth-quarter drill is outlined below.

  • Start at the goal line.
  • Sprint 10 yards, followed by a 10-second rest while walking back to the goal line.
  • Sprint 20 yards, followed by a 20-second rest while walking back to the goal line.
  • Sprint 30 yards, followed by a 30-second rest while walking back to the goal line.
  • Sprint 20 yards, stride 20 yards, sprint 20 yards, stride 20 yards, and sprint 20 yards.
  • That completes one quarter.
  • Repeat for a total of four times (quarters) with three minutes of rest between quarters.

This is a great endurance drill that helps to push the limits at the end of the “quarter,” which is what happens during a game.

Like sprint ladders, it’s something to work up to during preseason training.

#5 – 4 Cones

These last two drills focus on small space endurance, explosiveness, and quickness. 

Not every play in a football game requires running distances of 20 or 30 yards at a time, at least not for all positions. So, developing other aspects of conditioning and agility is essential.

The 4 cones drill, also called the square drill, is a small space drill. However, it is flexible enough to be sized differently based on position—for example, a smaller square for linemen and a larger square for receivers and the defensive backfield.

To do this drill, you need four cones and either a football field or open space,

To set the drill up, create a square using the four cones with each side from 2 to 10 yards long, depending on how you want to do the training.

You work the square as follows.

  • Start at the lower left corner of the square.
  • Sprint straight ahead to the upper left corner of the square.
  • Plant at the corner and side shuffle to the upper right corner of the square.
  • Plant at the corner and backpedal to the lower right corner of the square.
  • Plant at the corner and side shuffle back to the lower left corner of the square.
  • Hard plant with the left foot, do a crossover step with the left foot, and then sprint back to the lower right corner (the opposite direction from which you just came).
  • Jog back to the original starting position.
  • That is one rep. Do five reps total from that starting point. Then do five reps starting from the lower right corner to balance the work on the muscles.

For this drill, it’s essential to be under control, stay as close to the cones as possible, and make the turns as square as possible. And ultimately, the number of reps can and will depend on the size of the square you use and your drill requirements.

#6 – Stops and Starts

The stops and starts drill is another small space drill focused explicitly on developing straight-line speed, acceleration, and deceleration.

This drill requires a football field or five cones if marked yard lines aren’t available.

To set the drill up, use the goal line as the starting point. Every 5-yard line out to the 20-yard line is a reference point. When using cones, the first cone is the starting point, and the remaining four cones would be placed 5 yards from each other out to 20 yards.

A recommended stops and starts drill is as follows.

  • Sprint to the 5-yard line (2nd cone)
  • Backpedal to the starting position
  • Sprint to the 10-yard line (3rd cone)
  • Backpedal to the starting position
  • Sprint to the 15-yard line (4th cone)
  • Backpedal to the starting position
  • Sprint to the 20-yard line (5th cone)
  • Backpedal to the starting position
  • This is one rep. Do five reps with one minute of rest in between reps.

You can modify the distances and number of reps to meet your training needs. 

You can also work in other steps, like a side shuffle step or a crossover (karaoke/carioca) step. And make sure good form (hips low, head up, under control) is used when changing direction.

Final Thoughts

Anyone who has played football knows how vital conditioning is. If you aren’t in good shape, that will reflect on your performance and decision-making and will be pretty apparent to any coach by the time the second half comes around, if not before.

So make sure you’re committed to focusing on conditioning, particularly during the offseason when it’s easier to get distracted by other things that life throws your way.

The great thing about most of these drills is that they are flexible enough to adjust for different positions, depending on their running, agility, and endurance requirements.

If you maintain a solid level of conditioning during the year, it will be much easier to get back to in-season shape, allowing you to make even more gains once the season starts.

I hope you enjoyed these 6 conditioning workouts for football season and good luck on the gridiron!

Related Posts

Brad Smith
Brad Smith
Brad Smith has been coaching high school Football for 6 years in Florida. He and his wife have 3 beautiful children who he hopes will become the first Jaguars to win a Superbowl. Other than Football, Brad loves American litterature, parenting, gardening, and home remodeling.