Physical Trials In Football

What are the best physical trials in football? Do they serve for anything or are they a waste of time? Why conduct these tests and not others? Is it the same to do tests on Monday than on Thursday? How to organize a session of physical trials to be effective and not a waste of time for the players? What should I prepare before taking the session to the field? What type of warm up should be done? What data is important and useful?

Surely as you read these lines, new questions arise and you may even disagree with some of the ideas that I present. For me it's a pleasure to be able to find answers together, so I encourage you to send me an email and let me know your opinion.

What are the physical trials?

One of the determining factors in athletic performance in Football is the Fitness of a Player: Speed, Strength, Endurance, Agility, Power, Coordination, Balance...

These factors can be improved in an athlete. We need to know the level to measure where they are and then apply specific methods for improvement.

Physical tests are standardized and verified tools that we use to evaluate the player and remove accurate data from the determinants of physical performance. We'll analyze the data for planning and designing specific exercises to make the football player improve.

Note that sometimes not only do we have to improve or make an impact on a particular aspect we have detected, but maybe we need to act on another complementary factor that  is less developed and affects the first. For example, we can find football players who are fast but take a long time to recover after one short sprint.

The results of the physical tests will tell us whether we need to work on speed endurance or aerobic endurance. Other times the assessed factor is very high, but there are low values ​​in another important factor at first sight, which should be powered because if it isn't done, future decompensation at the physical level would occur and could pose serious problems that could affect performance and even the health of athletes. The clearest case is that of players who have powerful muscles in the quadriceps muscle group and have not worked the hamstrings quite enough, being unbalanced, this can affect the shot on goal and / or being likely in the future to cause muscle injury, due to eccentric contractions of the hamstrings after the  kick.

On what physical factors are we interested in?

Obviously this is the first question we have to answer before starting. We are going to do physical trials to extract reliable data and analysis that we can later analyze and that will be useful to physically improve the players.

We know that:

• A match lasts 90 minutes divided into two 45 minute halves.

• A physical effort is not taking place throughout the whole duration of a match, as it would in a Marathon race, for example.

• The high-intensity actions (jumps, sprints ...) are performed intermittently with moderate intensity (jogging, walking), although there is no definite repetitive pattern, but it depends on how the game unfolds  each time.

• Depending on the position of the players in a match, they run between 8,000 and 12,500 meters.

• From about every 10 sprints, seven are less than 20 meters long.

Let's remember the physical actions of the players:

Walk forward made ​​and/or diagonally - laterally (24%), walking backwards, (7%), light jogging (36%), cruising speed (20%), sprints (11%), jumps and other actions with the ball: long passing and throws, driving the ball, dribbling, (2%).

We want to know:

• How fast do they run? Maximum specific movement of speed in football.

• For how long can they run at maximum speed? Speed ​​resistance.

• How high can they jump? Explosive lower body strength. Specific strength of each muscle group. Intramuscular and intramuscular coordination.

• How far can they send the ball with their feet (long passes) and hands (Throw in) Strength and Power in the lower body and upper body. Strength of each muscle involved in the movement.

• How many times can they jump, throw and / or run at high intensity before fatigue? Resistance to explosive strength and speed.

• How many times can they do high-intensity actions when fatigued? Lactic Anaerobic Capacity.

• How much time is needed to recover from fatigue? Aerobic capacity.

• Where are the limits of each of the physical capabilities to work on them and improve them? Aerobic, anaerobic thresholds; maximum strength.

Other aspects can help us to understand more things like:

• Is the athlete overweight? Index of body composition

• How old is the player

• What is their gender?

• What other activities could affect his/her performance: Invisible training?

What data are we interested on training?

In addition to the need to perform the physical actions described, we need to know some parameters (symptoms) that will guide us in the process of planning and scheduling training loads. In other words it is useful to know:

What is the maximum intensity I can work without oxygen debt? In what range of beats per minute?

For how long?

At what intensity do I begin to generate lactic acid? What range of heartbeats? Anaerobic threshold

For how long can I work generating lactic acid?

How long does the player need to recover from a few anaerobic efforts? For example, after six sprints of 15 m, how long does he/she need to re-run at a high intensity?

You're going to find these answers once you get the aerobic threshold (AET) and the anaerobic threshold (AT).

What is the maximum strength of each muscle involved in sports movements: jump, run, kick?

Are the agonistic muscles compensated with the antagonist muscles? Can I improve the help on synergistic muscles?

Finally, in order to rule out problems related to growth, nutrition and even health, we can assess the cineanthropometry factors such as anthropometric, body composition, somatotype and proportionality.

What data is NOT useful for the player?

It seems strange to have to explain this in this chapter, but since we have used specific trials at some point to obtain irrelevant data, this deserves a little explanation.

Maximum volume of oxygen -. Basically, it would be the total capacity the athlete has to consume oxygen to produce aerobic energy. Something like the total size of the gas tank of the athlete. Widely used for endurance sports: Marathon, cycling, rowing, swimming, etc. ... Not so useful for football because as we explained, the most important factor in the physical actions of the player is how fast he/she is (speed) and how many times can they do it, resistance to speed (anaerobic threshold and lactate threshold) plus the time the player needs to recover (aerobic capacity). That is, it is important to know how the player manages (uses, recovers, stores) the energy (high power) they have more than knowing, how much energy would they need to make an effort of very long duration and no high intensity

Maximum speed in 50 meters -. As we have explained, most sprints are less than 20 meters.

Abdominal strength -. Crunches in 1 minute. It's good to work abs in the player, but it's not a determinant factor of performance to have them more or less developed, similarly to back muscles. Another aspect is how abdominal exercises are performed, as there was a tendency to extinguish thank God, to work on abdominals so-called "inferior", by raising the legs, that as we all know, are contradictory because they endanger the athlete's health. But this is the subject of another chapter.

Flexibility -. This capability is complementary and in the case of football is not as important to know its level, but must be worked.

In what order do we have to perform the tests? Is it the same to do some tests or others to evaluate which is most effective.

Absolutely not. It's not the same. The order of performing the trials may adversely affect the results.

To simplify a bit the biochemical parameters, we say that there are three types of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) fuel in the body:

1. For "super-high" Intensity Activities (Phosphocreatine and Intramuscular Adenosine Triphosphate).

2. High Intensity Activities (Adenosine Triphosphate by Glycolysis and by generating lactic acid).

3. Medium and moderate intensity activities (Adenosine Triphosphate by oxidized fatty acids and glucose the Krebs cycle).

For long-term activities, the route to be used is the aerobic route. The problem is that while this route is activated the body uses the previous ones to obtain energy. If we first perform the physical trials of aerobic and anaerobic endurance, then no energy will be left to jump, shoot, sprint ... This seems logical, we can make several jumps and then run an hour, but we cannot run an hour and then make powerful leaps, since our body is exhausted after the prolonged effort.

If we have valid data – it  is necessary to make the trials in the following order: first the most explosive (jumps, shoot ...) then the ones that require less energy though high intensity during a short time (sprints, throws) and finally those that are long lasting.

What day is the most recommended to apply the physical trials? Is it the same one day or another at the beginning of the week or at the end?

If we want objective data, we need the body to be fully rested and recovered for physical evidence.

As a general idea, the time the body needs to be fully recovered from the following efforts:

  • Continued explosive efforts: approximately 12 to 24 hours.
  • Lactic resistance efforts: 24 to 48 hours.
  • Efforts of long duration and high intensity: 72 hours.

As we see, the body would need about three days to be 100% recovered after playing a football game. In other words, if it is normally played on the weekend (Saturday), testing should be conducted between Tuesday (not before) and Wednesday.

What type of warm up must be performed in a session of physical trials?

The ideal would be to make an optimum general warm up: increasing heart rate, respiratory rate, muscle temperature ... then a specific warm up (physical - technical) before the trials to be performed. Since the first trials will be of explosive strength and speed, the last exercises of the specific warm up should be directed to that effect, (repetition of physical movements at low intensity) Depending on the weather and age, it will probably be necessary to perform deferred warm-ups prior to the last physical trials to maintain muscle temperature: stretching, gentle jogging, etc. ...

What physical trials can be used for players?

What trials? Which ones are the best? How to know which of the many tests there are, should we select?

There are plenty of physical trials in the specific literature. It may end up difficult to discern and select the best evidence. These are the criteria that I recommend:

If we have the resources, time, means, we can go to a laboratory that has the specific devices to perform treadmill tests with ECG, air intake masks to determine thresholds; blood lactate analysis, caliper, and we could even do more complex studies to determine body composition with instruments and techniques such as: Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA, previously DEXA); X-ray computed tomograph (CAT scan); Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI) and ultrasound; tetrapolar bio-impedance ... though it's not the subject of this chapter to delve into these methods.

If we don't have many resources, we'll have the field test to assess explosive strength, speed and endurance.

For me it is important to get specific data of aerobic and anaerobic thresholds for resistance. It's also good to know the maximum strength of the muscles involved in sports activities (jumping, shooting, passing, sprint ...) i.e.: The triceps surae, the hamstring, The quadriceps femoris, the adductor muscles and abducts that open and close your legs ; the Biceps, triceps brachii muscle ...  in the gym. So we can make customized training routines for each player in the squad.

Honestly, in the last years as head coach and following my training philosophy and tactical approach, I designed specific tests for football in the field with the help of heart rate monitors, they help me to determine the resistance thresholds that I need to know to effectively train the players. I complete these field tests with a specific battery to assess the maximum strength of the players in the gym.

These specific physical trials for football are not the subject of this chapter, so we will focus on the other published physical evidence.

I have selected the following physical tests for the reader:

Force Rating

• Maximum Strength Tests in the gym. Only if we have a qualified physical trainer and the right machines.

Just for a reference, if you do not have the possibility to make a specific battery in the gym, we can make these functional strengths:

• Lower Body Explosive Strength. Vertical jump and / or horizontal jump with feet together.

• Upper Body Explosive Strength. Launch ballast ball (2 kg.) Standing.

Speed ​​Rating

• 20m run


• Specific Speed Resistance Trial ​​in Football.

• Test of Aerobic Endurance in Football

Description of the proposed tests:

Lower Body Explosive Strength: Vertical Jump

It consists of jumping vertically. From the starting position, side by a vertical wall, and with a fully extended arm upward, the candidate marks the height reached in this position. Separated 20 inches from the vertical wall, jumps as far as possible and marks with the fingers the level he reached. When bending his legs to gain momentum, it's not allowed to lift the heels off from the floor. The distance between the mark made from the initial position and the one obtained from the jump is then credited. Two nonconsecutive trials.


Not raising the arm fully when measuring.

To lower down the opposite arm to the one that will mark on the flying stage.

  Lower Body Explosive Strength: Horizontal Jump with feet together.

Consists on jumping forward with feet together measuring the distance between the jump line and the distance in which both feet fall, or support of the hands, in case of imbalance.


Stepping on the line from which it splits.

Not performing the jump with both feet together.

Poor coordination between the movement of arms and legs.

  • Upper Body Explosive Strength. Launch ballast ball (2 kg.) Standing.

Launching a 2 kg ball. Above the head with both hands, feet flat on the floor.


Throwing the ball down rather than upwards and forward.

Not taking advantage of the drive of legs and trunk.

Detaching the foot from the floor when throwing the ball.

Stepping or exceeding the departing line, before, during or after launch.

We insist, these tests may be a reference, but will never replace tests that can be performed in the gym.

Speed ​​Rating

• 20m Run

Short run -. Involves a distance of 20 m in the shortest time possible, from the standing position.


Leave before or long after the signal.

Stopping or slowing down before reaching the end.

Human error in handling chronometers.

To avoid this we can install solar cells: one in the output (at 1 meter) and the other 20 meters from the first. We place signs: departure and arrival as a reference for the players to start and finish the exercise, e.g. 25 meters away.


Specific Speed Resistance Test ​​in Football.

Consists on doing 7 sprints of about 30 meters, interspersed with gentle strokes of 25 seconds.

It starts from A to B at high speed. Once at B you have 25 seconds to travel 50 meters through a soft jog from B to D. The sprints are repeated until a total of 7.

The duration of each sprint is written down. The formulas are applied and we get values related to anaerobic endurance. Using the heart rate monitor will provide partial information, but it's another data on thresholds.

Data we can calculate: Best Sprint, Total time (sum of sprints), Half Time (average of sprints); fatigue index (difference between the worst and best time)


Gun jumping, before or long after the signal.

Stopping or slowing down before reaching the end.

Human error in the handling of chronometers.

To avoid this we can install solar cells in the measuring points of the route. In this way we eliminate the errors on the start or due to lack of intensity, as well as due to the handling of timers.

Aerobic Endurance Test in Football

It consists of making a winding path of 280 meters alternated with 30-second pauses. Along the route, each 10 meters, there are arranged beacons. The player goes from one signal to another by adapting his speed to acoustic signals, increasing 0.6 km / h every turn. The trial ends when the player doesn't successively reach two beacons.

Organization of the session of physical trials

How can we prepare for the session to be more efficient and not wasting the athletes' time?

How many readers like to waste time waiting in the doctor's office? How do you normally fix this? Effectively setting an appointment at an hour or changing from one doctor to a more effective and respectful one over time.

How to manage time?

Let's record the physical trial exposed above: vertical or horizontal jump, throwing heavy ball, 20 meters race, specific strength in football and Football Aerobic Endurance test. Weight, size and folds

How long will it take us?

Explanation of the session à 5 minutes

Anthropometric data à 5 minutes

General warm-up à  10 minutes

Specific warm-up à  10 minutes

Explosive Evidence à  3 minutes per player

20 meters trial à 5 minutes

  1. à  5 minutes

Active recovery à will depend on each individual but of about 6 - 10 mins

Aerobic Endurance Test in Football à  15 to 20 minutes

Cool down à 15 minutes.

Overall the session will take about 90 minutes. We have several options:

The most professional approach is to summon a player every 2 hours to serve him with the best quality. Obviously this is the most expensive option for the club, but also the most effective.

On the other extreme is to summon the first team and the second at the same time between 36 and 40 players, split them into groups of 10 to 12 or even 15 and make them to go from station to station all together waiting for the last of each group to complete the test, to change stations. You may encounter a ridiculous case of encountering a row of 15 players in front of the scale, queuing and waiting about ten minutes to weigh up to switch to another test. This option besides being the least desirable for athletes, shows a total lack of organization.

The middle option is to quote small groups of players every "x" time to begin at a station and start rotating them to the next until completing the entire battery of physical trials. For example, we can select 4 players every 10 minutes. The first group starts at 9:00 getting a 5 minute explanation about the session and placement of heart rate monitors, then go on to take anthropometric data and 5 minutes later, start the general warm-up. At that moment, at 9:10 the second group enters the presentation of the session and so on.

So at about 10:10 we have 24 players, 6 groups of 4, working on a different station, following a logical order from the physiological point of view and without missing a minute of their valuable time. Obviously after the endurance test, intergroup mismatches will occur, but it would not be a problem because only a return to cooling down would take place and the session would end. The same person responsible for making the general warm-up, at this point, would be responsible for supervising the cool down.

Using this method of proper organization, we would actually be occupying practically the same time that if we put all athletes together at the same time. The difference is that each person responsible for each station will perform his work JIT (just in time) and can be used for these Kanban-type codes, for example, to avoid bottle necks  and agglomerations in the "assembly" / battery of physical trials.


We start exposing the determinants of physical performance in football through the analysis of the situations that occur in a game. We argue why we had to choose some trials and reject others. We have explained what  are currently the best trials for assessing the physical condition of the player, and the parameters that we are interested in to design training sessions with suitable loads and optimal stimuli. Finally we discussed when and how to prepare for the session of physical trials so that we can obtain valid, objective data and not waste the footballer's time with unnecessary waiting times. If you want to send me your opinion or comment on this article you can write to

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