Pre-Season Conditioning - Part One

Pre-Season Conditioning
By Alex Trukan


Part One

8v8 AND 11V11
5V5 AND 7V7

Part Two



With the new season approaching soon, most of the teams are now about to start their pre-season. Players often associate this time of the year with hard work, running and fitness drills. Although hard work is very beneficial, it can be even more effective if it’s combined with clever work. In conditioning context, that might mean combining technical, tactical and psychological work all together in realistic practices to achieve conditioning outcomes. In other, simpler words, conditioning with the ball. This form of training is not only more enjoyable and engaging for players, but also links to real football better, with players using their physical attributes in football specific way.

This booklet is not a comprehensive guide or scientific booklet about how to prepare your team for a new season. It is not a magical guide how to win games and have the fittest team in the league. It is rather a quick booklet with some ideas for pre-season practices. These practices can be adapted, changed and combined with others. These examples serve as a template and present a type of practices that might be used in pre-season training.

Eight examples presented in this booklet cover various conditioning elements and are divided according to weeks in which they should be mainly used within 6-week pre-season block. These practices, however are not only for pre-season work. Any conditioning preparation should be build up gradually, sustainable and continued into the season. That’s why, these examples should be used within the season as well, building up your players’ fitness gradually. Most importantly, condition of your players should be monitored, whether it’s coaches’ intuition and observation skills or high-tech exercise monitoring systems.

Based on this information pre-season training should be tweaked and changed to suit your specific needs. Listen to your players and they will give you a lot of answers! Enjoy the pre-season work and good luck in the upcoming season!

‘Win by one goal’ 8v8 Game (8v8 – 11v11)

Week: 1 & 2

This practice is focused on developing aerobic energy system using extensive endurance training method. Improving oxygen supply into the muscles will ensure ATP (energy) can be produced for longer and therefore body will have higher capacity to restore the energy. This type of training improves lung ventilation, strengthens veins and increases the number of red cells.

From technical and tactical point of view, this practice challenges teams to improve possession, passing and staying on the ball. It is highly engaging practice as the learning happens within the game and multiple outcomes are achieved in different parts of the game.

Set up and directions
Organise an 8v8 pitch of approximately 60 x 40 yards with two goals. Divide the group into two teams of eight players. Goalkeepers should be set in goals. Prepare a supply of balls next to each goal to ensure flow of the practice.

The game starts with a goalkeeper playing the ball out into of the attackers. There are no corners, the game is resumed by a goalkeeper every time it goes for a corner.

Both teams compete against each other and attempt to score in the opposite goals. Quick and positive forward play should be encouraged.

When one of the teams score to make it 1-0, the team that has scored is not allowed to score again until the opposition scores to make it 1-1. Similarly, if one of the team scores to make it 2-1, it is not allowed to score again until the score is 2-2 (both teams allowed to score then). So the game can be only won by one goal. When one of the teams is winning, they will be looking to keep possession.

Game should be played 10-15 mins and repeated 2-6 times with 2 mins break in between. The intensity should be 50-60 %.

- 9v9/10v10/11v11
- Score only using first touch
- Assist has to be off one touch

Two Ball 6v6 Game (5v5 – 7v7)

Week: 3 & 4

This game is focused on developing aerobic energy system using intensive endurance training method. Aerobic energy system serves as a base for the development of all other conditioning components. This practice will improve oxygen supply into the muscles and therefore body’s capacity to restore energy will improve. From technical and tactical point of view, it focuses on passing, combination play as well as movements off the ball. It develops players’ ability to prioritise risk/reward. It also helps players to develop shielding techniques and strength to stay on the ball.

Set up and directions
Organise 40 x 30 yards pitch for a 6v6 format. Divide the pitch into three thirds with areas next to the goal being shorter than the middle area. Organise two teams of six. Set goalkeepers in goals. One of the players from each team starts in the area next to the goal. Rest of the players (4v4) start in the middle area. Prepare a supply of balls next to the goals to ensure flow of the practice.

On a coach’s signal, both goalkeepers play out the ball into their team. Ball can be played into middle area or into the nearest third. Ensure quality of pass is good.

Both teams looking to keep possession of their ball and win the second ball from the opposition. Players in the first zone can be only tackled by one opposition player. That means it can be only 1v1 situation (plus a goalkeeper) in the zones next to goals.

If a team manages to get in possession of two balls, they can score in the opposition goal. Team can’t score if they have only one ball in possession. The game then starts again from both goalkeepers.

The game should be played 4-8 minutes and repeated 4-6 times with 2 mins breaks in between.

- 5v5/7v7
- No end zones – free to go anywhere on the pitch
- Three balls in play – have to be in possession of two to score

1v1 Duels to Develop Anaerobic Endurance

Week: 3 & 4

This practice is focused on developing body’s ability to maintain the quantity of high intensity actions throughout the whole game. Thanks to this physical component, players will be able to sprint and produce bursts with quality even towards the end of the match. From technical point of view, the practice focuses on 1v1 duels both from attacking and defending point of view. It also develops players’ reactions and challenges to do recovery runs. Final element of the practice is a shot which adds more enjoyment and keeps players engaged.

Set up and directions
Organise 25 x 25 yards square with a goal on each end as shown on the diagram below. Set a goalkeeper in each goal. Divide players into pairs and set them up on the cone next to each goal (a pair next to each goal). Next to each pair there should be a server with a supply of balls to ensure flow of the practice.

On a coach’s signal, server passes the ball forwards, in between two players. As soon as the ball is passed, players compete in a running duel and try to get to the ball first. Two pairs opposite each other work at a time.

The player that gets to the ball first, has a shot on goal. Each player has just one touch so no further dribbling is allowed. Every goal counts as a point. No sliding tackles are allowed.

After two pairs opposite each other have finished, the other two start working. This will ensure appropriate work to rest ratios without unnecessary breaks. Players should be paired up strategically according to speed level.

Each pair should complete 6-10 repetitions in 2-4 series. Rest between repetitions should be 10 seconds (other two pairs working), and between series, 4 minutes.

- Have to take a touch before a finish
- Rotate partners
- Increase/decrease the size of the area (length within 15-25 yards range)

Continuous Recovery Runs to develop Anaerobic Endurance

Week: 3 & 4

The following practice is focused on developing anaerobic endurance – body’s ability to maintain the quantity of high intensity actions throughout the whole match. From technical and tactical perspective, this practice involves counter attacking scenario when players have to run with the ball forwards and finish as soon as possible. The defending side of it are recovery runs – quick reactions after losing the ball. Competitive element gives players more motivation to produce 100% effort.

Set up and directions
Organise a 15 x 20 yards rectangle with a goal on two opposite ends as shown on the diagram below. Set goalkeepers in goals. Divide the team into two groups. One group starts next to one of the goals, the other group starts next to the opposite goal. Every player has one ball each.

On a coach’s signal, first player from one of the groups starts running with the ball as fast as he can towards the opposition goal. This should be done as fast as possible on a maximal intensity.

As soon as the running player gets into the final third, he has a shot on goal. At the same time, first player from the opposite group starts driving forwards with the ball and goes to score in the opposite goal.

The player that just had a shot has to react and recover quickly and try to stop the opposition from scoring. After a shot and recovery run, players join back into their groups. With two players on each end, work to rest ratio is managed well.

Each player should complete 6-10 repetitions in 2-4 series. Rest between repetitions should be 10 seconds (given there is two on each end, it will be the other two players working at that time), and between series, 4 minutes.

- Goalkeeper plays the ball out into the first player
- One-two combination before running forwards
- Different sizes and shapes of goals and pitch

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