Football Conditioning Drills with Todd Durkin

Get ready for next season with football conditioning drills from Todd Durkin - trainer to pros like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.

Conditioning is the most delicate element of athletic training. Every distance, rest time, cut and break affects your conditioning process. Here, Todd Durkin, performance coach to LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees and other NFL greats, throws down some advice on anaerobic football conditioning.

Condition with a purpose

Avoid arbitrary drills at the end of practice. To get the most from your football conditioning drills, develop and use a plan. Determine the number of sets and reps before the drill, and complete each one with 100 percent effort.

Condition to dominate at the end of a competition. When you tire physically, you get mentally weak and start to make errors. Your performance becomes sloppy, and you won' t be able to hustle to make necessary plays. Condition so you can perform skills even when your body isn't completely fresh.

Rest time is crucial

If you don't have enough rest between reps, sets and drills:

  1. Fatigue prevents you from maximizing fast twitch muscle recruitment, so you won't get faster
  2. You overstimulate your nervous system, which leads to poor running form
  3. Lactic acid build-up can make you puke

Start your football conditioning at a 1:6 work-to-rest ratio. As you get closer to season, condition at a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio. Use a heart rate monitor to determine when you're ready for the next set.

Conditioning king

Agility is king when it comes to sport conditioning. If you always change direction in your game, train that way. Too many athletes think of conditioning as running wind-sprints at the end of practice. Sprints are great, but you have to include agility/change of direction.

Three-minute burn

Anaerobic conditioning results from performing high-intensity, short-duration activities between 50-85 percent of your maximum heart rate for less than three minutes. In the first 10 seconds of an activity, you burn creatine phosphate and ATP, followed by glucose and glycogen. The latter two can burn for up to three minutes, depending on your level of conditioning. After that, lactic acid builds up, and you fatigue quickly. The better shape you're in, the longer you can train at a higher intensity before hitting your lactate threshold.

Lactate threshold

To improve your lactate threshold, train between your 70-85 percent heart rate zone. You can wear a monitor to measure this. If you're above your zone, you will eventually have too much lactic acid built up, which inhibits muscles, weakens your performance and makes you sick. Training in the zone and passing it rides a fine line—so wear a monitor!

Puking isn't good—or fun

Conditioning until you puke isn't smart. But it happens all the time when athletes push themselves beyond their comfort levels; they don't know when enough is enough. Puking signals two things: you didn't use enough recovery time from anaerobic activity, and your body produced too much lactic acid. When you train above your 85 percent heart rate zone for too long, lactic acid builds up in your blood. Throwing up is your body's reaction against doing too much.

If you feel nauseous, reduce intensity or increase recovery time. If you actually vomit, stop your conditioning session and replenish with water to prevent dehydration.

Durkin's Football Conditioning Drills

Choose one of the following drills per training session three days a week to improve your general conditioning:

Conditioning Drill #1

• Run 4 100-yard sprints at 75%, rest 30 seconds between each
• Rest 2-3 minutes after that whole set
• Run 4 70-yard sprints at 85%, rest 30 seconds between each
• Rest 2-3 minutes after that whole set
• Run 8 40-yard sprints at 100%, rest 30 seconds between each
• Rest 2-3 minutes after that whole set
• Run 1 100-yard sprint at 100%

Conditioning Drill #2

• Sprint 20 yards and back in 20 seconds or less
• Rest 45 seconds
• Repeat 10-16 times

Conditioning Drill #3

• Set up six cones in zigzag pattern
• Place speed ladder 10 yards away
• Sprint to first cone
• Jump laterally over cone 3 times, sprint to next cone and repeat jumps
• Repeat for all 6 cones
• Sprint to speed ladder and perform a given pattern
• Sprint out of ladder and catch a ball
• Rest 60-90 seconds
• Repeat 4-6 times

Coaching Point: Diversify this drill by shuffling, running backwards, jumping on one leg or performing plyo pushups at each cone. Also, vary your foot quickness drills through the ladder and the patterns you run.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock