Football fitness training is a regular course of conditioning drills and exercises that are designed to increase an athlete’s performance in four areas that can be vital to success in the sport: speed, strength, endurance, and agility. The word "football" carries different meanings throughout the world. Each version of football stresses different areas that can lead to success in the sport. For example, American football players train in the areas that are applicable to each particular position — running backs focus on speed, linemen focus on strength and endurance, and receivers focus on speed and agility. Each football fitness training regimen, therefore, is tailored to match the requirements of the position within that particular version of the sport.
For much of the world, the word football means soccer — a game played by two 11-member teams on a rectangular field 75 yards (68.58 m) wide by 120 yards (109.73 m) long. With a net goal at each end of the field, the object is to kick a round ball into the opposing team’s goal. Other than the goal keeper, no player may touch the ball with the hands.
In the United States, football is a game played between two 11-member teams on a field 50 yards (45.72 m) wide by 100 yards (91.44 m) long. The object of the game is to carry an oblong ball across the other team’s goal line. Players wear extensive padding as this type of football involves blocking and tackling opposing players as the ball is advanced. In addition to the United States, this type of football is popular in Canada, where it is played with essentially the same rules by 12-member teams on a slightly wider and longer field. In other countries, such as Australia, football resembles a combination of world soccer and North American football.
Regardless of what is meant by football, the components of football fitness training for each variety of the sport fall into the same four categories. As Canadian and North American football is a much more specialized sport — that is most of the players have highly specialized functions — the football fitness training tends to be more specialized. For example, linemen focus on different areas than do receivers, and running backs focus on areas different than kickers or quarterbacks.
In soccer, more emphasis is placed on endurance as most of the team members are running for the entire 90 minutes of the game. To develop endurance, most football fitness training programs advise a series of running exercises that vary in speed and length. These programs begin with light running to help the body stretch and warm up. The training progresses through jogging, running, sprinting, running in place, and long fast runs.
With all types of football fitness training, athletes build strength with aerobic and weight training. Exercise generally includes stretching, resistance training, and cool down of the upper and lower body. The goal is to develop various muscle groups throughout the body, particularly those most often used in that athlete’s particular on-field function.
The agility portion of a football fitness training program centers on running rapidly through short courses laid out on an athletic field. These courses can include a cross-shaped design where the athlete moves forward, backward, and side-to-side as directed by a trainer or coach. Many other patterns also are used, depending on the need of the specific athlete. In contrast, speed training is a combination of weight training and running that is designed to develop both quick starts from a full-stop position and speed over distance.