End of Off Season: Conditioning Test

Where did the summer go? For most of you, this is your last week of the off season. Many will report the first week of August.

This means it’s time to test. I prefer to do a conditioning test a week ahead of training camp. The same day of the week as you would do your heavy conditioning is preferable.

We all do a conditioning test of some kind, but why? Isn’t the offseason training sufficient enough?


There are several legitimate reasons to test:

1. Is everybody ready for preseason camp?

There will be the contingent of athletes that participate in the school offseason training program whose attendance you know. Then there are athletes that go to different facilities and maybe train with a private strength and conditioning coach. You need to know on an individual basis where kids are at.

2. It is the beginning of team building.

No matter where your athletes trained, now they are together. The test is a fair, equal opportunity event everybody gets to share in. When an athlete works hard to get in shape, it builds unity for them to see their teammates have put in similar work to pass the test. Comradery is developed when kids are investing sweat equity toward the same goal.

3. It evaluates YOUR program.

While there can be extenuating circumstances leading to any given athlete’s failure in the test, you throw out the highest highs and throw out the lowest lows to gauge if your conditioning program adequately prepared everybody as a whole. Times can help you evaluate with some objectivity.


So much of the decision making for the actual test choice comes from history. Coaches coach the way they were coached or do what the national champion coach said his guys did (even though his players don’t come with the program). Some coaches just like a test because it is hard. Hard is easy, but is it relevant?

The good news is that you can keep it simple. The main principle of conditioning is increasing capacity. A test just needs to expose that capacity.

I like to look at this in two categories: indoor and outdoor. Obviously this typically pertains to field sports versus court sports. All my athletes practice both for the sake of diversity of training, but you can settle on one for the final test.


  • For field sports, I like 110s. In the beginning of my career, I had my teams do those because...? Class? Anyone? Correct, that’s how I was coached. Finally, one year I asked one of my NFL coaching buddies that very question. Why 110s? He replied, “It simulates the time and effort it takes to sustain a 16-play drive.”

    Didn’t have to tell me twice; I liked it. That has been my football conditioning focal point since--forever. Mind you, I was running those back in high school in a time and galaxy far, far away.

    Elaborating further on his “drive” comment. Someone not familiar with football lingo, a drive is the sequence of plays when the team has possession of the ball. A long drive would consist of 14+ plays.

    So, why 110’s are so effective still eludes me and it is important to note the difference between 110 and 100 is more than just 10 yards. That extra time, energy and effort is just enough to impact many athletes. I once heard a clinic speaker from the podium be critical of 110s as not being specific to the sport. His comment was essentially, “When have you ever seen anyone run 110 yards in a football game?” Yep, he said that.

    Well sports fans, my junior year in high school, we were being abused by a district rival when out of nowhere, as they drove on us to inside the five yard line, my best friend and safety, picked off a pass five yards deep in the endzone. He took off down the sideline and I was going to escort him to the other end zone. He made it to the endzone (105 yards) and I made it to the 50 yard line cheering him on (I was playing defensive line so I am excused).

    That happens in football in other ways. With the Dallas Cowboys, we returned a kickoff from our five yard line to the opponent’s 15 yard line. Besides the return guy, our players covered 60+ yards, but the opponents had to run 40-50 yards, then turn and run 40-50 yards back in pursuit. Now before you do the math and say that neither one of those examples is 110 yards, the energy output is tremendous. Therefore, 110’s are good for any outdoor field sport in the right amounts.

    The outcome of all of it was landing on 110s as the best test. Some coaches have used the two mile run. Very good indicators, but many sports utilize multiple body types and they may not survive such a run. In addition, besides the test itself, the training for the test is oppressive. With 110s, you can utilize multiple distances that allow for a speed element as well as prep for the test.

    That long-winded 110 dissertation was important because in any sport, coaches latch on to their favorite thing and run with it (get it?) but often to a fault. As a result, I started developing programs to provide relevant variations. You need to look at both time, distance and their related interactions.


  • The indoor test I have come to love is what I call 24s. This was developed when I was with the Dallas Mavericks.

    The NBA shot clock is 24 seconds, so that was the basis for setting the time mark. Next, the distance of an NBA court is 94 feet. That distance down and back we rounded to 30 yards down and back twice, a total of 120 yards. Not only is it ten yards longer but the three changes of direction make it more demanding.

    Now, pro athletes have longer strides and have to be in a whole different kind of shape, but I had the Mavericks do twenty-four 24s for their conditioning test. My younger athletes obviously had it reduced. I used 16 reps for both the 110s and the 24s for my varsity and collegiate athletes.


    You want your off-season program to account for the test. What I mean by that is the athlete needs to experience the physicality of the test before the day of the test.

    It could even be slightly short of the actual reps. If your athletes can successfully complete 14 reps in the set time after a couple months of consistent training, then the last two reps shouldn’t be a problem. Don’t forget there is a mental element to testing. Instill grit into your athletes so they don’t quit with one or two to go.

    At the same time, testing on a regular basis is not always practical or smart. Fatigue is real, and it can be mental, too. You do want your kids fresh for testing day. Some kids may get anxious before tests. That’s why a practice conditioning test can be helpful. Not only do they know there won’t be any consequences for potential failure, they can also gain confidence if they successfully complete a run-through.

    As always, encourage them to be fully hydrated and properly fueled with good nutrition for testing day. That along with proper sleep leading up to the test are some of the easiest ways to guarantee success.

    Six weeks is enough time to gradually introduce drills and progress them. If you had a full eight weeks, even better. You know your schedule. Plan accordingly. Trust the program. If you don’t get the results you want, then that’s why we learn and get better.

    If athletes are faithfully participating in a program, then you should have confidence that they will get results. They are growing every day and with your leadership, they will get better themselves. Hard work pays off. Put in the work as a parent or a coach, encourage your kids to put in the work, and reap the rewards.

    “Every day.”


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